Our activity

ECE summer school 2017 – Combining spacial planning and mobility with MobINE

Every summer, the ECE summer school offers 30 international students the possibility to attend a three-week lecture period in Switzerland. Organized and coordinated by the Swiss Study Foundation, this year’s event is focused on the sustainable transformation of the current energy and mobility systems. Appropriately, SCCER Mobility appears as supporter for conveying lecturers and content for the events. MobINE as one of the SCCER-Mobility research groups contributed an excursion in Zurich, aiming at elaborating the issue of interdependencies of mobility and spatial development. This complex interplay can be observed very well in and around Zurich, a busy metropolitan area dealing with numerous spatial challenges.

After a short introduction at the ETH main building and having elaborated the possible development scenarios for Zurich’s university district, we moved on to our first stop: The former garden city of Schwamendingen located in the outskirts of Zurich. It has been subject to crucial expansion since the 1930s, which is also due to the attractive transport situation of this area. We discussed the possibilities to confront these challenges by increasing the population density without compromising resident’s well-being. The existing extensive green spaces were evaluated positively, however the concentration of services and shops in the far off district center (remnant of the concept of the garden city) were not. More spaces for spending time and meeting other people in the residential area itself, like cafés or cohesive parks, would be preferable.

The next stop led us to the highway A1 near Schwamendingen. As the residential areas advanced more and more to the highway from both sides, a roofing system is bound to be installed starting next year. Parks and recreational areas located on the rooftop should connect both sides and create direct and accessible paths for the residents.

Our last stop was the vibrant urban quarter of Zurich West, a big former industrial area located directly in the heart of Zurich. Although some industrial activities are remaining, many new residential and service areas were created in the last few years. Modern architecture, old transportation infrastructure and lively business activities make this area a fascinating melting pot of ongoing structural development in a growing city like Zurich. However, many challenges are aligned to these changes: Segregation and construction activities that do not focus on market needs are only two of the many discussed issues.

During this excursion, the participants, originating from 18 countries, got practical impressions of the relationship between mobility and spatial planning, helping them to understand the complexity and importance of this complex subject.

Beyond Mobine

Problems of infrastructure capacity in rural areas

The region Thal, located in the administrative area of the Swiss Canton of Solothurn, has to face issues typical for rural regions in Western Europe. Due to structural change in the economy the region lost jobs in industry, without beeing able to compensate with service sector development. Compared to central cities, the region is lacking accessibility and location quality for companies, while quality of life in terms of natural environment is high. While connection by both public transport and roads is given, due to the high amount of out-commuters the street providing access to the region is overloaded during peak hours. Alternatives are limited due to the special topography, which is not allowing to increase capacity or build alternatives.

The region, which is struggling to remain its economic basis, is put at risk to experience a decrease of accessibility as one important factor of location quality. In order to avoid this and a down-circle of regional development innovative solutions are necessary. An issue which the region of Thal has in common with many other regions lacking in infra- and economic structure.

Students of Zurich University of Applied Sciences analysed the regional situation and developed approaches to solve the problem: Besides re-organizing traffic and transport infrastructure at the bottleneck, private or by employers organized car-sharing or shuttle systems and alternative routes for the existing public transport are suggested – showing that already small measures could have a large regional impact, while the main barrier for realization might be to find an agreement between local groups of different interest within the region.


Source of pictures: Bai, Glarner, Rüegger, Streuli, Weber


Visions for the Swiss Mobility System

Since 2013, the interdisciplinary Swiss Competence Center for Energy Research – Efficient Technologies and Systems for Mobility (short: SCCER Mobility) is working on ways t0 improve the efficiency and sustainability of the Swiss Mobility System. Both a technical/technological engineering perspective as well as a social/economical perspective are employed to assess mobility according to the goals set by the Swiss Energy Strategy 2050. The focus lies on 1) reducing CO2-emissions and 2) reducing the energy demand of the transport sector. Within this research framework, the MobINE-team focusses on the socio-economic components of change, on the assessment of systemic transformation and on possible ways to influence developments towards desirable directions. 

As both a summary of past work after the first funding phase of SCCER (until 2016) and as an outlook for future developments (as well as a sketch for a research agenda for the next funding phase until 2020), a working paper was published: “Towards an Energy Efficient and Climate Compatible Future Swiss Transportation System“. It points out certain trajectories for the development of mobility in Switzerland to be transformed in a sustainable, future-oriented way. Three aspects are regared as fundamental to reach this goal:

  • Energy conversion processes (efficient drivetrain, reduction of vehicular energy demand)
  • Energy carrier substitution (electricity, renewable fuels, H2)
  • Mobility and transportation demand reduction

Especially the 3rd issue is targeted by MobINE in collaboration with researchers from other institutions such as PSI, ETHZ and SUPSI. A holistic multi-level perspective on systemic transformations is used to understand the processes and relations betweed different aspects of the system. In the end, for implementing and facilitating actual change, four action fields could be identified:

  1. Efficiency increases and technological innovation based on sustainable energy sources and new technologies
  2. Avoidance of rebound effects considering energy-, time- and cost-efficiency
  3. Integrated spatial and transport planning aiming for quality of life in cities and agglomerations in order to avoid the ‘need’ to travel
  4. Shift towards quality of the economy and working world to meet sustainability requirements, which might lead to a more digital and flexible working behavior.

Version 1.2 of the report, dating from 09 May 2017 can be downloaded HERE.

More information about the research program SCCER Mobility, funded by CTI, can be found on the WEBSITE.

Our projects

Smart Commuting – Live @ ZHAW

On 20th and 21st March 2017, the second live meeting of the Smart Commuting project was hosted by ZHAW INE. With 20 participants from Switzerland, Finland, Austria, Czech Republic and England the potentials of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) in commuting were elaborated on intensely. How can new socio-technical innovations, such as MaaS, be effectively introduced and spread? To give answers to this question, we must not only look at the innovation (or technology) itself and its potential users, but also at the frame conditions. The first results of the research indicate important differences between the countries of our case studies. Whereas governmental structures in Finland (case Helskinki-Tampere) are very much top-down structured, the federal systems of Austria (case Korneuburg) and Switzerland (case Basel-Stadt) require many different political stakeholders to be involved. In the Swiss case, we need to consider especially the national, cantonal and municipal actors from politics and administration. However, also stakeholders from other fields, such as technology development, economy, etc. need to be considered. To develop a more comprehensive view, this issue was discussed on several agenda items during the meeting. One of our expert workshops specifically worked on best practices in governance and stakeholder involvement in supporting social innovation. It showed that one aspect is very essential for all cases: the desire for novelty and the openness to new ideas, as well as the willingness to give them a real chance. After all, personal contacts between the stakeholders are fundamental. This insight is addressed in further detail in the ongoing and next steps of the project with the specific focus on the Situation in Basel-Stadt.

Smart Commuting

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) – A new approach for a better commuting system in Switzerland?

The mobility needs of the Swiss workforce are changing – Within the ENSCC Smart Commuting Project, the Institute for Sustainable Development of ZHAW explores how to improve the commuting systems of tomorrow along with their project partners from Finland and Austria.

The importance of work-related travelling significantly increased during the last few years: The number of total commuters in Switzerland increased from 3.1 to 3.9 million between 2000 and 2014. That is a substantial augmentation by almost 26%. Additionally, the distances between workplace and home got longer. In 2014 the average way to work measured 14.5 km, which is 12% more than in the year 2000 (12.9 km). And this trend seems to be persistent.

Not only is the general travel demand rising, but also are needs and requirements regarding the journey itself evolving: More dynamic lifestyles, the increased digitalization throughout society and a changing work life are questioning the up-to-dateness of our current transportation systems.

The ENSCC Smart Commuting project examines the abovementioned developments and wants to find out how new types of mobility concepts, such as Mobility as a Service (MaaS), can help to resolve these challenges. The project consortium consists of ten partners in total, amongst the INE of ZHAW the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) in Austria and Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland. Especially in Finland systems like MaaS are already in daily use and so the project can highly draw on this international collaboration.

MaaS are mostly smartphone-based systems that offer access and information to all kinds of transportation modes and services. Therefore, it becomes possible to create user-specific and tailor-made mobility offers including different types of transport.The payment is directly handled by the smartphone-app, the process and the selection of the travel options is easy and straightforward. The trip can be optimized depending on the users’ travel demands: If, for example, somebody needs to transport goods, the app will specifically suggest to take an ‘Uber’ or to use cargo-bike rental instead of public transport. Therefore, MaaS helps to meet commuters’ new needs and demands and can promote sharing services, which can also be a substantial contribution to a more sustainable transportation system.

As the ENSCC Smart Commuting project also collaborates with the Office of Mobility of the Canton of Basel-Stadt, a case study will be performed in the Basel area. We will evaluate the potential for systems like MaaS and develop implementation strategies. Thus, it is quite possible to see a rise of such new mobility offers also in Switzerland, improving your daily commute to work. Stay informed about the project on this blog, on our website https://smartcommuting.eu/ or on twitter using the hashtag #ensccsmart.