article

Prague is now more flexible and less complicated

Posted: 28 February 2013 | Pavel Procházka, Authorised Director, ROPID | No comments yet

After several years of preparation, a new public transport system in Prague and its surrounding areas was launched on 1 September 2012. It brought a lot of changes to the citizens of Prague but was also a crucial day for ROPID – the organisation that planned these changes.

After several years of preparation, a new public transport system in Prague and its surrounding areas was launched on 1 September 2012. It brought a lot of changes to the citizens of Prague but was also a crucial day for ROPID – the organisation that planned these changes.

After several years of preparation, a new public transport system in Prague and its surrounding areas was launched on 1 September 2012. It brought a lot of changes to the citizens of Prague but was also a crucial day for ROPID – the organisation that planned these changes.

How it all began

It became clear that something was not right approximately six years ago. Subway, bus and tram networks were all available and passengers were familiar with the lines in operation, but it was usually the case for some lines to run at less than half-empty capacity while other bus and tram lines were crowded, primarily during rush hours. Some parts of Prague were also not connected by a simple public transport route which meant that many people had to use a car to get around quickly. Some sections of subway and tram lines were literally bursting at the seams and it was not possible to shorten interval-times any further. The more we assessed the situation, the more obvious it became that something had to be done – and so the plan for a simplified and optimised public transport network was borne. We were inspired by some German cities and encouraged by the success of their ‘reconstructions’.

2012 – the year of courage

Plans for improvements to the network came to light in 2012. Prague has plenty of lowfloor buses, reconstructed main tram tracks, new bus-lanes in the most critical places and increased numbers of articulated buses. This gave Prague the courage to change the system that was almost static for many years. The proposal for an optimised and simplified tram and bus network was outlined, and although the overall conception was prepared a long time ago, details only began to emerge in June 2012 after approval by the city council. First of all, we needed to offer something more to our passengers, particularly in offering better connections to the areas that surround Prague as they are no longer only places to live, but now places where people work, entertain and go shopping. However, it was essential to save money in improving these services and there was no better idea than enhancing lowoccupied lines which had not seen changes for decades. Maybe that is why they lost their attractiveness in the first place, as the lifestyle of the people of Prague has gradually changed over time. This was directly connected to the need to simplify the bus network which was far too complicated for passengers who used the network on rare occasions – known as ‘accidental’ passengers. The number of ‘accidental’ passengers using our network is increasing. Car drivers can now use our public transport network as we have chosen to operate a smaller number of lines with shorter intervals and a backbone network of bus lines (so-called metrobuses) with guaranteed short intervals and weekend services. This was mainly because the bus system used to be the most complicated and the least attractive service.

Anxiety prior to launch

Approximately three weeks before launching the new public transport system, the proposed changes were approved by the city council and one of the biggest information campaigns about public transport since the flooding in 2002 began. The media-hype that surrounded the campaign was immense. Concerns about a possible ‘collapse’ of the network system after 1 September 2012 emerged, with some people worrying that the public transport network was not ready for such a huge change. But this incredible media-hype had one positive effect – almost everybody knew what was going on. The information campaign’s goal was to draw attention to the fact that changes were about to occur in the public transport network and to explain and describe these changes via various channels – the most important was social media, such as Facebook, as the vast majority of passengers look for information on this website. But for those without access to Facebook, hundreds of thousands of leaflets were printed and distributed to places such as train stations, libraries and/or municipal offices to keep people informed. There was even a special ‘informational tram’ that crossed the centre of Prague and special announcements were made in the daily press.

Smooth running

On 3 September 2012, everything was seen to be working very well. Of course there were some initial minor imperfections – the most urgent issues were solved immediately and we are now working on other, less severe issues. In some cases, the intervals had to be shortened, bus stops had to be moved or shelters had to be installed in other areas. Some lines, especially those that connected the surround – ing areas of the city, were quickly filled and had to be strengthened.

The next steps

Minor corrections of some lines will have to be carried out in the near future in order to enhance the system’s functionality. We are also negotiating with Prague’s municipal authorities about their remarks and we are also preparing to conduct a large passenger satisfaction survey. But there is a time for everything, and the final results and outcomes can be object – ively evaluated after the whole system settles down and after passengers find their way around our new network – a more extensive evaluation will be performed at the end of 2013. Experience from similar public transport network ‘alterations’, for example in Hamburg, Munich or Berlin, are giving us hope that our new metropolitan network will attract more customers. But now, we have to fine-tune the system and withstand a wave of negative feedback that is always attached to any change of rooted habits.

Biography

Pavel Procházka is currently the Authorised Director of ROPID – the local transport authority of the Prague Integrated Transport System. For a short period of time in 2007, Pavel worked at KORID LK – the local transport authority of the Liberec region – as a specialist for transport planning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend