Designing and implementing urban mobility projects: a study of the relations between urban policy makers and citizens in the context of post pandemic and climate change

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Detroit (2022)


Urban mobility; Projects; Policy makers; Citizens; Governance


Among the many actors involved in design and implementing urban mobility projects, two groups are mainly concerned: urban policy makers and citizens. Globally, the relationships between them follows a top-down approach, firstly between policy makers and mobility providers, and later between both these actors and the citizens. Thus, citizen participation is often limited to information campaigns and public consultations.
Conversely, with widespread adoption of peer-to-peer transport solutions and Mobility-as-a-Service schemes, key-decisions regarding urban mobility are no longer majorly top-down, citizens are starting to reclaim their public urban space, changing their transport modes and commuting patterns, and consequently the urban environment.
However, with the WHO declaring on yearly 2020, that COVID-19 became a global pandemic, the relationships between these actors is changing, as well as the whole urban mobility dynamic. With social distancing and lockdowns, demand for transportation changed dramatically, with steep declines in shared modes – e.g., public transport – and continued increases in individual mobility – e.g., cars and bicycles (Habib & Anik, 2021).
Now, two years into the pandemic, society is gradually resuming activities and demand for transport is returning to pre-pandemic levels. However, this “new normal” requires a reassessment on how mobility projects are conceived and executed, thus impacting the existing relationships between city governance and its citizens. Thereby, changes on urban mobility posed by the pandemic, may not only be an issue, but also an opportunity to accelerate and/or create positive change (EIT Urban Mobility, 2021).
Yet, the pandemic can be considered a time-bound crisis, even if quite impacting. The analysis of interactions between citizens and city governance must also integrate two other long-lasting issues: sustainable development and pricing power. These two issues complicate public policies since they often appear as contradictory and induce important reaction from citizens (as the gilets jaunes movement in France after an increase in oil prices, or the many pro-climate protests worldwide prompting governments to implement greener measures, e.g.: subsidies on EV purchases and city-bans on diesel cars).
This brief description shows that the relation between citizens and city government although quite complicated needs to be renewed. Thereby, this study aims to discuss how relations between urban policy makers and citizens are evolving, as well as to present a typology of circumstances that induce policy makers to consider citizens’ involvement in the changing patterns of sustainable urban mobility design and execution.

Conceived as a descriptive and qualitative research, this study follows the five-step citizen’s participation model: inform, consult, involve, collaborate, and empower (IAP2, 2007) to discuss relationships between urban policy makers and citizens on designing and implementing urban mobility projects in the aftermath of the pandemic.
A non-probabilistic sample of metropolitan areas among developed and developing countries is considered to illustrate how the actors’ dynamics is being impacted, as well as how and which changes have been put in place, focusing on a bottom-up approach progressing to the higher levels of the model.
Data collection is based both on secondary sources – academic and grey literature, and primary sources –in-depth interviews with urban mobility experts. After collection, data were organized, transcribed, and analysed following Bardin’s (2010) content analysis technique.

With new mobility options emerging (e.g.: from MaaS to AVs), no single entity will be able to deliver them all alone. Cities need to work closely with its citizens as well as with the private sector to design and implement these projects. To make the most of the options available, cities need a governance model and regulatory framework that enables them to develop and pilot promising new mobility projects, business models and modes of transport (Atalla & Simlett, 2019).
To avoid backlashes from mobility projects’ proposals, cities and mobility providers must listen to what people have to say and coordinate inclusive bottom-up policies. According to Kintziger (2017), the central point throughout this participatory structure is ensuring that citizens know and feel that their voice is being heard and that it has an important impact on consequences and actions taken by other actors. This will not only influence the success rate of innovative, sustainabley measures but will also make citizens responsible for them. However, there are many ways to involve citizens in mobility projects. The article aims at analysing the citizen involvement typology and the impact of each type on both the level of innovation and the level of success of the project.

Practical and theoretical implications:
As stated by Lindenau and Böhler-Baedeker (2014), citizens’ participation in transport and mobility planning is less studied than participation in other areas of public policy and planning. Thus, this study contributes to the theoretical advancement of the field by bringing a discussion on the conception and implementation of urban mobility projects through the integration of citizens.
From a practical standpoint, this study brings to light the joint actions of these group of actors in several cities worldwide in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis, highlighting the changes and adaptations imposed by this new reality in the conception and implementation of urban mobility projects.
Both theoretical and practical analysis allow the authors to propose a generic typology framework for citizen’s involvement in sustainable urban mobility changes, linking the level of involvement with the level of innovation.

Atalla, G. & Simlett, J. (2019). When citizens are driving mobility, what’s the role of the city?. Ernst & Young Global Limited, Retrieved on 21/02/2022, from: .
Bardin, L. 1977. Content Analysis. São Paulo: Edições 70, 2011 (in portuguese).
EIT Urban Mobility (2021). Full report: urban mobility strategies during COVID-19. Retrieved on 21/02/2022, from: <>.
Habib, M. A. & Anik A. H. (2021). Impacts of COVID-19 on transport and mobility behavior: analysis of public discourse in twitter. Transportation Research Record, 1-14.
IAP2 [International Association for Public Participation] (2007). Spectrum of Public Participation. Retrieved on 18/02/2022, from: .
Kintziger, A. (2017). Sustainable urban mobility through citizen participation. Medium, Retrieved on 21/02/2022, from: .


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