Flavien Felder, IFF Institute of Federalism, University of Fribourg
Relevance of the Practice
Transport systems have a direct impact on the urban-rural interplay as efficient transport services stimulate social interactions and urban growth while at the same time they generate more traffic and more pressure on the infrastructure, especially in urban centers. Since 2006, the federal government has invested more than CHF 8 billion in agglomeration projects and has implemented already three phases of its Agglomeration Transport Program (ATP) between 2008 and today. Through the ATP, the federal government is providing financial support to the agglomerations with the aim of encouraging coherent planning of transport and urban development. It is thus promoting urban development within the built-up area across municipal, cantonal and national boundaries, and expanding transport services where needed.
A focus on the Agglomeration of Fribourg is relevant because this institution has been very active on this front and has recently formally restructured itself to meet federal expectations and to seek the adhesion of additional rural municipalities in order to enlarge its scope of action.
This practice is related to report sections 4 and 5 on vertical and horizontal collaboration since the AggloFribourg has played an intermediary role between the primary federal level (the federal government), the second federal level (the cantons) and the third level (the municipalities).
Description of the Practice
In 2017, Swiss citizens and cantons voted the federal decree on the creation of a fund for national roads and agglomeration traffic called FORTA. This fund aims at improving the transport network throughout the country. As a result, the Federal Constitution was amended and its Article 86 now reads: ‘[a] fund shall be set up to finance the national highways and contributions towards measures to improve the road transport infrastructure in cities and urban areas’. Thus, the federal fund covers not only the national highways but also the mobility projects in the agglomerations. Through the Agglomeration Transport Program, the federal government finances transport projects in cities and agglomerations in which programs foster transport coordination and efficient urban development. Agglomeration programs can therefore be seen as an important pillar of the federal government’s agglomeration policy and of sustainable spatial development in Switzerland.
The AggloFribourg, originally created as an innovative supra-communal political institution comprising ten municipalities and later converted into an intermunicipal association in 2020, carries out tasks of regional interest in the following areas: spatial planning, mobility, environmental protection, economic promotion, tourism promotion and promotion of cultural activities. Its mobility strategy includes all modes of transport and it applies throughout the territory of the member municipalities. Even though it indirectly aims at implementing the federal government’s criteria in order to secure federal grants, the strategy responds to the challenges posed by urbanization and is adopted in coordination with the development of its territories. Thus, the Agglomeration of Fribourg promotes public transport and soft mobility in order to relieve congestion in critical sectors and to increase the travel capacity of the existing road networks.
On 14 September 2021, the AggloFribourg submitted to the Confederation its Fourth Program of Agglomeration (PA4)for the period 2024-2028. It lists and describes a set of 100 infrastructure measures for a total investment of CHF 140 million during the period 2024-2028. Several measures concern nature and landscape, energy or urbanization but the majority of them are connected to mobility in general and ‘gentle’ mobility more specifically. It paves the road for an extension of the current public transport network by adding direct lines between its municipalities in order to decongest its center. The PA4 also plans the construction of a new section of its already existing ‘gentle’ mobility network called TransAgglo in order to encourage a modal shift from private cars to public transport and soft mobility.
Assessment of the Practice
The study of the mobility programs of the Fribourg Agglomeration is relevant, as this former supra-municipal association has been particularly proactive on this specific theme, even if, according to its critics, its original institutional nature (i.e. supra-municipal) has prevented it from taking more ambitious measures. While public transport has indeed been improved (frequency, number of lines, comfort, prices), the development of bicycle paths or modal mobility could have been more rapid and consistent. Those in favor of a pure and simple merger of the communes corresponding to the agglomeration’s perimeter also criticize it for its slowness and lack of efficiency in this area, among others.
Another recurring criticism is linked to its lack of resources. Indeed, in order to obtain more cantonal and federal subsidies, agglomeration mobility projects must be supported by a larger number of municipalities, particularly rural ones. The fact that this institution was recently (January 2021) transformed into a simple form of inter-municipal collaboration aims, among other things, to increase its scope by including more rural municipalities on the outskirts of the canton’s capital. It will be interesting to follow closely the next political developments in the canton following the rejection of the project to merge the communes of ‘Grand Fribourg’ (September 2021) as well as the reaction of the Confederation to the recently submitted new subsidy application (PA4), which hopes to meet certain federal requirements, although its scope of action has not yet been enlarged since its institutional remodeling.
References to Scientific and Non-Scientific Publications
Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation of 18 April 1999, SR 101
Act on Agglomeration of 21 August 2020, RSF 140.2 <https://bdlf.fr.ch/app/fr/texts_of_law/140.2>
Agglomeration of Fribourg, ‘Fourth Program of Agglomeration (PA4)’ (2021) <https://www.agglo-fr.ch/fileadmin/user_upload/Fichiers_Agglomeration_mise_a_jour_des_le_14-06-05/Qui_sommes_nous__/Documentation/Plan_directeur_r%C3%A9gional/PA4/PA4_depot_Bern_210915/02_PA4-Fribourg_Mesures.pdf>
Scientific and Non-Scientific Publications
—— ‘Le projet d’agglomération de Fribourg 4ème génération (PA4) a été déposé à Berne’ (Agglo Fribourg-Freiburg, September 2021) <https://www.agglo-fr.ch/pa4>
Directorate for Institutions, Agriculture and Forests, ‘Nouvelle loi sur les agglomérations : date d’entrée en vigueur fixée au 1er janvier 2021 et mesures pour garantir la transition’ (Canton of Fribourg, 10 December 2020) <https://www.fr.ch/diaf/actualites/nouvelle-loi-sur-les-agglomerations-date-dentree-en-vigueur-fixee-au-1er-janvier-2021-et-mesures-pour-garantir-la-transition>
Website of the Agglo Fribourg , <https://www.agglo-fr.ch/>
 ‘Programme en faveur du trafic d’agglomération’ (Federal Office of Territorial Development, undated) <https://www.are.admin.ch/are/fr/home/mobilite/programmes-et-projets/pta.html#:~:text=Le%20PTA%20permet%20aux%20villes,effets%20sur%20le%20long%20terme>.
 Directorate for Institutions, Agriculture and Forests, ‘Nouvelle loi sur les agglomérations : date d’entrée en vigueur fixée au 1er janvier 2021 et mesures pour garantir la transition’ (Canton of Fribourg, 10 December 2020) <https://www.fr.ch/diaf/actualites/nouvelle-loi-sur-les-agglomerations-date-dentree-en-vigueur-fixee-au-1er-janvier-2021-et-mesures-pour-garantir-la-transition>.
 ‘Mobilitè’ (Agglo Fribourg-Freiburg, undated) <https://www.agglo-fr.ch/mobilite>.