May 19, 2014

Project promotes green transport in rural areas

Public transport isn’t the first ride of choice in the countryside, but it could become more popular under a new European project.

Even considering its relatively modest level of service, rural public transport is vastly underused. The EC-funded project SmartMove encourages a shift from car use to public transport modes through personalised marketing campaigns that zero in on what rural travellers need.

The project builds on successful campaigns carried out in Austria – albeit primarily in urban settings (e.g. Vienna and Salzburg). In these cities, door-to-door “active mobility consultancy” (AMC) campaigns typically resulted in 15 to 20 percent of the target group switching from private cars to public transport.

SmartMove plans to adapt the AMC method to a rural context, and to carry out parallel campaigns in eight regions in Austria, Germany, Greece, Poland and Portugal. In each region, hundreds of households will be contacted.

Each of the target regions has a different set of challenges characteristic of other areas in Europe. The thinking is that if the campaigns succeed in these regions, they can easily be adapted to scores of other regions throughout Europe.

SmartMove, funded by the Intelligent Energy Europe programme, is carried out by eight partners and will run for 30 months. It aims to achieve a modal shift to more sustainable, climate-friendly transport by demonstrating the mass potential of the AMC strategy.

Active mobility consultancy sets typical public transport marketing techniques on their head. Instead of asking travellers to inform themselves, the public transport company goes directly to travellers to find out why they don’t use public transport, educate them about the local service offer, and discuss how public transport can work for them.

The project also promotes the development of so-called public transport feeder systems that enable people to connect to their nearest public transport routes. Such systems may involve taxi-buses, car pools or cycling networks, for example.

In addition to direct marketing activities, the project will test such approaches as traveller training, citizens' participation in planning and guided tours of local feeder systems.