Background and request for advice
Urban regions are the powerhouses of the Dutch economy and their importance is expected to increase in the future. The number of residents, jobs and cultural activities in cities is growing. It is therefore in the Netherlands’ national interest that daily life in urban regions runs as smoothly as possible, and accessibility is vital to this.
The ‘triumph of the city’ has made urban areas increasingly busy, often bringing traffic to a grinding halt within its borders. Traffic jams, bicycle congestion and overloaded public transport systems have become a daily routine. At the same time, technological advances, shifting land uses, challenging climate targets and higher demands on individual flexibility all influence accessibility within urban regions. These developments alter traditional divisions between transport modes, between the public and private realms, and between policy areas. Working, shopping and leisure are increasingly being combined and are distributed across varying locations, and the use of land and buildings is increasingly flexible. Mobility services, e-bikes and car sharing offer new opportunities for people to reach their destinations.
The Council observes that current government policy and its associated instruments offer insufficient scope to react on societal developments.
- Current transport policy is sectorally organised and thus segmented: each transport mode has its own instruments, funding and tax incentives.
- Governments tend to view problems from the perspective of their own legally defined responsibilities, such as the roads authority or as the public licensing authority for the national railway network or regional public transport.
- Current accessibility policy is still too narrowly focused on infrastructure and mobility (speed). Not enough attention is paid to the proximity of facilities and activities.
To ensure that facilities and activities in urban areas remain accessible in the future, the Council argues that a comprehensive accessibility policy be drawn up, one which offers people the ability to reach as many activities as possible within an acceptable travel time. This will entail:
- streamlining laws and regulations;
- identifying authorities with prioritised accessibility challenges in common, and providing collective funding to tackle these challenges;
- making the tax and subsidy system for transport less rigid and more demand-led;
- considering spatial planning solutions as well as mobility solutions for each land use or infrastructure decision.
This advisory report was presented to Melanie Schultz van Haegen, the minister of infrastructure and the environment, on 26 January 2017 during a workshop with stakeholders.
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