The upcoming end of summer holidays will reopen discussions about the transport possibilities in Polish cities. Many of them — despite the pandemic — have been struggling with heavy traffic congestions. The increase will also affect passenger traffic in public transport. In Warsaw, the estimated number of passengers during the holidays decreases by about 20–30%, according to data from the Public Transport Authority, after which they return to regular travel. That is why, depending on the city and its characteristics, many factors are taken into account when building and planning new investments in public transport. The number of passengers, the conditions of the area, congestion in the city center — these are the most common. But what influences the decision of authorities to build a new means of public transport most?
The dynamic growth of individual transport in Poland has been observed since the 90s of the last century. At that time, a large number of people shifted to driving their own cars. This resulted in increased congestion on the roads. This problem is particularly visible after the holidays — even despite the pandemic, which significantly reduced traffic in cities by the possibility of remote working in many industries.
According to the latest Tom Traffic Index, the leader of the national list of the most congested cities in Poland was Łódź. Drivers in this city could expect an average increase in travel time of 42 percent. After Łódź were ranked, in turn: Cracow (36 percent), Wrocław (35 percent), Poznań (31 percent), and Warsaw (31 percent).
It is worth knowing that in 2020, all Polish cities included in the report recorded drops in congestion levels. Despite this fact, the authorities should still strive to reduce the share of individual transport in favour of public transport. So how to choose the right investments to meet the needs of the city?
Development of urban transport
The choice of investment depends on several factors. These include the city area, number of inhabitants, number of passengers using its services, or land conditions. The financial capabilities of the city budget are also important.
For example, public transport in the Warsaw agglomeration includes bus transport and rail transport such as metro, trams and railroads. The Rapid Urban Railway (SKM) also plays important role. Warsaw Public Transport ended 2020 with 726,242,018 passengers. It is worth knowing that this was the first decrease in the number of people using public transport in many years — the reason was the coronavirus epidemic. In 2019, more than 1.2 billion people traveled on the capital’s buses, trams and trains.
In comparison, 416 million passengers were transported by public transport in Krakow in 2019, according to the 2019 City State Report. The discussion about the construction of metro was also present in this city. The question was whether the investment in underground transport is feasible and sensible from the economic and reasonable point of view. It is worth knowing that Krakow’s public transport is facing many challenges such as problems with the tram passing in the city centre and the decreasing average speed of the travelling tram.
In the „Feasibility study for the construction of fast, collision-free rail transport in Kraków” prepared by ILF Consulting Engineers Polska, more than 30 route variants and 21 investment variants of metro and fast tram possibilities were thoroughly analyzed. After a detailed analysis, the pre-metro fast tram option was selected.
At the end of the work — in the second quarter of 2021 — we recommended the best solution in terms of efficiency, financial profitability, safety, risk, social and environmental factors — explains Michał Bogucki, Project Manager, ILF Consulting Engineers Polska. The indicated variant fulfilled all the most important assumptions (e.g. faster and collision-free crossing of the critical sections), and at the same time it is more cost-effective and possible to finance within the assumptions of the city’s financial plan — he adds.
What is interesting, in case of investments in surface transport, there is a possibility to use innovative solutions for means of transport. Solutions limiting energy consumption in vehicles could be, among others, photovoltaic cells mounted on walls and, if possible, also on roof apparatus housings. Moreover, a solution could also be side windows with built-in photovoltaic cells, which at the same time would not limit transparency (a solution applied e.g. in bus shelters to power e.g. bus stop lights) or a modern vehicle control system ensuring optimum energy consumption.