The Netherlands


The Netherlands faces a great challenge: building 1m new homes over the next 10 years. This will increase pressure on the space available, which is scarce enough as it is. This demands a different, more integrated approach to mobility, one that addresses the policy challenges such as impact of urbanisation, declining population in rural areas, social inclusion, and sustainability, as Liselotte Bingen and Caspar de Jonge report

Mobility as a Service (MaaS): a continuous exchange of data, © Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management

Considerable claims are made on public space: there is a need for more homes or more green spaces, there is a need for more local and sustainable energy production and lower emissions, and so on and so forth.

However, the space available is not effectively increasing, and people and goods still need to be able to move. “All these challenges together require an integrated approach to mobility and more coherent policies,” says Caspar de Jonge, Data and Services Programme Manager at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.

Rijkswaterstaat as POLIS Member

“This means a new way of thinking, where the current partitions between transport modalities and policy themes such as housing, space and mobility will gradually disappear. If we wish to keep our cities accessible, liveable, sustainable and safe, we will need to look at the mobility system as a whole – and change it as a whole. We have to make better use of the existing physical and digital infrastructure, make transport options more sustainable and give people more freedom of choice by offering real alternatives. To achieve that, we need to look beyond the boundaries of the domains that are familiar to us. Using and, above all, combining data in a smart way will help us in this process.”

MaaS as a sustainable step ahead

More and more Dutch municipalities are already investing heavily in sustainable mobility, eg, walking, cycling and electric transport. These investments are frequently linked to the redevelopment of their cities.

Caspar de Jonge, Data and Services Programme Manager at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure & Water Management

In particular, there is an explicit focus on chain mobility: how to get from A to B as quickly, efficiently and clean as possible – and using one’s car, a shared one or a taxi, as well as public transport, a shared bicycle or an electric scooter, or a combination of different modes of transport that users are able to plan, book and pay for all at the same time. In a word: MaaS, Mobility as a Service.

Data exchange is crucial

To make MaaS happen, a continuous exchange of data from a wide variety of sources is crucial – for instance, data that provides insight into when and how journeys are made, which routes are frequently used, and which parking locations are more popular. For example, local governments that want to promote cycling have to know which routes cyclists mainly use and what a cyclist's average waiting time before the traffic lights is on those specific routes. These insights make it possible to take targeted measures to further accommodate cyclists. Only by making all this up-to-date and accurate data accessible in a uniform manner and, above all, by exchanging it with other relevant players, local authorities will be able to make the right policy choices.

Better understanding of complex issues

“By combining all this data in a smart way, we as a government will also gain a better understanding of complex issues,” says Liselotte Bingen, Policy Advisor Mobility as a Service (MaaS) at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.

Liselotte Bingen is Policy Advisor Mobility as a Service (MaaS) at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management

Bingen and her team work on a number of case studies in which aggregated data is collected (in other words, no individuals are traced) and used to approach mobility issues in a different way. “If we link public transport data to population statistics, for example, the results tell us something about transport choices in specific regions and among certain age groups”, she says. “What if all that data shows travellers often still prefer to take the car for relatively short distances and at specific times of the day? Then it could certainly pay off to take a closer look at the local timetables of public transport or the possibilities of shared mobility for bridging the first and last mile. Using data, you can also analyse travel behaviour of specific groups, for example by linking the frequency of public transport check-ins and check-outs to the various travel products on public transport chip cards. The travel behaviour of groups like students and the associated peak in public transport use has previously led to talks with educational institutions about adjusting class and lecture times.”

GO Sharing offers shared electric vehicles in the Netherlands, as well as in Antwerp (Belgium) and Vienna (Austria), © Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management

Policy instrument to recognise patterns

These are relatively simple examples that show how having the right data available can help us make better-informed policy decisions. Soon, pseudonymised data will be added from various MaaS apps that are to be launched. MaaS development gives governments a better insight into mobility movements within a chain journey. Based on this aggregated data, governments can learn how to better focus their efforts on social goals such as sustainability, quality of life and road safety.

In addition, it is important to approach all these issues in an integrated way. This requires closer cooperation and more transparency from all parties involved: sharing data, investing in data standardisation and learning together. At the same time, we must ensure that the GDPR is applied in full and diligently in order to prevent the government from encroaching on citizens’ privacy.

Liselotte Bingen, Policy Advisor Mobility as a Service (MaaS) at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management

Therefore, data can help in making policy choices and reducing the pressure on the scarce space available in cities. This includes data relating to, for example, construction traffic and goods distribution, which make up a significant share of urban logistics. The construction of one million new homes and large-scale building developments will only put further pressure on logistics in the years to come.

Based on data, you can map those logistics processes and optimise them by keeping a digital overview of the situation in real time and making the best possible use of both time and space. That applies to both the logistics party and the municipality. They can create distribution hubs on the city's outskirts, for example, or apply more efficient loading and unloading times and mark preferred routes. To get a grip on this, the digital process must be in proper order: you must be able to plan, measure, identify, recognise patterns, and anticipate them. Logistics efficiency and sustainable use of space go hand in hand.

Caspar de Jonge, Data and Services Programme Manager at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management

Effective policy

Digital platforms for shared mobility are entirely driven by data. More and more vehicles are connected to the Internet via apps and sensors and continuously transmit data to the manufacturer or other market parties. Governments cannot afford to lag behind. “As a government, we create the parameters and preconditions for the mobility transition, as the market expects us to. Market parties and governments benefit from a uniform set of requirements, privileges, and permits. Such standardisation and harmonisation make it much easier to exchange and scale up solutions to enhance their effect. That means we need to know what data is needed and which (digital) switches to turn. Only then can we create effective policies and will we be able to successfully match supply and demand”, concludes Caspar de Jonge.

Liselotte Bingen and Caspar de Jonge are, respectively, Policy Advisor Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and Data and Services Programme Manager at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. Contact them: liselotte.bingen@minienw.nl and caspar.de.jonge@minienw.nl

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