by Mateja Mihinjac
Public transportation hubs provide commuting assets to every city. That’s why it’s crucial that they are well thought-out and become well integrated into the city ecosystem.
A key form of transport hub is the Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) - a new Smart Growth form of city planning used in many cities to improve the integration of central stations and connecting services, as well as to promote the connectivity of services to populated parts of cities.
I wrote about TODs in Vancouver and Greg wrote about the central corridor TOD in St Paul, Minnesota. The Slovenian capital city of Ljubljana could benefit greatly from these considerations to improve currently underwhelming public transportation options.
I’ve recently joined the Institute for Spatial Policies’ (IPOP) Jane’s Walk where the participants discussed the proposed redevelopment of the new central station and transportation hub in Ljubljana.
The beginnings of this project date back to 2002. In 2006, the first building plan was approved but followed several revisions and the 2 public-private partnerships were dissolved in the process. The project was also put on hold due to historical archaeological findings dating back to Roman Ljubljana – Emona, and ensuing excavations on the site.
Fast forward 20 years and in April this year, new plans were announced envisioning a mixed-use development with commercial and business facilities, large parking facilities, a hotel, and exclusive apartments.
However, it appears as if the transportation hub is now of secondary importance to this project, which is also alluded to on the project’s website:
“…A modern development that will be a hub of activity. It offers retail and entertainment experiences, state-of-the-art workplaces, a welcoming hotel and long-stay apartments. It offers first-class connectivity together with modern, stylish, urban places to live. It’s the heart of the city where life happens. It’s Ljubljana’s urban forum.”
Unsurprisingly, the proposal was met with several criticisms. In one piece, Katarina Žakelj of the Coalition for Sustainable Transport Politics questioned whether the project is still focused on the central station or whether it is a fiasco in the city centre?
We held similar discussions at the recent Jane’s Walk I attended where I heard concerns about insufficient time given to public consultations, problems with a large number of planned parking surfaces, and a lack of greenery which could worsen the heat island effect.
The site envisions 1700 new parking places for motor vehicles, around 900 of these will be for visitors, and the remaining for business and office facilities. With the municipality’s intention of reducing car traffic and car dependency by 20% before 2027, this plan appears counterintuitive. One US report recognises that while there are numerous benefits of a transportation hub, we need to reduce reliance on cars and instead integrate those provisions with better public transportation services.
RETAIL & BUSINESS FOCUS
At the Jane’s Walk, one of the participants exclaimed “not another shopping mall!” Both the retail and business focus of the development at this prime location appear counter-intuitive.
This new shopping venue might affect the existing retail in the city and independent shops thus leading to vacant storefronts. According to some sources, Slovenia has one of the highest square footage of retail space per capita in the EU.
Additionally, as many have expressed the preference for working from home, future cities should be more focused on the provision of social infrastructure.
One point of contention concerns intermodality. For example, currently, Ljubljana has no unified system under which one could use the same ticket for different modes of transport. The concept called ZMAJ proposes this much-needed change together with the development of Emonika. As well, realizing the UN-Habitat concept of a 15-minute city means that micromobility and other flexible transportation options are also needed.
TODs AND SAFETY
TODs are an integrative and sustainable way to build future cities, but Emonika needs to consider issues such as growing population, environmental, economic and social sustainability, and futureproofing, not just commercial needs. Among the most important needs is the personal safety and security of the site.
To my knowledge, these topics have not yet been explicitly discussed on any of the forums I was able to source. The developers should not neglect the potential CPTED-related topics such as after-hours safety and social activity at micro-locations.
After 20 years of waiting the residents of Ljubljana deserve a transportation hub fit for purpose.
by Tarah Hodgkinson
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to chat with folks living in one of Northern Queensland’s islands in Australia. While speaking to local Indigenous leaders and community members about safety and liveability, I was struck by one particular issue they raised: transportation.
Over the years we have posted many blogs on urban transportation and how it enhances liveability, including some creative innovations in the harshest climates. This time the story emerged from rural environments. I heard that it was often difficult for residents to find transportation to attend health care appointments, pick up groceries, visit with friends, and attend local events. Typical public transit such as buses or trains were not an option, because the population was small and very spread out.
The issue resonated for a few reasons.
First, in many of the rural communities I’ve worked with in recent years, I hear stories such as local kids unable to get to after-school activities or no access to basic health care and affordable food because they couldn’t get to their doctor or shops. In North Battleford, Canada, for example, clients of the local shelter explained that despite being able to get a ride into town for services, they were unable to find transportation home on the same day, leaving them stranded.
Second, this issue was particularly important for older individuals. When our team partnered with the huge non-profit AARP a few years ago to run a SafeGrowth Search Conference in New Orleans, we learned quickly that transportation issues restricted access to necessary services and raised issues of safety for vulnerable populations like the elderly.
Third, transportation issues also affect those living with disabilities. During my time with the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, I learned that many of our clients lacked accessible transportation, aside from a bi-weekly accessibility bus, leaving them isolated and unable to leave the house.
Often called transport poverty, the inability to access affordable and reliable transportation can result in a number of social issues. For a once-rural kid like myself, it often meant a lack of opportunities to engage in extracurriculars that offer pathways for success. Transport poverty also leaves many individuals feeling isolated and unable to engage in their community - one of the essential quality of life messages in 3rd Generation CPTED.
In some locations, informal networks emerge to create solutions to this issue. In the Australian town of Roma, Queensland, a local Indigenous elder spent most of her day driving local kids around to meetings and to school.
At the MS Society in Ontario, there was an informal network of volunteers and other support staff who offered rides and helped people get to appointments and other things they couldn’t do without the accessibility bus.
These stories are inspiring and remind us of the innovative and creative ways people come together to overcome issues in their neighbourhoods and communities. But there are more formal ways of making transportation easily accessible in order to allow people opportunities to build new networks and relationships and participate fully in their communities.
For example, Demand Responsive Transit and Flexible Integrated Transport Systems offer a flexible and shared service that allows people who live near to each other to share transportation when buses or trains are not available or physically accessible. These systems allow users to pre-book transportation, meet at their home or nearby and travel to selected locations like shopping, health and community facilities or transportation hubs.
Essentially, it is like a big taxi for people in your area, but far more affordable by using a standard low fare (public transit focused) and can be easily accessed through phone technology like apps. These kinds of programs are used in parts of Europe and Australia.
Public transportation should be affordable and accessible to everyone. It allows us to connect and engage fully in our community, while also accessing services to improve our health and quality of life. And after a year of COVID-19 – it might be more important than ever.