How UNDP supports the City of Batumi in Greening Urban Transport via Sustainable Public Transit
Batumi is the second largest city in Georgia with population of over 154 thousand people and one of the major summer tourism destinations in the Black Sea region. Historically, the city was developed with a grid of perpendicular and narrow streets suitable for walking and short urban trips. But the area of Batumi has expanded from 18 square kilometres in 1990 to 65 square kilometres in 2012 and the population has increased from 123 thousand in 1990 to 154 thousand in 2015. This rapid and spontaneous growth in population (natural growth as well as expansion of city boundaries), in territory and ever-increasing number of visitors has led to increasing rates of motorisation, resulted in congested major streets since last 5-6 years and placed pressure on performance level of urban infrastructure and urban services, among them urban transport system.
Building upon the strong desire and commitment of city authorities to adopt and implement a more sustainable approach to urban mobility, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with the financial support of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) designed a project “Green Cities: Integrated Urban Transport for the City of Batumi and the Achara Region” to support the city in overcoming these challenges and “greening” the urban transport systems. Below we demonstrate just one of the possible measures out of many others, that the “Green Cities: ISTBAR” project is modelled and considered with the city authorities.
Current Situation and Challenges
In 2014 the city officially adopted political agenda to make urban development greener and more sustainable through Batumi Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP). While the SEAP is focused on various sectors of urban development, like: buildings, transport, waste water, solid waste, street lightning and green spaces, it emphasizes that the major source of GHG emissions in the city of Batumi is the urban transport (49% according to 2012 baseline inventory) and hence priority for the local government to develop, validate and implement sustainable mobility measures.
The outcome of this plan to date, however, has not resulted in any improvement of urban traffic flows in Batumi. A fundamental cause for this is a lack of local experience in holistic approaches to planning and implementing sustainable urban transport (SUT) measures. The problem is further aggravated by the absence of any guidance from the national government on the framework for Georgian-specific holistic approaches to SUT.
Some of the barriers identified through expert missions, stakeholder consultations and high-level Batumi Future Vision workshop held in October, 2016 are as follows:
- Absence of integrated and holistic approach to urban mobility planning
- Absence of general masterplan for urban development
- Lack of capacities on local level for modelling and building future scenarios
- Lack of local social-economic and other type of data necessary for analysis and modelling
- Local culture favoring private cars as a sign of social-economic status
- Absence of national framework and guiding principles on SUT
- Scarce municipal financial resources to finance sustainable measures
As the city has never experienced modern urban mobility related challenges like congestions, GHG emissions, road safety, loss of public spaces in favor of parked cars etc., because of its relatively small size, there is not a history of integrated and holistic planning approach of urban transport in Batumi. But nowadays, Batumi has transformed itself in a medium-size city facing all those problems mentioned above. So in order for the city authorities to design a realistic and effective plan for developing a sustainable urban mobility through improved public transport system it is crucial that the planners have a clear understanding of city mobility patterns and citizens travel behavior. Thus the first challenge and must-do step that the UNDP-GEF project “Green Cities: ISTBAR” had to overcome with the city authorities was to carry our comprehensive household urban mobility surveys, traffic counts and develop a basic transport model of the city.
Example of proposed sustainable measure for public transit
The first ever household urban mobility survey conducted in Batumi in October-November, 2016 revealed that modal shift in Batumi is somewhat similar to those of west European cities that have already in place a sustainable approach to urban mobility. Batumi residents prefer to walk (31.44%), take public transport (36.02%) or ride a car (30.19%). Only 1.27% takes a taxi, and almost no one (0.28%) bikes. An average Batumian makes 1.24 trips per day, which is far less that in the other developed cities of the world. Nevertheless, for an inexperienced eye this might be misleading to thinking that Batumi has already a favourable modal split. As motorisation rate is still somewhat low in comparison to economically well-developed cities (in Batumi its 136 car per 1,000 person), the modal shift will inevitable change adversely in favor of private cars and trips per day per person will increase as the economic growth of the city and rapid urbanisation continues, if at the same time deterioration of public transit service takes place, the pressure on urban transport systems will raise.
City authorities, civil society, experts and general public, all agree that the city has to take urgent steps now to plan and then implement an integrated approach to shape future of urban mobility in a sustainable way.
The key and the most important first step to meeting this objective for Batumi is to holistically plan and implement number of sustainable urban mobility measures focused on promoting public transit centred around the old city, where there will be higher visibility and effect of such efforts. The focus of the intervention will fall on two major “urban transport corridors”, connecting southern and northern edges of the city. These are Chavchavadze-Baratashvili-Gorgiladze (CBG) approximately 2.2 Km (green line) and Chavchavadze-Abuseridze (CA) streets approximately 5.4 km (Red Line).
Preliminary analysis of the city centre in transport model, demonstrates that CBG and CA corridors are main arteries of the city in terms of passenger flow and vehicle flow. Thus starting with those two corridors to implement sustainable mobility measures will have a significant impact in terms of GHG emission reduction, congestion alleviation and increasing faith of society in sustainable measures.
One of the main problems along the CBA and CA corridors are congestion and harsh competition from the private public transit mini-vans (specific to post-Soviet countries, known as “Marshrutkas”). In order to implement really efficient and sustainable Bus Rapid Transit it is therefore important that an integrated approach is used when designing and implementing this system. The main logic used behind this step is to make municipal public transport more attractive while at the same time discourage people to use private cars along the CBA and CA corridors.
In order to make municipal bus service more attractive and comfortable for the commuter and citizens in general, it has to offer better service and mobility option in comparison to private cars and “Marshrutkas” in terms of safety, speed, comfort, reliability and affordability. One the elements for achieving this are to provide dedicated or exclusive non-segregated bus lanes for public buses along the CBA and CA corridors. Even if there is congestion, exclusive bus lanes will ensure that buses move at nearly constant speed without any obstacle. This will lead people using private cars to re-think which is better: to be stuck in congestion in personal car or move forward on board of a public bus and make smarter choices in regards of mobility decisions.
But, to make exclusive bus lanes possible, it is necessary therefore to restrict on street parking on the left and right edges of CBA and CA corridors, so that the space available after restriction is dedicated to exclusive bus lanes. On the other hand, it is understood that the local government won’t be able to just ban parking along two longest and major transport corridors and do not provide any alternative for car owners at least at the first stage of intervention. Thus it is important to carefully select 1-2 locations along or within the space of those corridors and build park-and-ride facilities. Park-and-ride facilities can be built on the edges of the transport corridors sot that car drivers can leave their cars at park-and-drive lots and use Bus Rapid Service to move along the CBA and CA corridors and into the city center.
In order to fully use the capacity of the Bus Rapid Service along the proposed CBA and CA corridors, it is important that at the ends of those corridors Bus Transfer Terminals are constructed. Bus transfer terminals will integrate park-and-ride lots and will serve as transfer station to public transport for those passengers who do not live in Batumi, but make almost every day commute to and from Batumi on inter-municipal mini-busses and busses.
It should be noted that, transport planning in Georgia and Batumi has been – and is partially still- strongly influenced by the concept of traffic separation and separation of functions, embodied in old Soviet standards (SNiP). This approach does not respond anymore to the changed demands and expectations of people for more flexible and greater variety of modes of transport to a greater variety of destinations.
To make a paradigms shift possible UNDP-GEF project “Green Cities: ISTBAR” plans to pilot sustainable urban mobility measures first in the City of Batumi and then support replication and scaling-up of SUT measures in other cities and municipalities as well as regional and national level through informing policy defining process.
- “Batumi Sustainable Energy Action Plan”, Adopted by Batumi City Council 24th March, 2014. http://mycovenant.eumayors.eu/docs/seap/3280_1396512547.pdf.
- “Batumi Public Bus Concept”, Commissioned by Batumi City Hall in 2014, developed by company “Saunders Group”.
- “CH4LLENGE Measure Selection Manual: Selecting the most effective packages of measures for Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans”, Anthony May, Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds, 2016. http://www.sump-challenges.eu/kits.
- “CH4LLENGE Participation Manual: Actively engaging citizens and stakeholders in the development of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans”, Miriam Lindenau and Susanne Böhler-Baedeker, Rupprecht Consult, 2016. http://www.sump-challenges.eu/kits.
- “CH4LLENGE Institutional Cooperation Manual: Working jointly with institutional partners in the context of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans”, Ivo Cré and Thomas Mourey, POLIS; Alistair Ryder and Steve Heckley, WYCA; Mojca Balant, UIRS, 2016. http://www.sump-challenges.eu/kits.
- “CH4LLENGE Monitoring and Evaluation Manual: Assessing the impact of measures and evaluating mobility planning processes”, Astrid Gühnemann, Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds, 2016. http://www.sump-challenges.eu/kits.
- “Green Cities: Integrated Sustainable Transport for the City of Batumi and the Ajara Region”, UNDP-GEF project, project document. http://www.ge.undp.org/content/georgia/en/home/operations/projects/environment_and_energy/green-cities– integrated-sustainable-transport-for-batumi-and-aj.html.
- Guidelines. Developing and Implementing a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan”, Frank Wefering, Siegfried Rupprecht, Sebastian Bührmann, Susanne Böhler-Baedeker Rupprecht Consult – Forschung und Beratung GmbH, 2013. http://www.eltis.org/sites/eltis/files/guidelines-developing-and-implementing-a-sump_final_web_jan2014b.pdf
- “Sustainable urban Mobility Plan Bremen 2025”, Senate Department for Environment, Construction and Transport
- “Vertically Integrated Approaches in NAMA Development with Focus on the Urban Transport Sector – INDC Support Georgia”. Konnrad von Ritter, Kritter Advisory Serices, Armin Wagner, GIZ, May 3, 2015. http://www.bauumwelt.bremen.de/sixcms/media.php/13/SUMP_Bremen2025_web.pdf
This piece is the original writing of the author(s). The view points in the post is the author’s personal opinions and do not reflect IGLUS/EPFL’s viewpoints. The author(s) is the sole responsible person regarding the accuracy of the information presented in the post and will be liable for any potential copyright infringements.