Dutch government and the future of mobility

Opinie

What roles should the Dutch government play in order to enable the Future of Mobility?

No more congestion, cleaner air, fewer accidents, more car sharing: the promises of the future of mobility are great. But if we really want to profit from all of these possibilities in the Netherlands, national and local governments must become more proactive and develop a holistic view on the direction of this future.

Giving the Dutch mobility ecosystem more direction

Our American colleagues recently published the report Harnessing the future of mobility. It’s an interesting piece on how governments can enable a better transportation experience for all citizens and what roles they may have  in this process. 

According to the report, government at all levels will play four roles in the future mobility ecosystem:

  • Strategist: Setting the strategic policy direction
  • Operator: Delivering mobility services
  • Convenor and catalyst: Actively enable others players' behaviors
  • Regulator: Intervene where there are risks

What roles do the central government and local governments currently play in the Dutch mobility landscape? And what roles should they play if they want to move forward on the Future of Mobility Maturity Curve for Government?

Full report: Harnessing the future of mobility

Get the full report here

A scattered mobility landscape

Let’s first state something obvious: the future of mobility is unclear. No one knows exactly how technology will evolve and what new mobility concepts will enter the market. In some Dutch cities we see bike sharing companies taking over the bike racks, in others there are car sharing projects, and in newly built neighbourhoods there are experiments with less than usual parking space. 

In 9 out of 10 new mobility developments, the (local) government is reactive: it comes up with rules for the bike sharing companies or bends the rules for those new neighbourhoods with limited parking space. Governance on mobility is scattered: when talking about the future of mobility, several departments are involved, and on a local level, several city departments. And then we also have to deal with our ‘vervoersregio’s’, transport regions. 

A masterplan for the future of mobility

What we miss in this fragmented landscape is a clear central, and a clear local perspective on the future of mobility. What we need is a masterplan, central and local. Not a plan that is set in stone, but a masterplan that is agile, that is able to respond to new developments. We have a special commissioner for our Delta Works, so why don’t we install one for mobility too? 

That central and local perspective — in which the government acts as a strategist — sets out the guiding principles for thinking about the future of our mobility. With these principles, governments are able to exercise their roles as regulator and as convener and catalyst. 

Living labs for mobility

As a catalyst, governments can for example create living labs in designated areas in cities or in rural areas, where companies and/or consortia can experiment, and where it is easy to measure the results of those experiments. In this role the government is proactively reaching out to the market and asking for solutions for specific mobility challenges. Working solutions in these living labs can subsequently be easily deployed in similar areas. 

The masterplan also offers guidelines for the government as regulator. Living labs can be of great value too for this role. How will employees in the Zuidas, the financial district in Amsterdam, respond to certain tax measures with regard to their lease cars? What is necessary to change their transport behaviour, or to help employers change the transport behaviour of their employees? 

In some regions the local government is also (still) operator. Governments should consider what operator roles they can fulfill without disturbing the market. 

Future of Mobility Maturity Curve for Government

Our colleagues — the authors of the report — developed the Future of Mobility Maturity Curve for Government. The maturity curve allows leaders to assess how prepared they are for the new mobility ecosystem and the extent to which their decision-making processes (including supporting capabilities) reflect changing requirements. The fragmentation of the Dutch mobility market also has its effect on our mobility maturity. If we look at the Netherlands as a whole, we believe we are somewhere between stage one and stage two. But some of the bigger cities are already in stage three. Between the provinces the differences are also big: some already have laid out a clear roadmap, others are in stage one: aware of emerging mobility trends, but lacking a clear vision.

Moving forward

As mentioned in our introduction: if we really want to profit from all of the possibilities the future of mobility has to offer, the Dutch national and local governments must become more proactive and develop a holistic view on the direction of this future. A Dutch commissioner for mobility can act as a driver for this interesting and challenging process.  

Do you want your region to move forward on the mobility maturity curve, but you don’t know how? Or maybe you want to install living labs in your regions? Please contact Hans Teuben or Frank de Bont.