ISTBAR: GREENING THE CITY THROUGH MOBILITY
Innovation Type: Institutional Pioneer
The city of Batumi is Georgia’s third largest, and a flourishing tourist hub for the nation. Its strategic port location and connectivity with key hubsin the region have led to exponential socioeconomic growth, emboldening city authorities to invest in a plethora of urban rejuvenation efforts andflagship projects – working towards a modern and progressive Batumi that adheres to the best possible environmental standards. To achievethese standards, Batumi has strengthened its linkages with external agencies and movements such as the Covenant of Mayors for Climate andEnergy (CoM). Greenhouse gas (GHG) data (inventories) also helped reveal the role of the transport sector as a significant emitter in Batumi, with49% of GHG emissions attributed to transport and 64% of the sector dominated by private transport.
With municipal authorities eager to innovate and fond of new initiatives, UNDP Georgia identified a possible opportunity for partnership withBatumi City Hall in operationalising technical projects and policy initiatives in sustainable urban mobility – given the absence of a green mobilitystrategy, finances, and technical expertise within the government. Strong pre-existing relationships between UNDP Georgia and Batumi CityHall made this possible, especially in GHG reporting as part of the UNFCCC. Batumi City Hall also expressed their interest in piloting anddemonstrating the impact of innovative transport practices on citizen health, and enhancing all-round liveability.
With these ideas, Batumi City Hall and UNDP embarked together on the Green Cities: Integrated Sustainable Transport in the City of Batumi andthe Achara Region (ISTBAR) project, with support from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). It sought to promote more sustainable urbantransport practices through ground assessments and pilot projects, to help support longer-term policymaking at larger scales. An initial (i.)Household Mobility Survey assessed daily practices and attitudes towards transport amongst 1,550 families in 78 transport ‘zones’. Based onthese base parameters and on global best practices in transport demand/supply modelling, UNDP and Batumi City co-developed a (ii.) TransportModelling System, which helped determine feasibility and priorities for traffic infrastructure (roads, routes, interchanges) by simulating various commuter choice scenarios. The model informed the development of various (iii.) pilot projects, including new parking strategies, dedicated buslanes, and renovated and expanded bike lane networks. Altogether, these laid the ground for the first (iv.) Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan ofBatumi, a guide for policymakers based on technical mobility industry expertise, combined with the real needs of Batumi residents.
The pilot projects are estimated to contribute to a 40% reduction in nitrogen monoxide. Successful pilots in both communications and transportinfrastructure have been identified for scaling up both within Batumi and across other Georgian cities. The Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan hasalso been raised in the City Council, which as an elected body has been pivotal in passing votes on municipal decisions pertaining to mobility, andincorporating feedback from the community into future iterations. These green mobility efforts have also transpired in the realm of the media,with public awareness campaigns and a comprehensive communications strategy being developed to accompany infrastructure enhancementswith changes in social attitudes and behaviour – through radio stories, educational programmes, and advertisements.
- Multi-scalar efforts and discussions are necessary for sustainable solutions. Although this project was concentrated inBatumi city, national discussions and the Georgia Strategy on Sustainable Urban Transport (2017) helped assess and future-proof the proposed initiatives and pilot projects in Batumi, as well as ensure their potential for scalability across the country. Asa result of these conversations, other Georgian cities like Kutaisi and Rustavi have also embarked on projects inspired byISTBAR's approach – and proven success in particular interventions and areas.
- Public behaviour campaigns must be accompanied by infrastructural enhancements, and vice versa. Though ISTBAR’s effortsin public communications and encouraging healthy green lifestyles helped reduce some of the preferences for pollutingtransport modes identified during the Household Mobility Survey, these were unsustainable without enhancements to thephysical transportation network. In particular, the Survey revealed that there was an aversion to cycling albeit a pleasant urbanenvironment owing to an uncomprehensive bike network, and dilapidated and narrow bike lanes. This led to a portion of theStrategy being dedicated to the enhancements of bike lanes and the biking network in Batumi.
- Political commitment from authorities is the key to success in innovative initiatives. Strong commitment from the Batumi CityMayor and other municipal authorities proved to be pivotal in seeing ISTBAR through – particularly when it came to difficult andinitially unpopular decisions, like with changes in parking policy and the reduction of the local mini-van fleet. The pilot projectswere especially important in advocating the concrete benefits strategies to policymakers, even through changes in leadership.
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