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Barcelona on the move: The road to more sustainable transport

Barcelona on the move: The road to more sustainable transport

Aina Llorca

Legal Counsel, REBY

Marc Rius

Founder, ENEB

Means of transport have always evolved and adapted to meet new economic and social realities, but today the process of change has accelerated: technological advances and a greater awareness of sustainability are needed order to meet many of the goals set by the 2030 Agenda. Barcelona moves towards sustainable mobility

To help achieve these goals, a comprehensive agreement between all the Greater Barcelona metropolitan administrations is needed to ensure sustainable, accessible and efficient mobility.

Barcelona is a large, densely-populated city, with around 75% of urban trips already made using sustainable transport methods, but travel in the metropolitan area (mostly by car and with high carbon emissions) and transport of goods make a major impact on Barcelona. Below, we set out the major challenges that Barcelona must overcome if it is to achieve more sustainable mobility.

Connectivity within the Greater Barcelona metropolitan area

The city must create infrastructures that guarantee truly efficient and sustainable metropolitan connectivity. According to Ricard Font, president of Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (Catalan railways), investment in efficient and sustainable public transport should be stepped up.stepped up. This would mean extending the Diagonal tramline through the town center, completing the central section of line 9 in the metro, which has been halted for many years, and building the Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat rail connection between Gracia and Plaza de España.

Font also advocates increasing Park & Ride facilities at railway stations in the metropolitan area in order to persuade users to leave their cars there and travel to the center by train.

Cities such as Amsterdam have successfully implemented this model, which has led to exponential growth in the use of public transport and major reductions of CO2 emissions in the Amsterdam metropolitan area.

But one must be careful: although these measures are essential for encouraging metropolitan connectivity within the city of Barcelona, there is also a need for ambitious projects at a national level, since current transport infrastructures are due to reach capacity in the medium term and will need to be improved further in order to achieve zero emission public transport goals.

Integrated and digital mobility: digital transformation serving the public

In recent years there has been a sea change in citizens' consumption habits and a real revolution in transport preferences. Comfort is now valued more than vehicle ownership, and there is a preference for healthier and lower-impact travel. With this in mind, Marta Labata, general manager of Barcelona de Serveis Municipals (BSM), proposes several measures to reduce carbon emissions and move towards the digital transformation of transport. 

In order to improve the sustainability and efficiency of goods delivery, she proposes converting underground parking lots to mobility service hubs and making changes to regulations. She also says the door-to-door goods delivery model should be reviewed, since constant circulation of goods delivery vehicles due to the increase in online orders is unsustainable in the medium term. Labata also proposes using existing spaces, such as local stores, for the delivery and collection of online orders. 

Lastly, she highlights the future importance of aggregator apps in providing citizens with fully integrated mobility options at their fingertips. 

Encouraging electric and shared vehicles in order to reduce the city’s carbon footprint 

Large cities like Barcelona are committed to providing mobility that fosters the health of their citizens and minimizes the environmental impact. So, in addition to the measures described above, electric vehicles and shared transport will also play a key role.

The director of BSM stresses that early public investment in an extensive network of electric charging points in Barcelona must continue in order to encourage users to switch to electric vehicles, in line with current state and European policies.   

Shared mobility, for its part, requires a network of electric vehicles that complements public and private transport and helps to encourage multimodal movement, while achieving reductions in emissions and high-impact means of transport. Barcelona should be more proactive, with public administrations devising effective regulations to encourage an alternative the city cannot afford to do without if it wishes to achieve its objectives.

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