Integrating new mobility technologies and services in urban and regional areas
New mobility services and technologies represent a promising solution to meet the European Union’s target to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Moreover, the lately evidenced rapid innovation cycles and the changing urban conditions, as well as unexpected events (such as the COVID-19 pandemic) have resulted in an urgent need for disruptive solutions improving citizens’ wellbeing and achieving environmental targets. As a result, metropolitan authorities are striving to integrate multiscale spatial and transport planning tools which to explore and evaluate such solutions.
In this context, the H2020 project HARMONY’s vision is to enable metropolitan area authorities to lead a sustainable transition to a low-carbon new mobility era, by developing a Model Suite (MS) that harmonises spatial and multimodal transport planning models allowing HARMONY MS users to comprehensively model the dynamicity of the changing transport sector and spatial organisation in urban and regional areas.
Three levels of modelling
The HARMONY Model Suite operates on three integrated levels of modelling, namely:
- Strategic Level for regional economic, demographic forecasting, land-use, spatial freight interaction and long-term mobility choice models. This level covers a long-term horizon (year-to-year, every 5 years) and is responsible for generating: a) disaggregate household and firm population and their locations for different types of activities such as employment, housing, and education; b) aggregate commodity flows between employment sectors; c) long-term mobility choices of individuals (agents) including car-ownership or subscriptions to different mobility services.
- Tactical Level for a fully agent-based passenger and freight demand model. It consists of two sub-models which can model agents’ choices on a day-to-day level. The activity-based passenger demand modelling framework considers individuals, households and the interaction of individuals within the same household, focusing specifically on capturing their activity choices throughout the day and the corresponding travel decisions. The multi-agent freight demand simulator simulates individual firms and shipments and the logistic decision-making choices of freight stakeholders. This level produced disaggregated demand in the form of daily activity schedules (trip-chains) and freight vehicle tours (i.e trucks, vans, freight bikes, etc.).
- Operational Level for transport supply and demand interactions at high granularity. It can be characterised as a multimodal network assignment model system that is responsible for simulating the demand on transport networks, while simultaneously capturing travellers’ route choices and dynamic schedule re-evaluation choices due to supply conditions. It also includes dedicated modules that emulate disruptive new mobility service operations and their interactions with agents (e.g. traveller, vehicles) of the system. This level generates, among others, traffic volumes and impedance measures of the form of skim matrices (e.g. travel time, cost distance) per mode and Traffic Analysis Zone.
The HARMONY pilot areas
HARMONY is applying the Model Suite in four pilot areas, namely Oxfordshire (UK), Rotterdam (NL), Turin (IT) and Athens (GR). Apart from an extensive review of new mobility concepts and technologies, several co-creation activities took place in all of the six HARMONY areas to conceptualise different planning scenarios requiring different data, models and decision-making levels. The application and evaluation of the impact of different spatial or transport planning scenarios will generate evidence-based recommendations to update Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) not only in the HARMONY metropolitan areas, but also in other metropolitan areas on European scale. Finally, the challenges faced during the demonstrations with drones and AVs in Oxfordshire (UK), Rotterdam (NL) and Trikala (GR), along with the findings of the Model Suite, will inform roadmaps to promote and enable new forms of mobility for both passenger and freight in the EU.
The Model Suite innovation
Bearing in mind that the HARMONY’s focus on metropolitan area authorities to lead a sustainable transition to a low-carbon new mobility era, the Model Suite represents a ground-breaking innovation for several reasons. Firstly, it embraces the real-life complexity of disruptive mobility sevices and technologies, including drones and autonomous vehicles. Secondly, the Model Suite is an integrated, software-agnostic, and multiscale model system. It can be combined with indipendent modelling and planning tools already in use in different metropolitan areas. It encompasses three different levels of modelling, namely the strategic, tactical, and operational ones. Thirdly, the Model Suite can deal with both passengers’ mobility and freight transport needs, both in urban and regional environments, Finally, the results stemming fromthe deployment of the Model Suite can be transferred from trailblazing to aspiring metropolitan areas to update SUMPs across Europe.
Why do we need the HARMONY Model Suite?
Evidence-based spatial and transport planning can significantly contribute to the realization of sustainable metropolitan and urban development. Towards this goal, the HARMONY Model Suite harmonises spatial and multimodal transport planning tools facilitating the analysis and evaluation of regional and urban policies, disruptive technologies and services for passenger and freight transport. On the one hand, the HARMONY Model Suite integrated approach of three different modelling levels reflects upon and represents the interdependencies of economic competitiveness, social cohesion, land-use, transport demand, transport supply etc. in spatial and transport planning, both in regional and urban areas. On the other hand, the HARMONY Model Suite also helps to analyse and understand the evolution of new mobility technologies, services, and even patterns, for example those emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to its three-time horizons. Modelling and predicting the operational, tactical, and strategic dynamics of future transport systems will enable local authorities to efficiently lead the transition to a sustainable low carbon mobility era.