In the heart of Portugal, the first partner meeting of the EMBRACER project (Interconnecting MoBility acRoss EuropeAn CitiEs and SubuRbs) took place, focusing on interconnecting mobility in European cities and suburbs. This project, supported by a grant of 1.6 million euros, runs from March 2023 to May 2027 and focuses on seven underserved regions in Europe committed to integrating public transportation with informal modes such as cycling, carpooling, car/bike/scooter sharing, on-demand transport, and autonomous shuttle buses.

The first knowledge exchange event within the framework of the EMBRACER project was held from May 31 to June 1, 2023, in Coimbra and Aveiro, Portugal. The project partners used the event as an opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences regarding mobility challenges and innovative solutions in their respective regions.

The two-day event brought together over 50 participants who engaged in discussions on topics related to building new mobility ecosystems and improving connectivity in suburban areas. Special emphasis was placed on promoting sustainable multimodal mobility, developing flexible and integrated transportation solutions, and advancing innovative mobility options such as the use of automated vehicles.

The main objectives of the EMBRACER project are to facilitate the transition to intermodal mobility and encourage people to choose more sustainable modes of transportation. The project specifically targets communities in peripheral and rural areas that face diverse mobility challenges. Limitations in terms of digital connectivity, transportation infrastructure, and services can have significant social and economic consequences for these communities by restricting their travel horizons and impeding access to employment, education, and social activities.

Through a structured cooperation process and the involvement of various stakeholders in identifying innovative multimodal mobility solutions, EMBRACER promotes interregional learning. This process encompasses aspects of planning, policy, and digital technology and is complemented by a pilot experiment to test the feasibility of an autonomous shuttle service for connecting with public transportation and improving mobility in remote areas.

EMBRACER takes up the challenge of improving policy instruments and initiating new projects, enhancing management, or bringing about structural changes by 2026. This includes the strategic territorial plans of the Coimbra Metropolitan Region and the city of Cagliari, the regional operational program for growth and jobs in the Bucharest-Ilfov area, the sustainable urban mobility plan of the municipality of Ljutomer, Leipzig as a smart mobility city, the sustainable urban mobility plan for Vilnius, and the Cork City Development Plan for the years 2022-2028.

EMBRACER is part of Interreg Europe, an initiative that assists regional and local governments throughout Europe in developing and implementing better policies. Interreg Europe creates an environment and opportunities for solution exchange, ensuring that government investments, innovations, and implementation efforts lead to integrated and sustainable impacts for people and places.

At its core, EMBRACER simplifies regional mobility by improving connectivity in underserved areas through a holistic approach. This includes infrastructure measures such as enhancing public transportation and creating pedestrian and cycling zones, as well as implementing multimodal hubs to facilitate first and last-mile connections. Additionally, it promotes an integrated offering of public transportation and shared mobility, leveraging digital technologies such as Mobility as a Service (MaaS), and evaluates the potential of shared and autonomous mobility.