STEPS: Scenarios for the Transport System and Energy Supply (2004-2006)

The aim of the STEPs project (Scenarios for the Transport System and Energy Supply and their Potential Effects) was to develop, compare and evaluate possible scenarios of the future development of the transport system and energy supply, taking into account the autonomy and security of energy supply, the environmental, economic and technical impacts and the effects of measures to internalise external costs and the interactions between transport and spatial development.

The project started with a survey of the state of research and description of relevant trends in the fields of transport and energy supply. Based on this information, a number of scenarios were defined, differing in assumptions about the level of fuel price increases and the range of supporting or compensating measures in the areas of infrastructure and technology and demand management through user charges, taxes or mandates.

The scenarios were run using existing integrated spatial development models for Europe and for five city-region regions (Edinburgh, Dortmund, Helsinki, Brussels and South Tyrol in Italy) up to 2020 or 2030. The results showed that in the long term, behavioural management measures are more effective than infrastructure investments or technological developments, but this strongly depends on the combination of measures chosen and the level of fuel price increase. Both fuel price increases and policy responses to them lead to higher transport costs and restrictions on accessibility and mobility. This is likely to slow down economic development in parts of Europe.

The simulations with the SASI model of regional development showed that rising fuel costs and the political reactions to them lead to a strong decrease in accessibility and economic growth in Europe. But at the same time, the lower growth rates lead to an increase in cohesion between European regions, i.e. a more balanced spatial structure: because the economically stronger regions are more affected by transport cost increases, they lose more in absolute terms (although relatively less) than the poorer regions. The consequence in all scenarios is a reduction of spatial polarisation in Europe. However, in most scenarios this leads to a greater polarisation of the European urban system.

The simulations with the IRPUD model for the Dortmund city region showed that high fuel prices lead to significant changes in transport behaviour: The long-term trend towards more and longer trips is stopped or even reversed. More trips are made on foot and by bicycle again, and the share of local public transport more than doubles. High fuel prices also lead to changes in location choice behaviour: People move closer to their workplace and companies move closer to their employees, suppliers and customers - because of their relatively high density, European cities are well placed to cope with high fuel prices through internal reorganisation. But these changes are not voluntary, they are reactions to profound constraints and may involve a loss of quality of life: every car journey that is omitted may mean not visiting a friend, missing a meeting or not seeing a football match. The best side of higher fuel prices are their effects on the environment: every car trip not made and every kilometre by which the remaining car trips are shorter means fewer greenhouse gases, less air pollution, less traffic noise and fewer traffic accidents. In addition, higher fuel prices stimulate efforts to develop more energy-efficient vehicles and alternative fuels, thus contributing to the positive environmental balance. From the perspective of the Kyoto targets, high fuel prices are the best conceivable prospect for the future.

STEPs was a collaboration of research institutions from ten countries with Buck Consultants International, the Netherlands (project leader), the Centre for Transport Research of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (TRANSyT), Spain, the Department of Management Science and Technology of the Athens University of Economics and Business, Greece, LT Consultants, Finland, the Institute for Prospective Technology Studies (IPTS) of the EU Joint Research Centre (JRC), Spain, the Institute for Transport Studies (ITS) of Leeds University, United Kingdom, the Institute for Transport Planning and Traffic Engineering of the Vienna University of Technology, Austria, the Transport Research Laboratory, United Kingdom, Senternovem, The Netherlands, the Spatial Applications Division (SADL) of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium , Spiekermann and Wegener (S&W), Urban and Regional Research, Germany, Strafica Oy, Finland, STRATEC, Belgium, Transportes, Inovação e Sistemas, Portugal and Trasporti e Territorio Srl (TTR), Italy.

The final report of STEPs can be downloaded:

Fiorello, D., Huismans, G., López, Marques, C., Steenberghen, T., Wegener, M., Zografos, G. (2006): Transport Strategies under the Scarcity of Energy Supply. STEPs Final Report, edited by A. Monzon and A. Nuijten. The Hague: Buck Consultants International.

More information on the models used and the scenario results can be found in

STEPs (2005): Modelling Suite for Scenario Simulations. STEPs Deliverable D4.1. Milan: Trasporti e Territorio SRL.

STEPs (2006): Scenario Impacts. STEPs Deliverable D4.2. Milan: Trasporti e Territorio SRL.

Wegener, M. (2006/2010): Meta Analysis of Scenario Results. Technical Note S&W STEPs 03. Dortmund: Spiekermann & Wegener Stadt- und Regionalforschung.