From traditional urban planning to SUMPs: Slovenia as a study-case investing in ITCs, national co-participation and a user-centered approach

77 Slovenian municipalities out of 212 have adopted a SUMP (Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans) in the period 2012-2018 on a voluntary basis. The launch of the Slovenia SUMP guidelines in 2012 combined with the increase of EU funded strategies allowed the country to move from traditional urban planning to a more sustainable model of urban mobility. The Urban Transports Community has been invited to discover the best practices developed in Koper and Ljubljana, in the framework of a study-visit last 22 and 23 May 2019.

(Rome, 26 June 2019) On the 22nd and 23rd of May 2019, the GO SUMP project organized a study-tour in Slovenia, gathering urban transport experts and practitioners from the territorial projects of the MED Urban Transports Community, currently working to improve urban mobility in the Mediterranean region. The study-visit casted the presence of the Slovenian Ministry of Infrastructure, which presented national strategies and future plans. It has been the occasion for the Ljubljana Urban Region (LUR) and the City of Ljubljana to showcase their strategies, as well as for the SUMPORT project, experienced in Koper to share their good practices. The visit, organized by the local partner of the GO SUMP project, RDA- Green Karst, together with the Ljubljana Urban Region, was moderated by Mr Janez Nared, from the ZRC SAZU Anton Melik Geographical Institute and coordinator of the SMART-MR project, featuring interactive debates and site visits.

“Slovenia’s SUMP guidelines are not only a translation of the EU SUMP guidelines but a proper refitting to the national context of Slovenia, where cities are mainly small or of medium size” affirmed Mrs Polona Demsar Mitrovic, representative of the Slovenian Ministry of Infrastructure, in the opening of the study-tour. The strategy adopted by the Slovenia government counted on two main elements: widening the funding, thanks to EU programmes, and the production of national guidelines, which encouraged Slovenian cities to develop SUMPs. The economic and political support from the national government eased the transition from traditional planning to a more sustainable one, as confirmed by the 77 municipalities designing and adopting a SUMP in the last years.

Framed in this national context, the SMART mobility plan implemented in Koper - under the umbrella of the MED project SUMPORT (Sustainable Urban Mobility in MED PORT Cities) - has been a good example of innovative management systems. Implemented step by step, with a practical approach and a strong vision, the case of Koper has been presented by Mrs Ivana Štrkalj, from the Municipality of Koper (SUMPORT partner). In Koper, the presence of the port imposed the development of the SUMP in a reduced time lapse of one year, largely minor compared to the timeframe proposed by the Slovenian guidelines. The element making the Koper SUMP so attractive is its “user-oriented approach” aiming at optimizing citizens travel times by providing real-time information on urban traffic. In fact, thanks to the application of ICTs, the users can access traffic information via web, mobile applications, and LED displays on bus stops, multimodal knots and streets.

After the presentation, the Community had the chance to visit the Traffic Information Centre MOK (for “Municipality of Koper”) hosted by Robotina, a firm developing smart cities solutions in Kozina, a small city near Koper. The center is the heart of the management system, where the information is constantly monitored; and the Transport Information Centre is undergoing an improvement itself to respond to the Koper SMART strategy’s needs. The information collected and manipulated refer to all the transport modes and their state: traffic congestion, urban and suburban public transport tracking, parking fill rate, etc. This is possible thanks to the installation of different tracking and sensors on buses, traffic counters, parking lot occupancy counters. The data are centralised and monitored by the Transport Information Centre and afterwards disseminated via an integrated system to users.

The main challenges encountered and reported by Mrs Štrkalj refer to the scarce awareness of public authorities on the importance to collect and provide data that could instead allow a wider integration by the TIC of Koper; also the fact that some areas might be out of the regulation of the city of Koper, e.g. suburban buses, can impose some limits. Koper’s lesson learnt highlighted that the SUMP should also have included Izola and Piran. The main obstacle encountered has been the funding not matching with such a larger area. The solution has been to rethink SUMPs on a bigger scale, which is now included in the future strategy of the Ministry of Infrastructure. In fact, the Ministry is now promoting the adoption of a regional strategy to overcome cases where the SUMP perimeter of a municipality needs to cover functional areas that sometimes can be bigger than one single city.

The event featured as well the participation of Mr Klemen Gostic, representative of the Regional Development Agency of Ljubljana Urban Region that presented the SUMP of LUR and Mr. Matic Sopotnik from the City of Ljubljana presenting the City’s activities for Urban Sustainability. The strategic document of the City government “Ljubljana 2025” emphasizes the need to convert the city priority into a friendly space for people. The realization of a 13km² area in the city center, close to traffic (except deliveries from 6 to 10 am and the refurbishment of Slovenska street) is the most representative of the steps taken towards this direction. In the same vein, Mr. Sopotnik presented the introduction of six “Kavalir” or e-minibus offering an on-demand service in the pedestrian area, special for elderly and disabled people and free of charge. Other actions are implemented at local level in the capital of Slovenia such as the self-service bicycle sharing system, called “Bicike (LJ)” or citizen engagement and awareness raising events.

Ljubljana which, according to the Copenhagensize Index 2017 ranked 8th on the list of most cyclist-friendly cities, is now planning a better management strategy addressing the 120 000 commuters who daily come to the city. Currently, some of the actions already developed include a Park & Ride area with buses. On the other hand, as announced by Mrs Mitrovic, also the Ministry of Infrastructure of Slovenia for the next five years, will work to further harmonize the national framework, focusing on: the creation of a SUMP legislation, introducing regular national funding, developing quality control mechanisms, fostering a stronger inter-sectoral cooperation in matter of urban-planning and preparing topical guidelines.

The study tour, which provided good and bad examples from the Slovenian national case - as some of the cycling lanes or the pedestrian area in the sites visited- represented an occasion for the MED Urban Transports Community to collect food for thought and learn from the practical cases in order to adapt them in other Mediterranean contexts. In fact, with the facilitation of Mr Janez Nared a “Transfer session” closed the event, specifically focusing on the identification of good practices to be transferred to other cities, as well as providing feedbacks and advices for Koper and Ljubljana sustainable mobility.

You can access the full report of the study visit here.

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