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.