What is a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP)?

SUMP (Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan) is a long-term strategy aimed at ensuring satisfactory access to travel destinations and services, also including an implementation plan.

According to the Guidelines on Developing and Implementing a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan by the European Commission, the basic features of a SUMP are:

  • Long-term vision and clear implementation plan;
  • Participatory approach;
  • Balanced and integrated development of all transport modes;
  • Horizontal and vertical integration;
  • Assessment of current and future performance;
  • Regular monitoring, review and reporting;
  • Consideration of external costs for all transport modes.
What are the main purposes of a SUMP?
  • Ensure all citizens are offered transport options that enable access to key destinations and services;
  • Improve safety and security;
  • Reduce air and noise pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption;
  • Improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the transportation of persons and goods;
  • Contribute to enhancing the attractiveness and quality of the urban environment and urban design for the benefits of citizens, the economy and society as a whole.
How to prepare a good SUMP?

Preparing a good SUMP is a challenge. The document should be a signpost, showing the right way to implement the mobility policy. Based on the best practices of European mobility projects and thanks to experienced Advisors, we have developed nine key success factors for a mobility plan. These factors, along with a more detailed description, are presented below:

  • Methodology including the process of getting stakeholders to know each other and motivations of residents’ behaviour.

SUMP is an attempt to understand the needs of residents and select the best solutions that respond to them, in order to combine availability of travel destinations with minimising negative impact on the environment. “Understanding” and “selection” indicate two basic challenges to be met. There is no doubt that a SUMP will not be of any use if it does not address specific local issues. A broad methodology should be used to understand the transport behaviour – not only in terms of quantity (e.g. traffic measurements and modelling), but primarily in terms of quality (determining the factors of using various means of transport). This would enable the stakeholders to be involved and would make it possible to understand preferences of specific groups of users.

  • Appropriate amount of time to prepare a SUMP – from 8 up to 16 months.

A multi-faceted approach requires an appropriate timeframe. Basically, good preparation of a SUMP in less than 8 months is a real challenge, while some of its processes may last longer, even up to 1.5 years – depending on the complexity of the adopted methodology and challenges. The entire process of preparing and implementing SUMP, from determining the potential, through preparing the document, monitoring, drawing conclusions and introducing changes, takes years, and it is assumed that the plan should be constantly improved.

  • Comprehensive approach, which includes spatial planning and ‘soft’ issues and does not treat the project like a typical ‘hard’ investment.

SUMP should offer a comprehensive mobility planning, in conjunction with spatial planning. A transport-oriented urban development is a path to follow, which combines various functions: residential, service, office, in order to minimise residents’ potential time and distance of travel. In addition, it is recommended to reward attitudes conducive to protection of the environment, including walking or cycling.

  • Operationalisation in the form of precisely specified actions and responsible units.

Many projects are not implemented due to the lack of a clearly identified implementing unit or struggling with organisational chaos resulting from the lack of a decision-making leader. Assigning actions to the heads of selected units is necessary for the full process of the task implementation to take place. This is particularly important as SUMP activities often cover issues that are dealt with by multiple different units of the local government.

  • Adequate time horizon – recommended operational layer for 3 years and strategic layer for 10 years.

An often raised issue is the lack of specific actions resulting from strategic documents. For this reason, SUMP should take an operational and strategic form, in which actions for at least the next 3 years would be planned, as well as directions for actions for at least 10 years would be pointed.

  • Stability thanks to adoption by a resolution of a decision-making body, not by an order of an executive body.

It should be emphasized that the plan is not only a diagnosis, but firstly a selection of appropriate measures – effective and in line with the long-term vision of the city’s development. Hence, it is recommended that the mobility plan should be adopted by a resolution of the city council and that councilors are involved in the preparation process in advance. This provides a legitimating mandate for implementation of the actions in the document.

  • Flexibility and cyclicality thanks to updates depending on new challenges, instead of complete changes.

Over time, the biggest mobility challenges change. Formerly, maximisation of road infrastructure development was emphasised, so that everyone could go everywhere with their own car. However, this turned out that this direction leads to congestion and travel time extension, so as a result we started talking about sustainable transport in cities. Today it is talked even more about the quality of life in cities and optimal shaping of mobility.

  • Attractiveness, transparency, brevity, postulativeness and inclusion of the implementation procedure.

A document that will meet expectations of the residents must be appealing to them not only with its form, but also communicativeness. Residents should identify with the plan, consider it as an idea to improving the situation of the city and actively participate in implementation of the solutions. Participation should take place not only during public consultations, but also during workshops carried out while planning and designing solutions and during implementation of SUMP tasks.

  • Formulating acceptable, specific and measurable strategic goals.

This is the basis of a sustainable mobility policy. The goals have to result from the diagnosis of needs and opportunities in a given city and not be “prescribed”, unrealistic or generic goals of a sustainable mobility policy introduced at the EU or national level. Goals of the policy should be defined as effects and not expenditures. This is an issue often concerning local governments, which treat “purchase of electric buses” or “construction of a tram line” as goals. These are only common measures to achieve the goal, but an appropriately set goal is needed to assess, whether in a given case the measures taken are optimal and complete, creating an effective and efficient intervention logic.