Towards a people-centered integrated transport policy

By Gela Kvashilava, Director of Partnership for Road Safety Georgia

Putting an integrated approach transport on the agenda

Local government members (or party candidates) in Georgia’s main cities, including Tbilisi, Gori and Kutaisi, all speak of transport issues. They highlight dangerous and uncomfortable roads as a problem, but in terms of solving theses problems, they don’t fully appreciate how different issues interconnect. For example, many of the issues are caused by an amalgamation of poor road planning, a lack of parking, low quality public transport and weak enforcement.

As such, transport policies often take into consideration only one issue at a time. For example, last week members of the Assembly of Georgian city Gori demanded that transport services in the city be abolished and replaced with a brand new public transport system. But this alone will not solve the problem. To achieve meaningful change requires system-wide collaboration, investment and an understanding as to why transport infrastructure in their city is in such a poor condition, as well as a vast application of human and material resources within the city administration.

Substantive transport reforms are needed to improve both the quality of life and the health of citizens in Georgia’s cities. And strengthening local transport services in regional towns and cities will go a long way to improving economic development as well as encouraging tourism in Georgia. However, this is hampered by inefficient institutional arrangements in local municipalities.

Traffic problems in Georgia

Today, many citizens in Georgia use public transport, but it is impossible to move without obstacles, especially during the evening rush hour(s!). The main reason for this is the lack of access to public transport - a result of a current transport policy more oriented towards individual mobility than sustainable modes of transport.

Existing transport policy has responded to the increasing number of private cars to create an environment in which cars are prioritised. However this has only increased traffic congestion, air pollution, road traffic collisions and noise pollution. In addition, more and more private cars are parking in pedestrianised areas due to a severe lack of purpose-build parking infrastructure – either over ground or underground – causing irritation and conflict between citizens.

Parking is a particular issue. There are very few designated parking zones and there are no charges associated with parking demand. Leading to overcrowded streets, particularly at peak times. This is also a main cause of traffic congestion.

Citizens want solutions from politicians on these transport issues. But limited access to any thorough evaluation of the cities’ transport problems, and a lack of data, means politicians are to more likely to walk in a bewitched circle rather than finding real integrated solutions. However, these are not unique problems. Solutions and models do exist, as implemented across both developed and developing countries worldwide.

Recommended solutions

Examples from cities around the world show that while 100 per cent of parking demand will never be satisfied, systems can be put in place to help manage it.  In Georgia, the parking system needs better regulation and the introduction of tariffs to enable equal distribution of parking spaces and allow municipalities to mobilise additional resources. The only way to solve the problem of parking is to create and ensure an integrated paid parking policy to control traffic flow and volume. For this, parking management plans should be created in all municipalities.

Integrating building design and transport planning can also play a part. This is a tried and tested approach to good urban development and is used in many cities around the world ease congestion, as well as to create a comfortable, safe and affordable transportation system for citizens.

According to a 2016 Tbilisi household survey, only one-third of the city travels by private vehicle. So in addition to easing traffic flow, local authorities need to focus on developing different modes of transport to serve the needs of all local residents - including safe and comfortable access for cyclists and pedestrians. These systems need to be inclusive and suitable for vulnerable road users such as children, the elderly and disabled people.

Government officials need to pilot modern, integrated approaches to road planning and pedestrian safety that put people first. The goal should be to create an urban environment free from physical barriers, and that encourages use of alternative modes of transport such as cycling or walking rather than driving – particularly over short distances. To achieve this, developments in the field of transport must be constantly monitored and policies adapted to ensure efficiency of services, and to keep within international standards. It is important that any transport change should ensure safe and effective links between cities as well as within city limits. 

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