Five sustainable mobility opportunities in 2021

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Bertrand Gelinas
Bertrand Gelinas
The founder who is not afraid to rush to find opportunities
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Cities are constantly trying to reinvent themselves and, more than ever, integrate new innovative concepts to promote citizen awareness and behavioral changes in favor of sustainable mobility. Although we are witnessing the resurgence of small and large projects in various cities in Quebec, it is not always easy to understand the underlying motivations for it, other than to reduce gas emissions. greenhouse effect and reduce the impact of climate change.

Added to this, we have before us a theater for project experimentation in connection with the economic recovery, which has already begun. This highlights several economic and environmental opportunities that should certainly not be overlooked. Here are the 5 opportunities for sustainable mobility for 2021.

Encourage local purchasing

It's no surprise to see projects like the Blue Basket appear out of nowhere with the phenomenal increase in online purchases by Quebecers. Indeed, from February to May 2020, e-commerce retail sales have almost doubled (+99.3 %) and some retailers are now relying more on this sales method. However, we can take into account that 82% of Quebecers are making an effort to buy local. The rise in local buying may therefore seem illogical given the current trend of buying online.

The question to ask is: what is local buying?

The Solidarity Fund FTQ defines "buy local" by

[Buying local] means promoting the purchase of products manufactured and grown in Quebec, shopping in independent businesses in the neighborhood or preferring Quebec companies to large multinationals.

Buying local is therefore the term mainly used to classify purchases made in Quebec businesses. This means that the purchase of a product in a Quebec store is a local purchase, regardless of where it comes from. Astonishing fact: in North America, food travels on average 2600km before you get to your plate. All these kilometers can make more than one think when it comes time to consume exotic products that are associated with a larger ecological footprint.

Whether it is to reduce the distance between home and business or between producer and retailer, it is obvious that efforts must be made to reduce the amount of GHG emissions linked to the consumption of a product.

And intermodality?

The importance of taking intermodality into account in its sustainable mobility strategy is increasingly real with the growth of urban sprawl on the outskirts of large cities such as Montreal and Quebec. The Quebec Transport Association defines intermodality as the combination of various modes of transport to get from point A to point B.

Although a large majority of students and workers practice it without knowing it, intermodality is part of our daily lives and understanding intermodal behavior in its territory allows us to seize the opportunities to target them with marketing campaigns or awareness raising addressed to users. It is to encourage intermodality that town planners are setting up mobility hubs promoting the organic creation of mobility cocktails, interesting enough to meet all travel profiles. It is all the more important to consider intermodality in its strategy of competitiveness of viable transport given the difficulty in some regions to meet all mobility needs only with public transport.

Whether it is through carsharing, bicycle sharing, parking spaces reserved for public transport or cycle paths, a good intermodal strategy in a territory is established with the help of in-depth knowledge of the travel behavior of its citizens. .

The resumption of public transport

It would be an illusion to say that public transport has not been affected by the pandemic. Indeed, we can see a 85% drop in transit use in the country in 2021. A good part of its users now telework, but many of them have simply changed their travel habits to use the solo car, considered less risky for the contagion of Covid-19.

We are also talking about a resumption of traffic that could take up to 10 years, enough to take the time to think about several initiatives. We can however expect a increased costs and decreased service between 2022 and 2025 in Montreal. 

According to government predictions, it is in the fall of 2021 that most public health instructions will be lifted. Consequently, a not insignificant proportion of students and workers will be ready to return to work or study in the companies and educational institutions they previously attended. These people will therefore have a choice to make: public transport or not public transportation?

Cities and transport companies have every interest in investing in raising citizens' awareness of the benefits of using public transport and it is with great interest that the cities of Quebec (and myself) will have their eyes glued to the major transportation companies to see how they are experimenting within this new paradigm. In 10 years, we can see many projects born.

Involve citizens in the solution

The reduction in solo car trips will certainly not only go through the establishment of new cycle paths or new bus routes. Indeed, it is essential to consider the collaboration of citizens and place them at the center of the sustainable mobility strategy cities and municipalities. It is with this in mind that the Government of Quebec has set up its sustainable mobility policy for 2030 by targeting a reduction of 20% in solo car trips nationwide. Ambitious, isn't it?

Then, although it is not directly associated with their mobility behavior, we can consider that the pandemic has opened a door for citizens to become aware of environmental effects of their travels. A study conducted by the city of Montreal (pre-pandemic) also highlights the environmental awareness by more than 80% of respondents. With such a high rate of aware participants and such a low adoption rate, it can be considered that a part of the puzzle is missing. Many citizens are just waiting for a trigger to effect behavior change in favor of sustainable mobility.

Projects like Défi sans auto solo. allow companies to do their part for a period of one week and promote modal shift with their employees. Encouraged by this project, many people who have never really thought about using a new mode of transport then have the opportunity to do so and can even win a prize as part of the challenge. It's about a gentle method used as a lever of influence in order to lead users towards the “right decision” and possibly get them to adhere to it out of personal interest. This challenge is an excellent example of the reception and willingness of citizens to participate in sustainable mobility initiatives.

Collect contextual data

As the founder of Greenplay and through my many years in the business intelligence field, I realized the difficulty of making decisions based on data collected from various sources. How many times have I been told about fears about consuming datasets and the precautions to take in doing so, with all reservations? We often try to make existing data speak to our advantage and although this is a challenge, it is not impossible to do so, but we still have to choose the right sources and the right context. A basic concept, you will say to me, but which “takes the edge” on several occasions when it comes time to announce major decisions concerning sustainable mobility.

Although several studies have shown that the Quebec government orientations of the 1970s in terms of town planning were of realize the archetype of modern urbanity suburbs and thus promote urban sprawl and the use of solo cars, it seems that we are still today stuck in the same political spiral with regard to government decisions. We must therefore remember the importance of highlighting the many scientific studies already carried out on sustainable mobility, but also the need to understand the reality of the mobility of today's citizens.

Many studies offer an interesting amount of data, but they require a lot of downstream processing in order to be exploitable by the various agencies or departments that wish to draw conclusions. Intriguing public announcements, bordering on wacky, have shown us that decision-makers like to rely on Origin destination surveys to make major decisions, like building a 3e link between Quebec and Lévis. These surveys should therefore be used with caution.

In addition, large cities such as Montreal and Quebec recognize the need to obtain complementarity with data from OD surveys, in particular through automatic and geolocated data collection with projects such as Montreal-Route or My trip. Although they are ad hoc, these projects have enabled these cities to obtain data on the real movements of citizens as well as their uses and come to contribute to other studies which could be less adapted to the geographical situation of a city. .

Do a little more

The current situation brings its share of complexity and it is with the greatest attention that cities and municipalities must address the challenges of sustainable mobility. They must put in place initiatives with the objective of returning to good habits. Without setting up too large infrastructure projects, it is possible to take initiatives that will have a significant impact and will not require too many resources to promote the resumption of our good mobility behaviors.