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04 April 2022

Interview with the Mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, for Global Mobility Call

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10 min.
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The City Council, for its part, can not only offer its institutional collaboration, but can also offer its example and experience as the second most populated city in the European Union and the only one in which all existing modes of mobility coexist, with an increasing importance of sustainable modes.

1. What does it mean for Madrid to host Global Mobility Call?

GMC is the best showcase to show to the world our firm and comprehensive commitment to sustainable mobility. So, it’s a privilege and honour to host GMC as an international benchmark in mobility and sustainability. It gives us an unrivalled opportunity to attract investment and talent to our city and our country.

From 14th to 16th June, Madrid will be the world capital of sustainable mobility, hosting the sector’s main institutional and business stakeholders. It’s a privilege, and I’m really grateful for that.

2. One of GMC’s objectives is to become an international hub for sustainable mobility. What is Madrid City Council’s role in achieving that goal?

Government plays a fundamental role in designing and developing sustainable mobility. But, this objective must be achieved by involving society as a whole, from large companies to individual citizens. In that regard, GMC is a formidable example of public-private collaboration as it’s the focal point for all the leading players in mobility, sustainability and innovation.

The City Council can offer institutional collaboration, but it can also set an example and offer experience. Madrid is the EU’s second most populous city and the only one in which all existing modes of transport work together in an integrated way. Sustainable modes play an increasingly important role.

3. Public sector companies in Madrid are going to participate. What would you highlight about them in their efforts toward more sustainable mobility?

Public transport’s the primary way people move around in Madrid. This capital city has 3.3 million inhabitants, a metropolitan area of 6.7 million and 9.3 million daily trips before the pandemic. You can’t do that without a sophisticated public transport system like ours, one in which the Municipal Transport Company, the EMT, plays a fundamental role.

Since it began 75 years ago, the EMT has become an undisputed benchmark in surface public transport. It manages a state-of-the-art fleet of 2068 buses, operating 219 lines across a 3861 km network.

Although 84% of Madrid’s buses run on green technologies, we want to strengthen our sustainability commitment even further. So, by 1st January 2023, we’ll have taken out of service diesel buses from the EMT fleet, and by 2027 one out of three buses will be electric. This fleet renewal will be accompanied by significant investments to adapt and electrify our operations centres, as demonstrated by the recently-presented La Elipa project.

Between now and 2025, we’re going to invest a billion Euros in boosting the company’s sustainability and efficiency and increasing bus speeds and service frequencies.

And, over the last two years, we’ve increased the bus lane network by 40%. Madrid’s the city with the highest number of fully electrified routes in Spain (16). We’ve launched the first ZERO lines in the city: zero emissions, zero cost. And, for the first time, we’ve introduced free bus policies (the EMT has been totally free on four occasions) as a way to promote public transport.

4. What is Madrid’s position in the European trend toward sustainable mobility?

Since I took office, reconciling mobility and sustainability has been one of my priorities. In just three months, we drafted and presented the Madrid 360 Environmental Sustainability Strategy with two hundred measures and plans to comprehensively transform local government, the city, and mobility. We’ve completed that Strategy with the Air Quality and Sustainable Mobility ordinances, the Roadmap for Climate Neutrality and the recently-presented Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan.

Together, these instruments give us the most comprehensive sustainable mobility strategy in Europe. Mobility has to be sustainable, safe, integrated and electric. We believe that that pivots on five main axes: public transport, which I was discussing before, the integration of conventional modes of transportation with all the new, more sustainable modes, promoting electric mobility, improving our infrastructure, and setting up low-emission zones to prevent access by high-pollution vehicles.

5. What are the prospects for sustainable public transport in the capital in the coming years?

Madrid has a very extensive and efficient public transport network consisting of the Madrid Metro, the Cercanías suburban train network and the Municipal Transport Company, the EMT, which before the pandemic accounted for 36% of the 9.3 million daily trips in the city. Its quality and efficiency are one of our hallmarks as a city.

As well as making progress on fleet sustainability, which I’ve already mentioned, we need to get public transport back to pre-pandemic demand levels and better integrate different modes. In other words, to make public transport compatible with new, more sustainable modes such as carpooling, PMVs (Personal Mobility Vehicles), and bicycles.

Public transportation is and will continue to be the way people move about this city.

6. What are the urban planning challenges posed by the goal of advancing toward more sustainable mobility in central Madrid?

With an area of 600 km2 and 3.3 million inhabitants, Madrid is the EU’s second-most populous city. There are residential, productive and recreational uses spread across the city and in some neighbouring towns, which makes for longer journeys by public transport or car.

In that regard, urban planning has a fundamental role in advancing the sustainability of mobility and the city in general. We need to configure neighbourhoods to make them more compact, with the right mix of uses to allow access to services and jobs quickly, efficiently and sustainably.

But urban planning also plays an indispensable role in shaping people-friendly public spaces that people will want to visit and enjoy. Madrid’s a great city for walking and cycling, to give two examples.

So, we’re analysing how public spaces are distributed geographically so that the different mobility modes can better interoperate. The Sustainable Mobility Ordinance, approved in September last year, marked a turning point by promoting the harmonious coexistence of different mobility modes by regulating how people ride and park bicycles, motorcycles and PMVs.

We’re widening pavements and creating pedestrian streets in all districts. Pedestrianising the Puerta del Sol, our most emblematic square, was the first of these actions. For cycling mobility, we’ve expanded BiciMAD —the public bicycle hire service— and carried out the biggest expansion in its history. And we’re expanding the cycle lane network with the construction of the Castellana lane right up the middle of the city centre as the backbone of cycling mobility.

7. What ideas would you like the citizens of Madrid to learn to advance in this transportation sustainability process?

We can only achieve sustainability if government, business, and citizens work together, pulling in the same direction. It’s a shared responsibility.

Government can promote and improve public transport —that’s our duty— but the final choice about whether to take the Metro, the bus or a hire car instead of using a private vehicle is up to each individual. So, we have to keep raising awareness about the need to use sustainable modes of transport and the undeniable advantages of public transport, walking and cycling.

Employers can and do make a significant contribution with mobility plans, discounts, and shuttle buses for their staff.

8. GMC will also be talking about public-private partnerships and their need to promote sustainable mobility. What kind of support does Madrid City Council give to these cooperation schemes?

I sincerely believe that sustainability has to be integrated, and that includes environmental, social and economic aspects. So, public-private partnership is crucial and has allowed us to overcome challenging situations like the recent pandemic and bounce back as a driver for economic recovery and a benchmark in innovation and sustainability.

Madrid Green Urban Mobility Lab and Madrid Nuevo Norte are two examples of this partnership in mobility and urban planning.

Madrid Green Urban Mobility Lab was set up last year as a forum for the principal private and institutional actors in the transport and sustainability fields to come together to promote Madrid as an international benchmark in innovation and technology in the urban mobility sector.

Madrid Nuevo Norte (Madrid New North) is the most ambitious urban regeneration project in Europe. It’s a project that includes a major strengthening of public transport with a hub at the renovated Chamartín station, active mobility modes, and a more integrated and integrating city model.

9. Of the different industries that make up the sustainable mobility ecosystem, which are the ones that are being developed the most in Madrid?

Madrid is the only European capital in which all existing sustainable mobility modes work together in an integrated way. All of them are taking place in our streets: from car hire (cars, motorcycles, PMVs) to the promotion of pedestrian or cycle mobility and our firm commitment to electric mobility and public transport.

And while I’m on that subject, I’d like to mention BiciMAD, the city’s public cycle hire system. Between 2019 and 2021, it went through the largest expansion in its history with the creation of ninety new docking stations and expansion into districts outside the central area. But our goal is for people all over Madrid to have access to this service, so we’re going to allocate almost €49 million to transform the system, expanding across the capital’s 21 districts with 600 docking stations and 7500 bikes.

In parallel, we’re making an unprecedented commitment to innovation in mobility. The new Sustainable Mobility Ordinance dedicates for the first time an entire chapter to innovation in mobility and creates the sandbox, the largest test space in Europe.

10. What opportunities do the Next Generation EU Funds and Spain’s Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan offer for municipal sustainable transport and mobility plans?

The European funds represent an opportunity to go further and speed up the sustainable mobility policies that we’ve been implementing for almost three years. The strategic objectives of those programmes are broadly similar to ours.

Madrid has competed for the ‘Programme of Assistance to Municipalities for Implementing Low-Emission zones, Digital and Sustainable Transformation of Urban Transport’ under the Next Generation EU European Recovery Fund through 43 projects involving an investment of €300 million.

We’ve presented projects in line with the Madrid 360 Environmental Sustainability Strategy. They focus on electrifying the EMT fleet by purchasing more than 200 electric buses and electrifying the Carabanchel Operations Centre, expanding and upgrading BiciMad, and implementing low-emission zones, among other initiatives.