Szeged Aims at Smart and Well-organised Transport SASMob – to make transport within the city easier and faster for all of us
Though Szeged’s EU-funded SASMob (Smart Alliance for Sustainable Mobility) project was launched in February 2018, the opening conference was held only on 21 September. The reason for the delay is simple: the eleven partner organisations wanted to provide concrete information about some development projects and finalised plans.
It was in the autumn of 2017 that Szeged was granted funds from the European Commission’s EUR-50-million city development programme budget. The project partners offer the most possible help to make the city’s public transport smooth in functioning and comfortable and create conditions which will make the life of bike users easier.
Szeged bid for funding with its so-called SASMob project, which is designed to reduce traffic jams, air pollution and noise exposure through the deployment of a data-driven, intelligent transportation system by governmental and private organisations and transport service providers. The partnership incorporates the municipal government of Szeged, three NGOs, Szeged University, two transport service providers and four privately owned companies.
Besides, an item of software will also be developed, whose purpose is to optimise transport. In recent decades, Szeged has seen a radical increase in the number of passenger cars, while the time people spend in cars has hardly increased at all – which indicates that the city has already achieved a lot in the coordination of different means of transport. There is still a lot to do, though, as participants who attended the conference’s morning programmes could see with their own eyes, after walking to Dugonics Square, where the City Car-free Day events took place. Here, they could visit the SASMob Base, where university student volunteers asked passers-by to complete questionnaires, which contained questions like “How many kilocalories does one hour of comfortable cycling burn?” or “Which bus service in Szeged has the longest travel time?”. Respondents were given a card with a QR code with which they can access the project’s data sheet. The card also has a reflective card, which, put between a bike’s spokes, makes cycling safer.
Participants could also take a look at a trolleybus, parked in Dugonics Square, which is not only comfortable but also economical to run. Not only does this vehicle offer contactless card payment as a default feature but, owing to this low floor, is very popular especially with mothers with small children, pensioners and people with reduced mobility. From this point, conference attenders walked over to the clinic yard, where information was shared about the transportation conditions of the Clinic Centre, one of the project’s partner organisations. Chief Nurse Dénes Balogh showed the audience how narrow the area suitable for transport is between the buildings of the clinic and how difficult it is to access the facilities, which were built in the 1930-s, with passenger cars. Over four thousand employees arrive here daily, which is a huge burden already in itself. And this number does not contain the several thousand patients and university students, who also use this relatively small institution complex.
As the majority of nurse hostels have been closed, the situation is the most difficult to healthcare workers commuting from other towns. Mr Balogh said that one third of the hospital nurses who work here commute from nearby towns, which makes it a senseless idea for them to travel to work by bicycle, even though cycling seems the ideal solution to many as it is fast, practical, environmentally friendly and healthy. This is why the Clinic Centre plans to offer a covered and guarded bicycle shelter to those who switch to cycling.
In the United States, cycling to work is not a popular alternative as distances are vast and, in the majority of the states, eighty percent of the population use passenger cars for commuting. In his afternoon presentation, Zoltán Ádám Németh, Community Transport and Railway Security Manager of Szeged Transportation Company (“SZKT”), talked about his experience gained in Austin, Texas. Employers there order studies from specialised organisations, which make proposals as to what environmentally friendly yet cheap and fast alternative means of transport would suit employees the best. As an example, those living nearby a workplace can share a car and travel together, and the taxi also often proves a suitable alternative to employees’ own passenger cars. The use of scooters, which are fast, cheap and agile, is also a viable solution. In some cases, Americans, who tend to dislike exercise, can even be talked into walking or cycling.
In Hungary, the situation is not that bad as proportions are the opposite of those in Texas, i.e. only twenty percent of people drive to work regularly. Vice Mayor for City Development Sándor Nagy said that the application of the city of Szeged for the funding was successful as the city had already made major achievements in the area of transportation, which strongly determines city dwellers’ quality of life: public transport had been modernised, trams and trolleybuses had been converted to offer a higher level of comfort, buses now cause less air pollution and new bike tracks and shelters had been built, which was a significant motivation for many to choose cycling instead of driving to get to work. In practice, this means the better coordination of timetables and connections, the modernisation of bus stops and stations, the development of bike tracks and the building of bicycle shelters. There is still a lot of room for improvement in this area, though. What experts expect from this project is that city dwellers, by consciously choosing their means of transport, will cause less damage to not only public roads but also the environment.