Tiedoksi myös Turun apulaiskaupunginjohtaja Jarkko Virtasen puhe BUSTRIP -
konferenssin avauksessa 8.11.2007
Alunperin kirjoittanut Apulaiskaupunginjohtaja Jarkko Virtanen 8.11.2007
Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues and Moving Sustainably congress participants,
A sustainable urban transport system goes hand in hand with sustainable urban structure. Local services or high-quality public transport at walking distance from home can only be provided if population density is sufficient.
Urban sprawl increases the commuting distance to work, and the resulting increase in car transports causes traffic jams.
An unsustainable urban structure is also economically unsustainable. The costs of transportation in-crease and heavy investments in transport infrastructure are required.
I will use our own experiences from the City of Turku as an example. As I understand, the problems we face are shared with other European and Baltic Sea region cities. The scale of the problems may be different, but the same issues can be found in most of our cities.
In the city strategies, the City of Turku is strongly committed to sustainable development. Sustainable development is a basic value of the Turku Strategy adopted on 2nd May 2005. Sustainable urban structure, responsible climate policy and reduction of private car use and its emissions have been taken up as strategic aims also in our environmental strategy.
Turku has signed the Aalborg Commitments on 29th March 2005. The commitments require the signatory city to reduce the need for private cars; increase share of walking; cycling and public transport and develop a sustainable urban transport plan.
However, we face considerable challenges in developing a sustainable urban transport system and a sustainable urban structure in Turku.
In the framework of the BUSTRIP project, the Peer Review of Sustainable Urban Transport in Turku was carried out on 21st - 25th August 2006.
The Peer Review team pointed out the following key problems for sustainable transport in Turku.
• Weak regional planning
• Insufficient public transport
• Problems for pedestrians and cyclists
• Fierce competition for the City Centre
Our own analysis confirms these findings.
However, many of these issues are very difficult to solve in the urban region. In Finland, municipalities have a very high degree of autonomy in land use planning and taxation.
The municipality "City of Turku" stretches from the island of Kakskerta in the South to rural Paattinen in the north. The continuous urban structure, however, stretches from Naantali in the West to Piikkiö in the East, and the functional urban area extends far beyond that to towns and villages of Southwest Finland.
The different municipalities compete with each other to attract inhabitants and business. This serves as a motivation for urban sprawl, as neighbouring municipalities have a lot of greenfield sites for detached houses and good locations by the motorways for shopping centres.
In particular, they seek to attract the people who have come to the region because of the education and job opportunities offered in the City of Turku.
As a result, the expansion of urban structure and growth in car traffic continues. The compact urban structure of the city of Turku itself, which is a clear strength for sustainable transport, may lose its attractiveness as traffic becomes congested.
The City of Turku cannot prevent the other municipalities from planning and building urban sprawl. The regional planning is also very weak in preventing sprawl.
In the current situation, the City of Turku is forced to plan competitive housing areas, for instance on the islands and in the north, even though we know their high costs and sustainability issues. They are, however, more sustainable than sprawl even farther out in the region.
The sprawling land use and services cause pressure for increased use of private cars. Current transport system cannot cope with increased traffic without congestion in key nodes. Walking, cycling and public transport are currently not attractive enough to solve the congestion by modal shift.
The continuation of the current development trend does not fulfil Turku's international commitments such as Aalborg commitments and EU reduction aims for greenhouse gases. The more ambitious climate change prevention aim of the EU is reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 30%. Similar aims have been set in our city's sustainability programme.
If we apply this to transport, and try to achieve the change through modal split change, this results in highly ambitious targets.
In Turku this would mean, that the modal split share of cars is maximum 1/3 and walking, cycling and public transport minimum 2/3. Currently, the share of cars is a little less than half of all trips. This means that cycling and public transport trips per inhabitant should increase at least by half and walking trips should be maintained on current level, which is a very ambitious target.
Such results have in fact been achieved by ambitious transport and city planning solutions in some European cities, such as Freiburg, which I visited last year.
However, such a development means that in addition to improvements in walking, cycling and public transport, the share of population and workplaces in districts with high quality walking, cycling and public transport increases. This can only be achieved through urban planning which aims in a sustainable urban structure.
The development fulfilling Turku's strategic aims cannot be achieved by City of Turku alone. It requires that the state and the other municipalities of the region participate in development of sustainable urban structure and transport system. Alone, Turku can implement only some attractive improvements within its own borders.
Development fulfilling Turku's strategic aims for sustainable urban structure and transport requires a municipal structure reform of the municipalities of Turku urban region.
A very close co-operation between municipalities of Turku urban region is required in any case, but in my opinion, the best solution would to join the central municipalities to a new City of Turku.
As the municipalities have very strong autonomy in land use planning and taxation, other solutions are hardly sufficient. Land use, transport system and public transport must be planned, implemented and financed regionally.
In the ongoing municipal reform, it has already been agreed that an urban structure model of the region will be planned. A regional public transport authority is being studied, as recommended by our peer review.
The current municipal structure is an obstacle for many sustainable transport projects. For instance, a regional light rail system on the central axis Naantali - Raisio - Turku - Kaarina has been proposed as a solution to the regional public transport system. According to experience from other European cities, such an investment could clearly increase the modal share of public transport.
In the current situation, however, the City of Turku would have to pay most of the tramway, while the neighbouring municipalities would gain most of the benefit. Only a municipal reform can make the whole region participate in such projects.
Finnish state does not support municipal investment in public transport, walking or cycling.
Also, it does not give operational subsidies for city public transport in Turku, and the subsidies for the regional ticket system are insufficient.
This partly explains, why only small parts of the walking, cycling and public transport improvements proposed in Transport System Plan of Turku region have been implemented. Road projects in this document have been implemented on schedule, as the state pays its proper share of these investments.
As Turku has demanded together with Tampere and Helsinki region, the state should finance also the public transport in the three largest cities. State initiatives supporting development of walking and cycling in cities would also be very welcome.
As I said in the beginning, the problems in creating a sustainable urban transport system and sustainable urban structure are shared between the different Baltic Sea Region countries.
The BUSTRIP project has been very successful in sharing problems and solutions. The peer reviews have both helped to point out the cities' strengths and weaknesses and the international co-operation has helped to share best practices.
As a recognition, the project has been awarded the Baltic 21 Lighthouse Project status by the Baltic 21 secretariat. The award ceremony will take place at the City hall this evening.
I hereby declare open the Moving sustainably conference.