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Fostering passenger intermodality

The tendency over the past several decades has been for many people to view car-based travel as the best mode of transport from the origin to the final destination due to its high level of comfort and convenience and the perception that it affords the greatest freedom of mobility. However, traffic congestion, increased air and noise pollution, inefficient use of valuable space and an overall reduced efficiency of the transport system are only a few of the most prominent problems caused by a car-based model. To counteract this situation, public administration bodies can encourage the development of convenient, safe, fast and seamless connections between more sustainable modes of transport; in short: fostering intermodality.

Intermodal transport systems link together the infrastructure and services for public transport (buses, trams/light rail and commuter rail), walking, cycling, bike sharing and car sharing. In a smoothly integrated intermodal system, people might start their journey as a pedestrian, and then become a driver or a cyclist, then a passenger, and then a pedestrian again for the final metres. Through a clever combination of modes, citizens would avoid each mode’s specific and often inevitable weaknesses while at the same time utilise their various strengths. However, intermodality can never compete with the ‘one-seat ride’ characteristic of the private car as interchange points often contribute to feelings of uncertainty for the traveller. The attractiveness of the more sustainable journey option(s) will depend on how quick, easy, safe and reliable connections between the different modes are.

Intermodality is achieved through the effective intersection between urban land use planning and transport planning to make better use of the existing transport infrastructure, and that is where public administration bodies have an important role to play. Indeed, they can generate and ensure the necessary cooperation among the various public transport operators.

There are five key aspects to consider for an effective intermodal transport system:

  • modal choice nodes conveniently placed, with clear signage and information
  • a comprehensive network of infrastructure for public transport, bike lanes and walking paths
  • intermodal journey planning software tailored to individuals’ travel needs
  • integrated ticketing and e-ticketing
  • pricing and demand management schemes (e.g. congestion charging). 

All cities can benefit from measures that foster intermodality. The question that public authorities should ask is which of the five aspects from the intermodality ‘menu’ it should choose to focus most of its attention on. This depends on a number of factors, from current environmental and social challenges, to the degree to which the city is already intermodal.

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