Recent development of the transport system in Slovenia, as well as in the Ljubljana Urban Region (LUR) has primarily been oriented towards improving the road infrastructure and, consequently, towards improvements in mobility for cars and motorised transport, whilst public transport and non-motorised transport have been neglected both at national and municipal level. This resulted in low mobility of non-motorised users, traffic congestion, the environment burdened by emissions and noise, and poor traffic safety, as well as increasing suburbanisation and urban sprawl.
Ljubljana Urban Region (LUR) with its main city of Ljubljana is the main destination of daily migration flows in Slovenia. Region as such attracts work and school commuters from neighbouring regions. The sum of daily commuting trips on an average day in the year 2008 in LUR was estimated to considerably more than 100.000, 90% of them made by private cars. High degree of motorization is characteristic for LUR; in year 2010 the ownership of private cars was 524 automobiles per 1000 inhabitants. That is above the national average as well as above the average in many European cities.
Latest available survey data from 2003 shows that within the region around 67 % of journeys are made by car, 10 % by public transport, 7 % by bike and 16 % by foot. Use of private car was therefore prevalent already a decade ago and the situation has only got worse since then. In the city of Ljubljana the journeys done by car were fewer (58 %) than in other municipalities (74 %) where public transport is used even less (8 %).
Traffic is the main cause for noise and air pollution with CO2 as well as for emissions of PM10 particles. More than half of air emissions in the city of Ljubljana is caused by traffic, which causes even more emissions than both thermal powerplants (TE-TOL Termoelektrarna Toplarna Ljubljana and Toplarna Šiška) together. Air quality data show that nevertheless the situation in the city of Ljubljana is constantly improving, mostly due to technological improvements in both sectors. However, measurements in the city centre still show that the annual average of air pollution due to nitric oxide transgresses permitted levels. Likewise the number of days with high containment of PM10 particles in the air exceeds the allowed annual level.
Lately, especially in Ljubljana, cycling conditions have improved and the number of cyclists is increasing. City public transport is being complemented by a self-service system for bike rental Bicike(lj), set up in spring 2011, which is at the moment being used by 27.000 users, and the number is rising constantly. The system comprises 300 bicycles and 600 parking spots along 31 stops all over the wider city centre of Ljubljana. The city has altogether 170 kilometres of cycling paths and lanes. The network of cycling lanes is relatively dense, nevertheless it is interrupted or disconnected at many points and often technically deficient. Supplementing cycling infrastructure, e.g. public bicycle sheds, parking places and stands, is also insufficient.
A positive response to the growing problems originating in the traffic system in LUR can only be achieved by reducing use of private vehicles. In order to improve mobility, a share of passengers must be shifted from private cars to public transport and non-motorised modes of travel. The shift to public transport can be accomplished by traffic restrictions and toll schemes for entry to urban centres, respectively, followed by measures favouring public transport development.
In 2010 a study called “Guidelines for the regulation of regional public transport” was concluded, comprising a detailed proposal for the necessary infrastructure improvements and soft measures in support of public transport. The study was commissioned by the Regional Development Agency of the Ljubljana Urban Region (RDA LUR) in cooperation with the municipalities of the region. Several workshops in which over three hundred experts and other stakeholders took part were organised to ensure the wide ownership of the study. With the help of EU funded projects RDA LUR and the municipalities are now starting to implement further steps towards sustainable mobility in the region, proposed in the study. Together with improvements for non-motorised mobility, carried out by the City of Ljubljana, this will hopefully lead to a change in mobility patterns.
Regional Development Agency of the Ljubljana Urban Region (RDA LUR). 2010. Public Transport in the Ljubljana Urban Region. Ljubljana: RDA LUR. Available at: http://www.rralur.si/fileadmin/user_upload/projekti/Promet/PozivBrosura/JPP_brochure_ang.pdf. (31/07/2012).
The article was prepared for the URBACT Programme, as part of the activities of the Slovenian URBACT National Dissemination Point