Postcards from the World Cities Project: Almada, Portugal

In the Municipality of Almada, the approach to being an international leader in EcoMobility begins with a twist: if sustainable mobility is the goal – but it is so rarely achieved – then what does un-sustainable mobility look like? According to Carlos Sousa, Director of the Local Energy Management Agency of Almada (AGENEAL), “it is the scenario that no one wants, but that (almost) everyone follows”. This shift in perspective, however subtle, goes a long way: Almada actively works to make sustainable mobility the scenario which is the most convenient for its citizens to follow.

Public transit in Portuguese cities is the responsibility of the central government, with certain modes of transport provided by private companies. In the case of Almada, transportation is a combination of bus (private), tram (private), train (private), ferry (public), as well as public elevators and beach trains. The problem with this arrangement for many Portuguese municipalities is that there is often very little coordination or management and a lack of inter-modality. In 2001, Almada introduced its Local Strategy for Sustainable Mobility in order to increase integration between, and improve accessibility to, different modes of transport.

Since 2001 – through municipal offerings such as the Flexibus, an improved network for cycling, traffic-calming, and strategic partnerships with its various transportation providers – Almada has drastically improved its transportation infrastructure and connectivity while simultaneously reducing the energy and environmental impacts of the transport sector. The proof is in the numbers, which indicate how successful the Strategy has been: even though Almada and the neighboring metropolis of Lisbon have grown in population, greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector in Almada have dropped from 43 percent to 25 percent over the period of 2001-2014.

Despite these positive trends, Almada is constantly working to make sustainable transportation an enticing option for residents. A recently introduced approach to this is a ‘sustainable mobility welcome kit’ for new citizens of Almada. Constructed by AGENEAL, the welcome kit offers information and schedules for the variety of transport options within Almada, a fold-out integrated transportation map, and tickets for the first-time use of transit. These efforts have been complimented by a series of innovative low-cost, high exposure educational measures aimed at both adults and children.

The successes which Almada has experienced, which includes being named the winner of the European Mobility Week Award 2010, have been hard earned; the municipal government held over 30 public participation forums between 2003-2008 to facilitate acceptance of the Strategy, and find a way to make the sustainable mobility the scenario that everybody wants… and everybody follows. Almada’s partner in the World Cities Project, the District of Saanich, is exchanging knowledge with Almada as it works to improve its modal split and achieve its own version of sustainable mobility.

The 2nd Working Meeting of the EU-Canada Urban Policy Cooperation is currently underway. Please visit the World Cities Project webpage for further details!