Ghent Lahti a tale of two cities
On May 24th we welcomed a delegation from the Finnish CitiCAP project, which, like TMaaS, focuses on smart city mobility. We had an interesting and useful meeting with our fellow project leaders from Lahti, which allowed us to compare both projects and to profit from a mutually beneficial knowledge sharing experience.
TMaaS and CitiCAP are quite similar; they are both aimed at forward-thinking, citizen-oriented mobility in two medium-sized European cities. The goal of CitiCAP is to seek the most inspiring ways to encourage people to walk, cycle and use public transport and thus to reduce traffic in the city centre to an absolute minimum. Lahti is looking to set up a completely new public incentive, the personal carbon trade (PCT), that could revolutionise the participation of citizens in climate change mitigation.
Like TMaaS, CitiCAP will set up a data platform for collecting and providing access to mobility data.
The ultimate goal of both projects is to create a sustainable urban mobility plan which should result in a city that offers a higher quality of living, with an emphasis on green and durable solutions.
Similarities, but also differences between Ghent and Lahti
However, despite the aspects that are common to both projects, we also discovered that there are a number of major differences between the situations in Ghent/Belgium and Lahti/Finland.
First and foremost, Lahti is a relatively new city, whereas Ghent dates back to the Middle Ages. This has a number of important consequences with regard to traffic. The members of the Finnish delegation were surprised to discover that our city is lacking in space, that it has narrow streets, that there are a lot of historical buildings etc. They were suddenly aware of the problems faced by our city in its endeavour to optimise the flow of traffic.
Lahti is a far more spacious town. This may be an advantage when organising traffic, but it can also lead to a different, and somewhat difficult mindset among a large number of local residents. This poses problems when trying to find a more durable/sustainable solution to traffic issues. For example, drivers cannot understand why they should have to give up lanes in favour of public transport, pedestrians or cyclists. “There’s plenty of room for lanes for cars, cyclists etc.; so what’s the problem?” they ask. All of this means that there is a need for a change of attitude as the city hall has decided that Lahti will be carbon-neutral by 2040. This means that certain measures will have to be taken. By way of comparison: Ghent has set itself the goal of being carbon-neutral by 2050.
The main result which emerged from our meeting was the fact that it gave us an opportunity to exchange insights with another city that also targets smart urban mobility and that wants to involve its residents in local actions. The fact that both cities are making great inroads is borne out by the fact that both have been shortlisted for the European Green City Capital Award. This award is an initiative of the European Commission. It recognises cities that promote environmental-friendliness and that demonstrate a commitment to public engagement and local economic development. Ghent and Lahti are up against Lisbon, Oslo and Tallinn. The winner will be announced in June.