THE TRANSPORT ALTERNATIVE FOR PRAGUE
The Coalition of Citizens’ Associations SOS Prague
The city of Prague is becoming increasingly congested by automobile transport. Health regulation limits for air pollution and noise are exceeded in many locations. The quality of public space in the streets is deteriorating. Life among the buildings is growing unpleasant. The planned construction of more roads through the use of large amounts of public funds, as well as the construction of needed but poorly designed routes is unlikely to help the city.
We are convinced that good public transport does solve urban environmental and land-use problems. Examples from large cities abroad show that, combined with the regulation of individual automobile transport, this is an effective solution which has gained the support of the general public as well.
The Coalition of Citizens’ Associations SOS Prague has developed this CD-ROM for representatives of public administration, specialists in urban planning, transport and the environment, journalists, and all engaged residents of Prague. Its objective is to provide them with specific arguments showing that the current transport policy will not solve Prague’s transport problems, and to present concrete proposals for positive solutions.
The CD is divided into two parts. The first includes presentations given at the Transport Alternative for Prague seminar held in the Senate. The second part – Documents – provides information and materials related to Prague’s transport policy.
We hope that you will find the information provided of interest, and that your work will contribute to promoting positive solutions for improving the quality of life in Prague.
On behalf of the Coalition of Citizens’ Associations SOS Prague
coordinator of the SOS Prague Centre
The Coalition enables its members to share their experience, exchange information and offer each other expert support. The aim of the Coalition is to enhance cooperation between citizens and citizens’ associations and to promote their active communication with local government.
Demands of the SOS Prague Coalition
1. We call on UNESCO to send experts in urban planning to assess the impact of the city ring and connected radial roads on the historical centre of Prague and its secondary protection zones.
2. We request that independent experts quantify the impact of building the city ring and radial roads on the transport flow within the city. The strategy of the city’s transport experts is in contradiction with the declarations and principles of its transport policy. For example, the “Optimum Version” presented during the approval process of the land-use plan predicts a higher increase in traffic on city streets than on the outer ring road.
3. We therefore demand that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) be carried out for Prague’s transport system. It is entirely against the intent of the law that roads with much lower traffic volumes, which in non-built-up areas are subject to EIA review, can avoid the EIA process by merely being renamed as ‘local roads’.
4. We demand that source-differentiated maps of traffic-induced air pollution be submitted. During the approval procedure for Prague’s land-use plan, no separate maps of air pollution from traffic were submitted in addition to maps showing only pollution from stationary sources and background pollution. The submitted maps assume that important stationary sources will be closed and that there will be a significant decrease of emissions from cars – despite their increasing numbers, there will allegedly be no increased pollution from mobile sources (cars).
5. The construction of ‘heavy’ systems is demanding in terms of operating costs and maintenance. We call on the responsible municipal representatives to submit a system for funding transport infrastructure, a timetable of loans and their repayment, and a budget including maintenance and operating costs, and to optimise investments according to actual circumstances.
6. Let us benefit from examples of good practice abroad – Zurich, Vienna, Berlin, Copenhagen, Oslo, London and other cities provide us with inspiration worth following.
Summary of seminar presentations
Transport Alternative For Prague
Senate of the Czech Republic, April 2004
TRANSPORT IN PRAGUE – SOME UNCOMFORTABLE QUESTIONS
In the opening presentation of the seminar, Michaela Valentová summarises the reasons why numerous citizens’ associations and Prague residents do not agree with the implementation of the city’s transport policy – in particular the non-existent regulation of automobile transport in the broader centre of Prague and the related significant exceeding of air pollution and noise limits, the planning of financially unfeasible large-capacity roads (the city ring and connected radial roads) that will increase the number of cars coming into the city centre, and the conflict of interest and corruption associated with large construction projects. The presentation concludes with six specific appeals to the responsible political and municipal decision-makers.
THOSE WHO SOW ROADS, WILL REAP CARS
Petr Kurfürst’s presentation is dedicated to transport induction and controlled demand for transport. Empirical studies from abroad show that the larger road capacities we offer, the more traffic will be generated, both on the new road and in the immediate and more distant surroundings. Every road will eventually fill up, because adding a new road gives its users the (correct) impression that they can use it freely. In this way, new capacity induces new traffic. This logically implies that if our aim is to reduce traffic, it is more effective to limit road capacity. This applies analogically to other kinds of transport: public transport, cycling, and walking. If we enhance the conditions for any kind of transport – that is, increase its capacity and attractiveness – people will use it more.
AIR – A COMMON MATTER
Mária Kazmuková from the City Development Authority of the City of Prague will present the results of the HEAVEN project implemented with the participation of six large cities (Berlin, Leicester, Paris, Prague, Rotterdam and Rome), as well as industrial companies and research institutes from the EU and CEEC. The project’s focus was the monitoring and modelling of air quality and the development and application of a Decision Support System (DSS) which will be able to assess the environmental impact of both the current traffic situation and traffic control strategies. The project currently continues as part of other EU programmes. The AIR4EU project is focused on harmonising the monitoring and modelling of air quality; the CITEAIR project is dedicated to joint preparation of data on air quality at the European level and to assessing measures for enhancing the quality of air in cities.
THE CITY RING – A MOTORWAY IN THE CITY CENTRE
Using one section of the planned city ring (Myslbekova – Pelc-Tyrolka) as a concrete example, Štěpán Boháč shows the weaknesses of current road development policy. Along this route, Prague City Hall intends to build expressway-type tunnels with a daily traffic volume of over 100,000 cars, five large traffic interchanges, and several large-capacity parking lots. The effects of cutting through the city centre along the very edge of the urban conservation area will be far more destructive than Prague’s magistrala trunk road. Models of the expected burdens prepared as part of the land-use plan in 1998, as well as figures from 2000-01, show that this section of the city ring will funnel an enormous number of cars not only into the vicinity of Prague Castle, but also onto numerous connecting roads in residential neighbourhoods in Prague 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, where the permissible limits for noise and air pollution are already being exceeded.
The motto of architect Ivan Lejčar’s presentation is “public transport solves environmental and land-use problems in cities.” The first pillar of a balanced transport system is the joint work of urban planners and transport engineers ‘at one table’, where they together tackle the issues of the second and third pillar. The second pillar is reduction of automobile transport and the third is massive support of public transport. The basic means towards achieving this goal are competitive quality of services offered by public transport as compared to private automobile transport, the humanisation of the street environment, and the development of cycling. The paper presents two concrete examples of change and their practical implementation abroad.
Štěpán Boháč analyses investments into the construction of roads since 1998. According to the current land-use plan, the thoroughfare road network consists of the ‘motorway ring road’, the ‘city ring’ and seven radial roads. According to Prague’s land-use plan from 1999, the construction of this system was supposed to cost 88 billion CZK. Compared to the costs stated in the land-use plan, however, a significant increase in costs occurred during investment preparation and actual implementation. In 1999, the land-use plan gave the costs of the northwest segment of the city ring at 8.8 billion CZK. However, by the time of document preparations and the planning procedure, the official estimate had already more than doubled to 21.9 billion. In the case of the motorway ring road, construction costs in the land-use plan turned out to have been gravely underestimated as well. Another intriguing difference can be found in the costs stated in the Proposal for the Development of the Transport Network of the Czech Republic prepared by the Ministry of Transport in 2001 and in the 2002 budget of the State Transport Infrastructure Fund – although these are two related institutions and the materials were published within several months of each other, the cost estimates differ by several tens of percentage points! Boháč also analyses the economic aspects of the development of public transport and points out the financial unsustainability of further metro expansion. An alternative is the development of light railway transport.
Tomáš Kramár lists specific examples of manipulation with public contracts (not only) in the field of transport, describes Prague’s nepotistic networks, and explains the mechanism of using mandatory companies in the implementation of public contracts. Most frequently mentioned in the presentation are (alphabetically listed): Dopravní podniky, headed by CEO Milan Houfek; Inženýring dopravních staveb (IDS) and its director ing. Kvasnička; Odbor městského investora (OMI) and its former director Jozef Macko; and councillor for transport Radovan Šteiner, who is the chairperson of the supervisory board of IDS. Particularly blatant is the case of the non-profitable sale of IDS stock to its top management in 2001 and 2002 and IDS’ resulting monopoly on public contracts from Dopravní podniky.
THE LEGAL PERSPECTIVE OF TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS
Using the preparations for the Myslbekova – Pelc-Tyrolka section of the city ring as an example, Pavel Černohous shows how laws are breached by decision-makers and how related procedures become perfunctory, and explains the reasons for this situation. Prague City Hall officials have accepted the proponent’s argument that the city ring – despite its technical parameters and function – is a local road, and have refused to carry out an environmental impact assessment. Why? One reason may be the fact that the project proponent is also the superior of the official in charge of EIA procedure and for the management of the planning procedure. In the second part of his presentation, Černohous dispels the myth of citizens’ associations ‘obstructing’ planning and construction procedures, and documents this by showing the timetable for the EIA and planning procedures on a section of the motorway ring road.
Summary of texts from the Documents section
MANAGEMENT OF TRANSPORT DEMAND AS PART OF AN ENVIRONMENTALLY SOUND TRANSPORT POLICY
See “Those who sow roads, will reap cars”.
NEW NOISE LEGISLATION AND ITS PRACTICAL APPLICATION
Act No. 258/2000 Sb. on the Protection of Public Health effective as of 1 January 2003 prescribes new responsibilities for providing protection from traffic-induced noise. Article 30 of the law stipulates that owners or managers of roads are required to apply technical, organisational, and other measures to prevent noise from exceeding the stipulated health regulation limits for outdoor areas, residential buildings and other buildings. Eva Tylová focuses on meeting these requirements in practice and points out that Prague’s responsible bodies are seriously neglecting the requirements of the law.
Radim Šrám has long been concerned with research into the impact of air pollution on people. In his presentation, he summarises the process and main outcomes of a research project carried out from 2000 to 2002 which included air genotoxicity, exposure of a model population, the impact of air pollution on pregnancies and the human sperm, and an evaluation of related health risks. The results confirmed previous studies in the sense that air pollution does significantly affect genetic material and reproductive functions. It has been repeatedly proven that carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are responsible for the genotoxicity of air. The outcomes also suggested that long-term exposure to polluted air in Prague may negatively impact the health of the population in the decades to come.
The motorway ring road around Prague is being built as part of the trans-European motorway network; its primary function is to protect Prague from transit traffic and to connect motorways, expressways and other 1st class roads converging in a radial manner towards Prague. In his detailed paper, Karel Čapek summarises the main reasons why the northwest section of the ring road should follow the ‘Ss’ route as opposed to the ‘J’ alternative. The southern route – ‘J’ – cuts through the built-up area of Suchdol and through several protected nature areas in the city’s precious greenbelt, and is located in the immediate vicinity of residential areas in Čimice and Dolní Chabry. The ‘Ss’ route passes for the most part through uninhabited landscape with good dispersion conditions and is significantly more environmentally sound, which was also confirmed by the EIA report. The ‘J’ route is also less financially advantageous; it is more expensive both in terms of its technically demanding construction (tunnels and bridges) and its operating costs.
Jan Klika’s paper is a follow-up to presentations given by Štěpán Boháč and Ivan Lejčar on the negative impacts of the northwest segment of the city ring, and points out the importance of the construction of the motorway ring road, which is to divert transit traffic away from the city. At the same time Klika criticises the fact that construction is being done in stages, with the southwest section (Slivenec-Písnice) a priority while planning and construction of the remaining segments has been postponed or reduced to a minimum. It should be noted that according to the approved Strategic Plan and the Development of the City of Prague Transport System, the northwest section of the motorway ring road was supposed to be the first to be put into operation.
PETITION FOR SAVING STROMOVKA AND LETNÁ
In the summer of 2000, the SOS Prague Coalition organised a petition drive opposing construction of the new section of the city ring between the Strahov tunnel and Pelc-Tyrolka (in Prague-Troja). The petition demanded that the municipal decision-makers subject the entire proposal assessed to environmental impact review, to consider alternatives for solving transport issues, to cease granting exemptions from air pollution health regulation standards, to plan an appropriate route for transit traffic outside of the city, and to allocate more funds for improving public transit. The petition was accompanied by questions addressed to the Council of the City of Prague. Many of the responses were vague; for example in answer to the question “What are the sources for funding construction and what are the amounts to be invested?” the response was “That remains to be decided,” even though the city council was planning to start construction the following year.
THE “CITY FOR PEOPLE” PETITION
This petition, organised by the Oživení association, the SOS Prague Coalition, and Prague Mothers after the 2002 floods, called on city councillors, Prague’s mayor, the mayors of individual city districts and other decision-makers to: maintain and expand rail transit (urban rail service like the German S-Bahn run by Czech Railways), shorten intervals between commuter trains, keep and expand separate bus lanes even after the re-opening of the metro, put a halt to “motorway” construction inside the motorway ring and shift the billions to be invested into metro repairs instead, change priorities for parking in the centre, lower the speed limit on the magistrala trunk road to 50 km/h and turn it into an urban boulevard, and begin construction of a dense network of cyclepaths with a budget of at least 1% of transport expenditures. The petition was signed by almost 10,000 citizens. The fact that Prague’s councillors did not even allow the petition committee representatives to speak at the council session where the petition was to be discussed is sad proof of how little attention decision-makers paid to the petition.
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