By Véronique Coté-Millard, 3rd Vice President, in charge of transport and mobility
Twenty kilometers from the center of Paris, Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (SQY) is the second largest economic hub in the Paris region after la Défense. The territory hosts major companies in sectors such as automotive, finance, aeronautics, and cyber security. In total, there are currently 145,000 employees in SQY.
Consequently, daily commuting represents a great challenge for the transport system, as 70% of employees live outside the area and 60% of its inhabitants work outside SQY. Mobility is therefore a sensitive issue that must guarantee the residential and economic attractiveness of the whole area. On one hand, the objectives in terms of sustainability and quality of life appear quite similar to those in dense urban areas. On the other hand, the challenges and context to address them are quite different.
Thus, innovation cannot only be about new services or technologies. It is also a matter of imagining new ways of cooperating and organising the management of mobility in SQY. This must be done in order to invent a new vision of living in peri-urban areas by changing the relationship to mobility.
Put the car back in the travel chain
With more than 80% of commuting trips realised by car, SQY has established, in line with the regional roadmap on mobility, a local strategy that mainly focuses on multimodality and intermodality. In other words, offering performant and attractive alternatives when possible, or complementary solutions to “solo driving” – all while improving the overall mobility experience of travelers. This strategy is set in a guidance document called “Plan Local de Déplacements” adopted in 2014, which details the “Plan de Déplacements Urbains d’Ile-de-France,” or the regional strategy.
Taking into account the important daily travel time for most people in SQY, it is crucial to offer comfortable, secure and performant public transport solutions with seamless connections.
As an economic hub, SQY benefits from one of the most developed public transport networks in the Paris region, with 3 train lines connecting to the center of Paris, 7 train stations for the whole territory, and 90 bus lines for local and regional trips including a rapid transit infrastructure for some bus lines.
First, dedicated infrastructure is a necessary step to compete with cars in many areas, especially bus lanes that enable rapid transit. The line 15, which goes from Saint-Cloud to Elancourt in around 30 minutes and circulates on a reserved lane of the highway, is highly popular due to its reliability.
Equally, thanks to the specific urban planning initiated in the 70’s and regular investments, SQY also benefits from a large cycle network with more than 420 kilometers of cycle infrastructure.
In addition, SQY is also looking in to a new ‘rapid transit system’ called SUPRASQY: a light and ecological monorail system with a dedicated infrastructure above the road and on-demand cabins. This innovative system intends to accelerate the connectivity between transport hubs and business zones in the area as well as reduce congestion and pollution.
To develop dedicated lanes for carsharing on highways and main roads, as foreseen by the new mobility law in France, is also a top priority for a territory such as SQY, where shared mobility has been largely supported in the Paris region through a tight cooperation with the carsharing operator Klaxit.
Then, the challenge around multimodality and the promotion of alternative mobility solutions is therefore to address the ‘first-mile, last-mile’ concept – mobility options that help one reach their destination in combination with public transport.
Since 2017, the city opened a new bicycle service called “La Vélostation,” which offers renting, parking and maintenance services for cycles.
Today, the development of micromobilities, such as electric scooters, provides new opportunities to reduce travel time, especially between transport hubs and business areas. SQY intends to experiment with a new service based on stations provided by the startup We Trott,’ in order to offer an efficient, secure and structured solution.
Shared mobility such as car sharing has also been identified as a potential solution to reduce the car ownership rate of households in SQY which, in many areas, is above the regional average rate. After the end of Autolib’, SQY is exploring new opportunities to develop such a service, especially in cooperation with companies’ initiatives towards fleet optimisation: the experimentation Sqyshare, led by a few companies, as well as the Climate-Energy Club of SQY are being implemented. However, the success of these solutions relies on solid intermodality, both physical and digital.
Regarding intermodality, the first challenge for a territory such as SQY is to get tools that put the car at the center. Physically, this means to facilitate an easy access to all these solutions via many transport hubs. Train stations with dedicated lots have been developed over the last decades to offer better connections to public transport. Furthermore, it is necessary to increase the number of such infrastructure in the area to facilitate more multimodal behaviors.
Regarding the digital aspect, it is also crucial, in order to provoke a significant modal shift, focusing more on shared car users. Indeed, most of the current MaaS solutions are still directed towards transport clients or people who have already started to evolve their mobility habits.
The purpose of the Viago! calculator developed by SQY in partnership with Ile–de-France (the Paris Region) and Ile-de-France Mobilités (the transport authority), is therefore mainly to assist solo drivers in changing their mobility habits. Based on the current functionalities of the regional calculator, the project aims at developing new alternatives adapted to peri-urban areas where the use of car is dominant. More specifically, ‘Viago!’ enables a real time comparison of travel time with public transport or by bike. This calculator also offers travel alternatives combining car and public transport, especially for getting to stations via car parks.
These tools also represent a specific platform to inform both employees and inhabitants about all the transport solutions available in one single place. The integration of ticketing to come in 2020 within these tools will also facilitate the necessary evolution towards more flexibility in people’s mobility habits in peri-urban areas and a more reasonable use of private cars. Nevertheless, the costs of such an evolution and its organisation require new governance strategies.
A necessary new governance of mobility
In France, since 2018, by law any company with more than 100 employees in the same location must run diagnostics of its employees’ mobility patterns and propose an action plan to reduce their impact.
In SQY, the cooperation with companies around mobility was established in 2010. This framework has enabled a constructive dialogue and mutual understanding between the private and the public sectors regarding how to solve mobility issues and reinforce the global attractiveness of both the region and its activity.
With regular meetings and working groups, this dynamic aims to solve purely operational issues such as the displacement of a bus stop, the evolution of a cycle path, etc., but also to test and build sustainable solutions to address mobility needs. For instance, it has enabled the successful creation of a new car sharing service.
Regarding daily commuting, it calls into question the specific traits of each company. For example, through this new mobility governance collaboration with the private sector, it is possible to address the issue of the work’s location and how to reduce daily commute times.
A tighter cooperation between the public and the private sectors is therefore key for the evolution of employees’ mobility habits and the development and funding of new services. The development of a car sharing system is a particularly good example. In peri-urban areas, the economic model relies even more on the balance between company and general public uses. Therefore, the successful establishment of such a service relies on shared rules and funding between private and public actors.
Nowadays, if solutions exist to address mobility issues in peri-urban areas, their organisation and funding have become major projects for areas like SQY. Contrary to dense urban areas, peri-urban territories appear less attractive in terms of a business model that favors purely private solutions. To establish new services requires more investment from the public sector, not only the financial, in order to ensure the sustainable development of complementary solutions. Therefore, peri-urban areas also represent a new, additional constraint for public administration and require a necessary balance between the various contributors to the mobility sector.
Moreover, the digital revolution together with the data management issue reinforces this need of a new cooperation between the various actors around mobility, together with customers and end users. This is a key aspect of the MoveInSaclay initiative, in which SQY is taking part. This program, built in cooperation with the other areas in the Paris-Saclay region and NOKIA, aims to create a digital platform to make data observations from transport operators, new mobility service providers, and citizens. This platform demonstrates the importance of cooperation between the various actors and towards an efficient management of mobility.
Thus, the evolution of mobility management in various regions, with the increased influence of the private sector which will be reinforced with the new ‘sustainable mobility fee’ and the digitalisation of mobility services with more important constraints on finances for all actors, introduces new, innovative cooperation between stakeholders. But, it also leads to a complete reshaping of the vision of peri-urban territories, their way of living, and the role of mobility.
Beyond mobility, to establish a new vision of peri-urban territories
Our mobility habits take root in multiple and diverse circumstances. To change these habits requires more cooperation between actors, but it will also imply a significant evolution in the way our regions will work in the future.
First, to reduce the use of solo-car habits but also the constant pressure on public transport regarding both capacity and quality, it is important to decrease unnecessary mobility. In SQY, teleworking has increased by 25% between 2017 and 2018. 28% of SQY employees work from home at least once per week. This evolution will mean a deep transformation of the way territories such as SQY will function in the future. The development of the coworking infrastructure should also become a priority.
In parallel, we need to recreate more proximity in peri-urban areas, which were mainly designed over the last century around cars and their use.
In SQY, there are numerous initiatives to bring jobs and accommodation closer together, such as the promotion of the Vivroù app, but there also needs to be training for digital competencies in the area in order to bring a qualified work force closer to the companies in SQY.
The creation of hubs to encourage access to multimodal solutions don’t just have to rely on a ‘mobility business model.’ These hubs could also be related to other close-proximity services in the area which are necessary to reduce daily commuting and specified trips.
In order to encourage cycling and shared mobility, it is also crucial that real estate becomes more adapted to such practices, with dedicated parking spaces for bicycles and car sharing services inside collective buildings, rather than individual parking slots.
All these examples show the importance of analysing mobility and its evolution from a shared and plural point of view, with more cooperation and inclusion from stakeholders outside the mobility box.
This need of a balance in the use of mobility has been embodied in the debate around autonomous vehicles. Indeed, this new technology could deeply transform not only the relationship of people to mobility, but also the urban planning of our territories. SQY will experiment with autonomous shuttles starting in 2020. Beyond testing crucial and necessary technological parameters, this experimentation will measure the potential of such an innovation to produce modality shifts and complement the transport network.
In order to investigate these questions, SQY established different partnerships and working groups, in particular with the mobility institution VEDECOM, but also with academic partners such as the Paris Saclay University. A conference was organised in July 2019 by these 3 actors to debate the topic.
Overall, innovation in mobility represents a challenging but rewarding mission in peri-urban territories as they struggle to maintain their attractiveness and quality of life in relation to dense urban areas. SQY wishes to be an example of this successful commitment towards a more sustainable mobility to become again, almost 50 years after its creation, a “ville nouvelle.”