Committed to the environment (1): How ecological can transport planning be?

Mobility needs and environmental values can be in harmony – this is what the transport consultants at PTV Transport Consult GmbH stand for.

Transport is one of the key factors influencing our ecosystem. Therefore, any person responsible for transport infrastructure or mobility services should always bear in mind the impact of the different measures on the environment in order to minimise negative effects. This applies to new measures that need to be implemented as well as to actions meant to improve current conditions.

Are environmental protection and transportation a contradiction in terms? Or can mobility meet the needs of people and society without sacrificing environmental values? Karlsruhe-based PTV Transport Consult is Germany’s leading consulting firm providing advice on all aspects of mobility. In this new series of articles, the transport experts will be addressing these issues in more detail. In the first part of our series, Managing Director Thomas Ferrero explains PTV Transport Consult’s corporate philosophy and how to integrate environmental aspects into transport planning:

Thomas Ferrero: Integrated transport planning always considers different, perhaps even conflicting interests and goals. One of the key aspects is the impact on the environment. At the same time, it is important to ensure that our mobility functions reliably and is maintained. Mobility must be optimised in such a way as to protect the environment. Many factors are involved when it comes to developing environmentally friendly mobility concepts. Depending on the situation, the spectrum ranges from measures encouraging bicycle and pedestrian traffic, or public transport using buses, trains and trams, to electric mobility and new forms of mobility such as shared services. Based on our technical studies and analyses, we can make a significant contribution to all aspects of traffic and transport.

compass: How can transport consultants contribute to environmental protection?

Thomas Ferrero: Decisions are usually taken at a political level. Our work is multi-faceted. As consultants, we support those who are responsible for mobility, such as road construction authorities, municipalities, federal state administrations, public authorities and the private sector. We model and visualise how traffic and transport can be optimally managed and show the effects of the different measures. This means that we provide advice, recommendations and decision-making support. Of course, there is no guarantee that decision-makers will accept our advice.

compass: What are the common challenges and issues in this field?

Thomas Ferrero: It is often very helpful when we simply show how the combination of the different transport modes best meets the task at hand. As part of the analysis, we focus on different issues, i.e. how to improve the integration of public transport or bicycle traffic and how to introduce and use on-demand systems more efficiently. The same applies to the field of traffic management. How can traffic and transport be managed as intelligently as possible? Here we are talking, for example, about optimisation by means of traffic control systems, traffic-actuated signal control systems or new digital applications, which allow vehicles to communicate with each other or with the infrastructure. Lately, analyses of new ideas and innovative concepts, such as Mobility as a Service (MaaS), have become extremely popular among our customers. Together with the software provider PTV AG, a member of our corporate group, we have been working on several future-oriented projects, in particular in the field of MaaS. (

compass: A much-discussed topic is for example ‘clean air and driving bans for and in our cities’. Are environmental issues of growing importance to your customers?

Thomas Ferrero: Yes, absolutely. This is reflected in the large number of studies we are currently carrying out, in which the environment plays a central role. The pressure on the municipalities to act has increased massively after the diesel scandal and the latest judicial decisions concerning environmental pollution in the cities. So we are currently a much sought-after dialogue partner in this area.

compass: Are there still planning projects exclusively dealing with traffic or is there always an environmental aspect that needs to be taken into consideration?

Thomas Ferrero: There are also tasks which focus solely on traffic issues, such as passenger surveys, traffic control and traffic management. However, sustainability aspects play an important role in 50% of our projects. And dealing with sustainability of course also means to look at environmental aspects. So the reduction of noise, emissions, etc. are important factors that must be taken into account. But sustainability is also about people, their social network and their desire for mobility, which is an essential element in this field. Our task is to create eco-friendly solutions designed to meet their mobility needs. In the context of sustainability, we also work on projects which do not necessarily focus on ecology, but on road safety, for example.

compass: Do PTV Transport Consult experts have special competencies that distinguish them from other consultants?

Thomas Ferrero: Yes, we do. Thanks to our wide-ranging portfolio, our experts can provide interdisciplinary support. They are capable to think, work and act ‘outside the box’. Another important aspect is the professional software provided by our parent company. It significantly supports our experienced team of consultants who use the tools in a highly competent manner. We offer quantitative engineering combined with extensive consulting experience. It’s this unique combination that makes us Germany’s leading consulting firm in the mobility sector.