Dk Plus de Mobilité
This case was submitted as part of the Call for Innovations, an annual partnership initiative between OPSI and the UAE Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Government Innovation (MBRCGI)
« DK Plus de Mobilité » is an ambitious transportation policy led by the Dunkirk Urban District Council. This project aims to increase the share (less than 7%) of public transit in the Dunkirk area (200 000 inhabitants). The main challenge and specificity of this project – developed in consultation with local population - consists in combining the upgrading and modernization of transport infrastructures with the implementation of free public transport for all.
On the 1st September, Dunkirk has become the largest European urban zone to have its bus network entirely free for all. By taking this step towards free bus, local authorities wanted to participate in a revolution of mindsets, a deep-rooted paradigm shift in urban mobility.
The mobility in Dunkirk was indeed characterised by an over-representation of the use of vehicles. The share of public transportation recording a constant fall in recent years, falling beneath 5% in 2015. This major place of car in the city has widely effects on pollution, city-centre congestion, household expenses, etc. The development of public transit was even more important that a quarter of the 200,000 inhabitants of the urban region of Dunkirk do not own a car. These problems have placed the issue of free public transport at the centerpiece of the 2014 local elections. Leaded by Patrice Vergriete, the aim of the new majority was to develop free public transport to reach a share of 10% by 2020.
In this sense, development of public transit has been thinking as an active cross-cutting policy against all forms of social, economic and environmental inequalities. In addition to fight against decongestion and pollution, public transit policy is also a mean of combating social exclusion, geographical isolation of districts and individuals by giving to anyone the chance to access leisure activities, public infrastructure, shopping areas, jobs, etc. Moreover, implementation of new public transportation infrastructure has given the possibility to rethink the city and its uses, with the local population being involved in the decision-making process. Thus, the urban district council coordinated many public meetings before and during the urban redevelopment work and also implemented, within Dunkirk, what was called the « Fabriques d’Initiatives Locales » [Local Initiative Factories] which allowed residents of a neighbourhood to work with representatives and technical experts to provide concrete solutions to transportation requirements. It also organised a vote, of which 25,000 people participated in, to select a project of pedestrianisation place in the main square of the city. Beyond the choice whether or not to close one of the main roads, it was dealing with the role of the city centre, the way we encourage its animation, economic and business development.
The global cost of the project is about €60 M excluding VAT. We intervened in six large sectors of the conurbation and there were many interventions throughout urban area to improve the sharing of the public space, safety of travel, quality of life and the performance of the bus network. « Dk Plus de Mobilité » was implemented without increasing the tax burden and by controlling the debt level of local authority. The anticipation have allowed to make a provision for the investment required to roll-out our new network. The service itself was already widely funded by the local authority as the price of a ticket only covered 10% of the cost of a trip. For Dunkirk, free transportation is therefore a strong political choice, but also a smart one.
The first results of bus attendance are very positive. Since the introduction of the entirely new and free network on September 1st 2018, the bus transport patronage has risen by around 50% on weekdays and 120% on weekends! With a more effective, quicker and more comprehensive network, which is socially fair, over 80% of the population is now located less than 300 metres from a bus stop which will be served every 10 minutes.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
With “Dk Plus de Mobilité”, Dunkirk has become has become the largest european urban zone to have its bus network entirely free for all – both inhabitants and tourists. The implementation of this free access has been combined with the improved offer of bus services and in close connection with local population. Finally, « Dk Plus de Mobilité » was implemented without increasing the tax burden and by controlling the debt level of local authority.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The aim of « Dk Plus de Mobilité » was to develop free public transport to reach a share of 10% by 2020.
The new bus network has been operational and entirely free since September 2018.
From its introduction, the bus transport patronage has already risen by around 50% on weekdays and 120% on weekends.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Citizens : the local population has been involved in the decision-making process. Thus, the urban district council coordinated many public meetings before and during the urban redevelopment work and also implemented what was called the « Fabriques d’Initiatives Locales » which allowed residents of a neighbourhood to work with representatives and technical experts to provide concrete solutions to transportation requirements.
The transport operator was also a key partner of the project.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
“Dk Plus de Mobilité” is an opportunity for all the territory's stakeholders: inhabitants, tourists but also companies that are taking advantages of a territory even more attractive to recruit and retain their personnel.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The project was implemented in two phases. As of September 2015, the bus network was free during the weekends and on high pollution days. This first phase has allowed to test the disposal and to make a first survey on partially free travel. The initial results were very encouraging, showing an increase in use of 29% on Saturdays and 78% on Sundays. More important perhaps: the image of bus travel had changed. Contrary to certain long-standing prejudices, we observed a drop of uncivil behaviour on board buses (less 66%). It was usual, during the week-end, to see old people enjoying bus trips and to go more often to visit their city.
The second phase started from the 1st September 2018 with the entire network becoming totally free, every day, for all people. Since the introduction of the entirely new and free network on September 1st 2018, the bus transport patronage has been expanding ever since this date, risen around 50% on weekdays and 120% on weekends.
Challenges and Failures
A main challenge was to get inhabitants and bus users informed about the development work. To facilitate the transition towards the new mobility plan, we relied on digital mobile tools. However, we did not forget the risk of a digital gap and the feeling of exclusion which may be felt by those who are unable to use these tools. This is why free transportation will allow us to redeploy human resources, previously used in ticket control and issuing fines, to support and inform users.
Conditions for Success
A strong political, administrative and social support were necessary conditions to ensure the successful implementation of the project.
Dunkirk has based its experience of other towns having already taken the step of free public transport such as Tallinn in Estonia or, in France, Châteauroux, Aubagne and Niort.
We need to pool the experiences, to have a coherent analysis of the implementation of free travel. Policy makers have to prepare other forms of mobility to offer to all citizens easy travel options, better shared and quiet public spaces. The challenge for the cities of the future is to make urban development a tool for social cohesion.
This need of shared experiences led Dunkirk to organize The First Meeting of Free Public Transport Cities on September 3rd and 4th 2018. This meeting was an opportunity to structure the network of cities and urban areas which have chosen free transportation. The second meeting will take place in Chateauroux next year.
The challenge for the city of the future is to make urban development a tool for social cohesion. Civil Society and decision makers have to prepare other forms of mobility! Organisation of our transportation methods, whether public or individual, motorised or not, should lead us to offer to all citizens easy travel options, better shared and quiet public spaces.
Mobility may be regarded in this sense as a common society project. Through the long process which led us to make Dunkirk the largest area in Europe to implement free public transport for all, we have illustrated the idea that cities are the best places for experimentation and awareness of citizens expetations. Implementation of new public transportation infrastructure has definitely given us the chance to rethink the city and its uses, with the local population being involved in the decision-making process. Social, economic, urban or technological innovation to improve social and democratic inclusion.