Parisian mobility during the electoral campaign

The manifestos of city of Paris candidates within the mobility prism.​​

Less than two weeks away from municipal elections, urban mobility is already at the heart of debates: lowering the speed limit on the Paris ring road, passing a law depenalising parking warnings, etc. Choices at the level of public policies, while restricted by institutional cross-sections, have an influence on every day mobility[1] and entrench the city within a long-term development model. For this reason, we have chosen to focus upon the suggestions made as regards mobility by the five candidates for mayor of Paris.

The place of the car in the city : a love-hate relationship »

A shared vision is held by all candidates, except the National Front: reducing the number of cars on the road is needed to improve quality of life in the capital. Regardless, none of the candidates is an outright campaigner for the disappearance of the car. The relationship with the car remains something of a love-hate one. In this vein, PS candidate Anne Hidalgo has reiterated that while “car-centric Paris is finished (…) this mode of transport is however necessary”[2]and UMP candidate Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet has emphasised the need to “stop the excessive ticketing of motorists’[3].

The PS, UMP and EELV candidates refer to inherent defects in this mode of transport (pollution, noise, safety). For the EELV candidate, Christophe Najdovski, “to live better in Paris is to breath easier, by decreasing the place of the car and the emission of fine particles due to diesel”[4]. Another transversal angle of approach for these three candidates is the issue of balancing the modal shaing of the street in favour of the diversity of means of transport. Candidate Anne Hidalgo wants to rethink the place of roadways, which make up 28% of the Paris territory, in order for “this large area to be better used”[5].

The discrepancy between the wishes expressed by the candidates starts to appear at the level of the levers they wish to base themselves on to implement their policies.

Parking and speed give rise to numerous debates

The question of urban parking is covered unanimously – except by the socialist agenda – in response to the outcome of the previous mandate. Wallerant de Saint-Just (FN), for example, has spoken out against 95 000 parking spaces being eliminated over the past 12 years[6]. In this way, the campaign promises made by the different candidates are clearly centered on a quantitative increase in parking spaces. A number of methods have been put forward. Christophe Najdovski and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet intend to mobilise what already exists: private places for social tenants, underground parking in the case of EELV, the 120 000 private parking spaces which the UMP states are “unoccupied” and that the candidate intends to re-occupy or, further, “re-municipalised free parking (…) for the Parisian artisans” according to Danielle Simonnet (Left Front)[7]. The FN also want to increase the number of parking spaces by at least 35 000 without having specified the implementation arrangements.

In defence of her predecessor’s results, Anne Hidalgo (PS) has chosen to focus her parking-related agenda on smart grids services: “remote booking of spaces” and “making mobile payments ubiquitous” to modernise and facilitate access to existing places.

Speed in the city is a political action lever which is binarily justified in the candidates’ agendas:

– Reducing speed limits, at the ring-road and neighbourhood levels, through the introduction of “30 zones”, is necessary to contain nuisances and to improve quality of life, according to the socialist programs of the EELV and the Left Front. While the PS has set the lowering of the speed limit to 70 km/hr (which has already been in place since the start of the year), the EELV candidate wishes to go even further, by suggesting a dynamic remodelling along with a speed limit of 50 kn/hr in order to limit adverse factors ” [8]. As concerns the Left Front, the candidate is insistent upon the necessity of “controlling the use of the car”, mentioning speed without however suggesting a specific implementation.

-Conversely, the UMP and FN candidates’ objective is to re-establish the speeds set to the previous level, prior to the Bertrand Delanoë mandates, to “make traffic fluid [9]“in keeping with the views of Wallerand de Saint-Just, and because reducing speed is considered to have a” very minimal impact on air quality and noise “[10] in the view of Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet. It should be noted that the FN agenda goes even further in this sense, as it also prescribes a “decrease in 30 zones, and meeting zones (20km / hr)»[11].

Parisian technological mobility-electrical and diesel-free?

In terms of congestion, all the parties are pursuing the same data-processing objective to optimise traffic. The two major parties are in agreement for a growing mobilisation of ICT to better respond to traffic. Both agendas state the relevance of sensors on the road which are intended to adapt signalling to the context of the traffic. Anne Hidalgo has supported this by putting forward “the abolition of networks competing with the “Surf” and “Sage” traffic regulation system[12]while Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet has emphasised the exemplary “SCOOT” system used in London[13].

The Socialists, EELV, the Left Front and the UMP coincide uniformly in speaking out against air quality which is compromised by car traffic. Urban pollution is addressed at the level of local pollutants and is never addressed due to its releasing greenhouse gases. It is first and foremost vehicles with a diesel engine that are targeted by these four agendas. EELV back their “reduction”[14] UMP backs their “eradication within the municipal fleet”[15] and socialists are lobbying for their “abolition”[16]. HLVs are also in the candidates’ line of fire: Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, Danielle Simonnet and Christophe Najdovski would like to see their number progressively decrease in the centre of Paris. All candidates wish to see a disappearance from the capital of HLVs which pollute the most, either by prohibiting their movement along the ring road (Left Front), or by suggesting that there be a “Priority Action Zone for Air Quality” (UMP), or by developing the ferrying of goods by the Sein (EELV, PS). The PS candidate, therefore, suggests setting a 50% objective for last-kilometer deliveries in “diesel-free ways between now and 2017, in order to attain 0 diesel in 2020”[17]. In this way, for candidates other than the FN candidate, the issue of pollution stemming from diesel also entails the regulation of deliveries.

The question of noise pollution is also addressed by the objective of recovering the ring road, which must be “partial” in the view of the Left Front[18], EELV [19] and PS, and “full” according to the UMP candidate. This coverage would, in the opinion of all candidates, make it possible to counter both noise and pollution, for which the induced traffic is responsible.

Electric mobility draws consensus across the various agendas. It appears in the candidates’ view as an opportunity to improve quality of life in town as electrical vehicles do not release polluting emissions, and reduce noise annoyances due to traffic. The same proposal is reiterated by all candidates, with the exception of the FN: replacing the City of Paris’s diesel vehicles by electrical or hybrid vehicles. The agendas of the PS, UMP and FN candidates also coincide in their will to promote the development of the electrical car market within the capital by authorising free parking for electrical vehicles, and by offering to expand charging points for individuals as well as for deliveries (quick charging points).

Each candidate then tries to distinguish themselves through singular projects. Anne Hidalgo continues to show support for the electrical vehicle by suggesting the creation of a Velib’ and electrical scooters fleet, as well as the possibility for electrical vehicles (cars and motorised two wheeled vehicles) to access bus lanes. The candidate also promises to offer a yearly Autolib’ subscription to young drivers and to “Parisians who decide to give up the private car”[20]in order to “boost cultural change”[21]. NKM meanwhile, has in mind an “electrical town” with pedestrian areas in which only electric vehicles would have a place[22]. She also suggests doubling the ecological bonus on purchasing an electrical vehicle to an amount of 6 300 Euros for very small companies and artisans. Christophe Najdovski mentions, meanwhile, the establishment of “electric shuttles”[23] for Parisians to travel easily during weekends across Parisian parks (Boulogne, Vincennes).

Alternative modes of transport to the car or alternative usages of the car?

Proposals focused on restriction-free supply….

Candidates wish to enhance existing public transport means and to modernise them thanks to new technologies. Beyond the development of hybrid or electric buses, Anne Hidalgo has declared herself to be in favour of an extension of the tram[24], as well as the automation of additional subway lines[25]. The PS and EELV agendas also suggest “the opening of line 1 and 14 every night and weekend”[26].

The UMP candidate’s flagship suggestion is to “extend metro times to 02:00 am during the week and, progressively, to all-night operation over the weekend”[27]. And to give Paris residents power of decision over improvements they would like to see in public transport. The candidate has promised a yearly consultation on this topic online. The most viable projects would be financed “to the amount of 30 million euros via a direct contribution from the city to the RATP»[28].

The FN candidate wants to “make public transport in Paris one of the major causes within the next mandate”[29]  suggesting the development of major projects, including in particular the increase in the supply of rail transport while, contradictorily wanting to “put a stop to Pharaonic works such as (…) the tram.”[30]

As regards the issue of new mobilities two camps are forming. EELV and the PS wish to prolong the efforts of B. Delanoë’s previous mandate and thus to develop existing services (Vélib ‘, Autolib’). Both want to promote inter and multi-modality by suggesting, in the case of the EELV candidate, the creation of a “Mobilities Pass”, and, for the PS candidate, the introduction of a “Universal Navigo” which would make the mobility of Parisians more straightforward, by allowing them to access both public transport, Velib, Autolib’ as well as some taxis deals[31]. Conversely, the UMP candidate wants to develop car sharing “beyond Autolib'” and has suggested deploying a car sharing service among individuals across the city’s areas.

In terms of active modes of transport (cycling and walking) both PS and EELV programs tend towards the same goals. The bicycle should take up a growing, or even dominant, place, as far as these two parties are concerned, through two different operational modes. The socialists have argued for the securing of existing infrastructure, a doubling up of cycle paths and the extension of the signalling dedicated to cyclists, as well as for “pedestrian-only areas”[32]. The EELV candidate is focusing its campaign promises on a budget increase for policy in favour of the bicycle, which would finance “Mobilities Passes” at a reduced cost for Parisians,  and provide secure bicycle parking and new cycling paths on major axes, in particular the banks of the Seine, similarly to other large French cities, such as Lyon. the UMP suggests developing cycling, distancing itself from the previous mandate to go “beyond Velib”, through the remodelling of the small belt to make it the “first integral cycling loop” and through the construction of “3000 secure parking spaces for bicycles belonging to individuals [33]“. Like its PS rival, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet also wishes to create pedestrian areas which can only be crossed by bicycles and by electrical vehicles.

The specific processing of the motorised two-wheel vehicles (TWVs)

The candidates of both parties are on the same wavelength as concerns the issue of parking motorised two-wheel vehicles: it shall remain free on the surface and will increase at surface level as well as at subterranean level (20 000 according to Anne Hidalgo[34], 50,000 according to Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet[35]). This point of view is also shared by Danielle Simonnet for whom “the race for new revenues”[36] is “not a solution”, and who suggests a “re-municipalisation”, in her words, of parking. Similarly, the EELV candidate suggests an increase in the number of places reserve for two-wheel vehicles within a system in which public space is better shared between different modes of transport. Wallerand de Saint-Just has added that individual transport (individual cars and motorised two-wheel vehicles) are “persecuted”[37] within the capital and guarantees free parking as well as the creation of 10 000 new places[38].

In this race for suggestions, the UMP candidate has sought to go further in her proposals, as she also wishes, as is the case with motorists, to put an “end to the excessive ticketing” of scooters and motorbikes which park on pavements, stating that this type of ticketing was thought to have “gone up by 26% between 2010 and 2011”[39]. She also promises to reflect, in concertation with the Ministry of the Interior on the “legalisation of interfiling on the ring road during traffic jams”[40].

The issues not raised by the debates

Among all candidates running for Mayor of Paris, a number of topics are brought up sparingly, such as road safety and, an issue attracting very high media attention over past weeks- the regulation of taxis[41].

Whereas, to reiterate:

– As far as road safety issues are concerned, although Paris is ranked as the second most safe department in France  (19.4 people killed per million inhabitants, versus 63.9 as a national average[42]), accidents related to speeding and to illegal lane changes remain an important issue for the capital[43]. Motorcycles are thus involved in 35% of accidents in the capital and young people (18-24 years) are involved in 32% of traffic accidents[44].

– Further, even though the regulation of the latter depends directly on the Ministry of the Interior, the conflicting situation between taxis and chauffeur-driven leisure cars, which has lead to several strikes blocking up the capital, appears to be an important issue for the capital’s future.

It can also be noted that all candidates prefer to adopt a position which supports supply, rather than restriction. Meanwhile, while the supply (the alternative) is fundamental, without a restriction there can be no change in behaviour. The case of parking is typical of this political posture: no candidate will speak out to question residential parking! This however is a topic carrying two direct forms of impact:

– The initial impact is on the de-motorisation of Parisians. While much of the Parisian population hold onto their cars although they do not use them, or use them very little, they also do so because they have privileged parking (less than 4 euros per week in contrast with 2 euros an hour for others). Without the availability of this parking, one portion will give up their private car (in favour of a shared car) which another (richer) portion will give up the street space for off-street parking.

– The second impact is on parking capacity, which today is non-existant in Paris. The surface spots freed up by Parisians will be freed to favour non-residents who will come back to consume in Paris, reducing negative externalities brought about by the time required to search for a parking spot (traffic, pollution, noise, lack of safety) without causing a leech car effect (when paying 2 euros an hour with efficient monitoring one does not occupy a space for the entire day).

In the backdrop, what is truly absent from these suggestions on mobility may well be the user himself or herself. Is the issue, however, not to transfer from a policy of supply to a policy of usage?

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