Balance and Flow: Cultivating Milan’s transport (chi)

Maria Berrini is CEO of AMAT srl, the Milano Municipal Agency for Mobility, Environment and Territory. She has contributed to the AMAT role development in realisation and innovation of planning and strategic services in support of the Milano Administration. Giacomo Lozzi spoke with her about the new Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan of Milan, its road charging scheme, the Smart City strategy and the leading role of the city in mobility sharing services.
Giacomo Lozzi, Thinking Cities (TC): Milan is a world-renowned as a beautiful city but what are the most pressing transport challenges? Its residents and regular visitors will also know that it is quite famous for its congestion!
Maria Berrini (MB): Congestion is one of the most important challenges. The modal imbalance of the flows between the city and the hinterland affects in particular the major axes of communication, despite the recent significant progress. In fact, while in the Municipality of Milan the use of public transport prevails, commuters from the city’s surroundings clearly prefer to use the car (57 per cent).
Another big challenge is the high car ownership in the Municipality of Milan. The share is lower (about 50 cars per 100 inhabitants) compared to the Metropolitan area and the Region, though further efforts are necessary so that this number significantly decreases. Congested public space in a city so densely populated and frequented as Milan, deriving from both the residential traffic and the commuting from the hinterland, is no longer sustainable as the city has limited road and parking infrastructure.
Finally, air pollution: the situation in Milan has steadily improved over the last 10 years, but the situation is still quite critical.
TC: Smart cities represent a hot topic at European level. The European Commission envisages to create a more holistic “Smart Cities and Communities agenda”. The City of Milan and the Milan Chamber of Commerce signed a protocol to build a Milano Smart City strategy.  Can you tell us more about that?
MB: Our vision is consistent with the European Commission’s initiative: the idea of ​​ Smart City is linked to the idea of ​​ Smart Community: high attention to the sharing of decision-making processes, the involvement of citizens and public-private partnerships to engage the private system and the network of associations as resources to trigger innovation. Business and civil society can provide a boost that the local administration would not be able to produce alone.
TC: Which initiatives are related to the transport sector?
The specific initiatives in the transport sector (smart mobility) are mainly related to the policies of road pricing (Area C), and its supporting technologies. Milan is for example developing e-ticketing services (SMS, QR code) for public transport. The infomobility portal is growing and is very dynamic, it is based on the most advanced experiences in terms of routers, navigators and route planning, providing the highest level of integration of transport modes. Significant smart solutions in the field of sharing mobility have been implemented as well .
Finally, Milan has submitted its candidature for a call in the framework of the EU programme Horizon 2020 Lighthouse. The project foresees the creation of Smart districts for innovative solutions not only regarding mobility (e.g. car and bike sharing), but also energy and ICT. The interested area is the district of Porta Romana-Vettabia, in the South of the city.
TC: At the time of writing EXPO Milano 2015: Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life is coming to an end. How did hosting the six-month longglobal exhibition affect the urban sustainable mobility policies in Milan, also with respect to the Smart City strategy?
MB: EXPO has accelerated an innovation process already in place in Milan, forcing the actors to engage more quickly and to invest in smart solutions. Many companies belonging to the telecommunications and energy sector have become sponsors of the event and have provided a fast and innovative infrastructure to the EXPO site. Moreover, tThe electric bike sharing, for example, was born as to let visitors reach the site from the city center, but it is intended to permanently remain as a new service in the city of Milan.
TC: The Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) of Milan for 2015-2025 is currently under approval. Which are the most innovative solutions envisaged?
MB: The most innovative measure for Milan, which demonstrates the most interesting cost-benefit ratio, shall make surface public transport faster, especially tramways: the intervention foresees an investment on the traffic signals, in order to shorten the duration to cross the city by tram, on the vehicles, to make them more accessible, and on the protection of tram and bus lanes. While priority is given to improve public transport, the plan also envisages the creation of a cordon of cameras around the entire city, to establish a large low emission zone (LEZ) with control purposes for the most polluting vehicles, which are already banned but difficult to prosecute. In the future, other policies could be implemented thanks to this cordon of cameras, including the creation of a new charging zone.
The SUMP envisages guidance on public transport, sharing mobility, cycling and walking networks, the realization of a low emission zone (LEZ), 30 km/h zones and urban logistics.
In addition, the plan provides a methodological innovation: it has given the city a long-term vision on mobility and shaped a clear instrument with well-defined objectives and actions. For the first time the plan was accompanied by a cost-benefit analysis, integrated by the strategic environmental assessment (VAS in Italy), in order to select the most cost-effective areas of intervention for the city.