On March 16, 2023, the fourth (and last) SoPoLab (Social Policy Lab) event was held in the Sala Giunta of the Municipality of Messina, organized as part of the EU-2020 URBANITE project by the Municipality of Messina and Alma Digit srl.
The event was attended by several local bodies and institutions, holders of different interests and perspectives, but with the shared aim of making urban mobility more efficient and safer and improving the quality of life of Messina's citizens.
The event started with an introduction on today's urban context of Messina by the Deputy Mayor of Messina and councilor for mobility, ing. Salvatore Mondello, in order to summarize the problems related to sustainable urban mobility in Messina, which were identified during the previous SoPoLabs and other activities carried out by the Municipality, but also to highlight the changes taking place in the city to overcome such problems.
The objectives on the "cultural" issue linked to shared and sustainable mobility in Messina were identified as strategic for the the 4° SoPoLab and the working methodology guided by the Digital Policy Canvas model was presented. Summarizing, the specific purposes of the 4° SoPoLab were:
1) the identification of key strategies for the promotion of sustainable mobility in the city;
2) the application of a political-social co-creation model to support Policy Makers to become a reference model for next future citizen decision-making processes.
The contributions to the discussion allowed to identify the key points to take care of for tackling the problem, such as:
- the importance of digital technologies in the transformation process of urban mobility. They have the added value of optimizing the information flows between the citizen and the traffic management systems, offering better mobility experiences on the one hand, and optimizing the decision-making process on the other hand;
- the importance of involving schools in order to, on the one hand, identify significant mobility problems in the school areas, which represent traffic congestion points at specific time slots, and, on the other hand, initiate sustainable and digital mobility awareness in young people, who represent the cultural reference of the near future;
- the priority of promoting the "culture" of the public transport system (ATM buses and tram lines) with respect to other opportunities oriented to sustainable mobility (cycle paths, interchange parking areas, pedestrian areas,…);
- supporting the cultural transformation with an improvement of the public transport service by also investing in the development of digital systems, in order to attract the attention of citizens and encourage the use of public transport systems. The aim is to establish the following virtuous process:
To this end, it is also necessary to revise the transport plans for peripheral areas and villages that are still underserved, also imagining an integration into the mobility system of bike and/or scooter sharing services (which the Municipality is already starting up).
The discussion on the possible improvement of the public transport service has identified the following needs and strategies:
1) revision of the public transport plan (bus lines and timetables) with a focus on the lines and time slots linked to school entrance/exit and student services;
2) planning of incentives (e.g., passes for students, monthly promotions, integrated tickets,…) to increase the use of public transport in the city;
3) improvement and promotion of the ATM app to meet citizens' needs on services information, including real-time information, service statistics and service integration (e.g., interchange parking payment). The main goal is to improve the travel experience of citizens.
Problems that highlight the lack of a "culture of public good" and sustainable transport must be tackled by counteracting typical negative behaviors. During the 4° SoPoLab the following opportunities were identified:
- invest in wide range communication activities, in order to neutralize the typical denigration of what is unknown, due to forms of ignorance and apathy;
- invest in wide range communication activities in order to encourage the use of public transport systems with particular attention to the ATM service app, which needs to be improved;
- discouraging acts of vandalism which represent a big problem (e.g. ATM information shelters are often vandalised, the Zaera car park was closed for the same reason) using monitoring systems in the city (e.g. video cameras) to obtain compensation for damages or pursue legal rights.
During the discussion, it emerged that the communication between the public administration and the citizens is a key problem, which requires care and joint work of all parties involved in the SoPoLab. The University of Messina, the Municipality of Messina and ATM, with respect to the technological support at the service of mobility, have agreed on the need for synergic activities that lead the city to advanced mobility services in the city. The school representatives declared their availability to support communication and awareness-raising initiatives towards public mobility through activities such as those included in the PCTO (Paths for Soft Skills and Orientation). Furthermore, the close involvement of professional orders and traders is necessary since their support can stimulate the use of urban mobility means and also the ATM app itself.
Communication must be accompanied by a significant policy of incentives, which encourage citizens to discover new mobility systems in the city. To this end, an important contribution can be made by traders, provided that this highlights benefits for both citizens and traders themselves. For example, this can be achieved by explaining that the creation of well-connected pedestrian areas and car parks could lead to a better shopping experience, and this also alongside a strong tourist promotion, which brings lifeblood to the commerce sector in Messina.
In conclusion, the 4° SoPoLab has allowed to discuss about objectives and priorities in the context of the diffusion of the public transport service in Messina, often highlighting the opportunities for additional services in support (such as interchange car parks and pedestrian areas). It has allowed also to identify key strategies that are summarized in the following Digital Policy Canvas model.
The overall outcome of the 4° SoPoLab was very positive thanks to the availability, great collaboration and proactivity of all the parties involved, which made the event constructive and productive.