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Interview with Peter Staelens, Project Manager at Eurocities and Member of the New Mobility Services Initiative

Peter Staelens, from Eurocities and member of the EIP-SCC Initiative on New Mobility Services, works as a project manager for some mobility projects, such as OPTICITIES. “One of the achievements of the project was that the five partner cities developed a set of ITS services on the basis of common mobility data portal design and a standardised, open interface which can be adopted by other cities in Europe”, he said.

 

  • The OPTICITIES project ran until October 2016. What was achieved during this three-year project?

From the cities’ perspective, the ambition of OPTICITIES was to introduce a wide range of integrated ITS solutions to optimize the efficiency and environmental performance of passenger and freight transport in urban areas. This included, for example, the development of multimodal journey planners, priority systems for public transport, dangerous goods monitoring, road works information management, decision support tools for transport planners and traffic controllers and real-time carpooling. From the transport user’s perspective, the purpose was to provide maximum service continuity and to enhance the interoperability between different transport modes and services.

One of the unique achievements of the project was that, although each of the five partner cities - Grand Lyon Métropole, Birmingham, Gothenburg, Madrid, Torino and Wroclaw – developed a different set of ITS services, this was done on the basis of common mobility data portal design and a standardised, open interface which can also be adopted by other cities in Europe. In addition I would also like to highlight an interface that was developed which allows multimodal apps to synchronise with in-car GPS.

  • How did the New Mobility Services Initiative and the OPTICITIES project help each other to foster efficient and sustainable urban mobility?

The endorsement by the New Mobility Services Initiative was crucial to expand the promotion of OPTICITIES beyond the usual channels and stakeholders in the field of ITS and urban mobility. It allowed us to establish more synergies with other initiatives and trends in the Smart Cities community, especially in the area of open data, smart city standards, business models and contractual frameworks. The official launch of the Initiative by Violeta Bulc. Commissioner for Transport, at the Brussels conference on ‘Scaling Up Urban Transport Innovation’ in January 2016 helped to raise the profile of the project.

From the side of OPTICITIES, we have tried to support the Initiative by collecting commitments from project partners and interested cities, and by actively sharing our knowledge and experiences at various smart citiy events. As replication and continuation is always a challenge in the context of European projects, we are delighted that the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities offers us a platform to further promote and exploit the achievements of the project.

  • What has been achieved so far? Have you identified any solutions to be implemented and commercialised during the next few years?

The OPTICITIES tutorial sessions and study visits attracted a lot of interest from urban practitioners across Europe, so we are confident that the OPTICITIES mobility data portal design and standardised, open interface will pave the way for other cities to collect, aggregate and make available urban mobility data in a more systematic way without making huge investments.

By applying the contractual arrangements developed within the framework of the project, cities can create a level-playing field for local service providers and start-ups to develop innovative and financially sustainable ITS services, allowing them to compete with major international technology companies.

It is important to note that these services could be plugged into any urban mobility portal that is developed with a common design and specifications, this is one of the reasons why the European Commission has designated OPTICITIES as a reference project for CEN in the field of Urban ITS. In addition, we are also convinced that the OPTICITIES approach will help to create a market for companies that are developing apps to enable ‘Mobility as a Service’.

  • What are the next steps? Is there any possibility of keeping working on the project in the future?

The partner cities will in any case further deploy and expand the ITS tools and services that were introduced within the scope of OPTICITIES.

In the coming weeks and months, Eurocities will continue to actively promote and present the outcomes of OPTICITIES at relevant transport conferences and smart city events. In order to further capitalise on the results and experiences of the project, we have produced a Transferability Handbook which describes the different measures and technologies that were introduced by the partner cities and also offers recommendations for planning and implementing ITS services.

Furthermore, we will also keep the project website operational on www.opticities.eu so that the learning materials can be accessed along with the complete set of deployment guidelines, which provide more detailed technical guidance. 

For further information on the New Mobility Services Initiative and how to get involved, click here.