There are two parallel realities for commuters – the one on the map and the one on the ground. A map shows two bright intersecting lines where bus A meets bus B or the tram meets the train. But the reality of such places can be wet, dark, inhospitable, inaccessible and even dangerous. The city of Warsaw understands that if it wants people to use the public transport network, it has to make this more enticing than sitting in their cars.
“About 40% the Warsaw’s smog comes from commuting," explains Rafał Trzaskowski, mayor of Warsaw. To get commuters out of cars and into public transport, the city is modernising its park & ride facilities. That is, facilities where those driving into the city for work can leave their car and switch to other modes of transport, rather than contributing to the morning gridlock.
The new deal
New shelters will protect commuters from wind and rain as they switch modes of transport. They will also provide parking and shelter for bikes, so that those who choose needn’t take their car out of the drive way at all. These shelters are not just good for protection, their roofs also double as solar panels.
The electricity generated by these panels can be used to charge electric cars and bikes parked at the stations. This power is distributed through a ‘smart energy management system,’ which uses it in the most efficient way possible. It is also used to make sure the area is well-lit.
This design, first piloted in Mlociny in 2017, is now being prepared for two other park & ride locations and is under discussion at 12 further spots.
The stats, stat!
Warsaw plans to have 1000 charging points at park and ride stations by 2030, a goal which it is steadily working towards. Meanwhile 130 busses will be fully electrified, that’s one in every ten busses run by the municipality. The use of innovative technologies like the 19 areal chargers that have been installed means that these busses can use lighter batteries and thus consume less electricity as they go. This has radical consequences for air quality; already the quantity of nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant which causes asthma, bronchitis and other serious breathing issues, has halved between 2011 and 2017. At the same time the ambient level of carbon dioxide, the principal villain in climate change, has been reduced by one third.
Given that a single diesel bus emits 1,040 tonnes of CO2 over its lifecycle, these new electric busses are taking 135,200 tonnes out of the air. That is equivalent to the amount of CO2 that would be absorbed by two million new trees over ten years!
Cost is a factor too; these electric busses don’t come cheap. But the lifetime fuel cost of a diesel bus is €369,457 while an e-bus requires just €88,722. Doing the maths on Warsaw’s 130 electric busses, that comes to a saving of over €54 million! And that’s not even figuring in the money equivalent of costs to the environment and health.
The mayor and the people
At first many Warsaw residents were sceptical of electric busses, and this scepticism continues to prevail across Poland. However, after their introduction, passengers surveyed were positive about the buses, referring in particular to the reduced noise and pollution.
Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski is a big proponent of this step forward, and has already announced that as “About 40 percent the Warsaw smog comes from commuting,” from this year on, “municipal companies will only buy low-carbon vehicles.”
This incredible progress on the electric front generated a key lesson of the Sharing Cities project, where Warsaw is one of the ‘fellow’ cities, along with Bordeaux and Burgas, learning from EU funded pilot projects in ‘lighthouse’ cities Lisbon, London and Milan: learning always works both ways.
This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement N°691895
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