Public transport in Rome at a turning point
Posted: 1 April 2005 | Roberto Cavalieri, Chairman, European Committee, UITP, former General Manager, ATAC SpA, Managing Director, Met.Ro. SpA
Hosting the 56th UITP Congress and Exhibition this year is a clear sign of the major development the public transport sector has made in Rome.
It is therefore both a point of arrival and a new start. In recent years, Rome has managed to reform the municipal public transport system in accordance with the guidelines of the European Union, has thoroughly modernised its bus and tramway fleet, has finally started the procedures that will lead to new subway lines and has made the basic steps to unify the politics of private and public mobility not only on the political level, but also on an operational one. A paradigmatic change that only now starts bearing the first fruits and that, in the future, faces the challenge of presenting the new ‘Roman model’ on the national and international scene.
Hosting the 56th UITP Congress and Exhibition this year is a clear sign of the major development the public transport sector has made in Rome. It is therefore both a point of arrival and a new start. In recent years, Rome has managed to reform the municipal public transport system in accordance with the guidelines of the European Union, has thoroughly modernised its bus and tramway fleet, has finally started the procedures that will lead to new subway lines and has made the basic steps to unify the politics of private and public mobility not only on the political level, but also on an operational one. A paradigmatic change that only now starts bearing the first fruits and that, in the future, faces the challenge of presenting the new ‘Roman model’ on the national and international scene.
Hosting the 56th UITP Congress and Exhibition this year is a clear sign of the major development the public transport sector has made in Rome. It is therefore both a point of arrival and a new start. In recent years, Rome has managed to reform the municipal public transport system in accordance with the guidelines of the European Union, has thoroughly modernised its bus and tramway fleet, has finally started the procedures that will lead to new subway lines and has made the basic steps to unify the politics of private and public mobility not only on the political level, but also on an operational one. A paradigmatic change that only now starts bearing the first fruits and that, in the future, faces the challenge of presenting the new ‘Roman model’ on the national and international scene. Fully municipally owned, ATAC SpA keeps its role for the planning and controlling of Rome’s public transport, leaving the operational tasks to two other municipally owned societies: Met.Ro. SpA for the two subway lines as well as for the local railway connections ‘Roma-Lido’ (to the Roman beach of Ostia), ‘Roma-Pantano’ and ‘Roma-Viterbo’, and Trambus SpA for most buses and tramways (112.5 million km/vehicle). But the liberalisation of the market has also brought a third, private actor: Ati-Sita, operating a minor part (26.7 million km/vehicle) of the Roman public transport, still as big as the entire net of a city such as Florence. A ‘controlled liberalisation’ that led last year to the selection of the ‘in-house-solution’ for the contract service of the next seven years – a period of time, where the opening of the local public transport market will be more equal in the different States of the European Union, allowing a real concurrence on the same basis. With the reform of the sector, starting from this year, all societies will stipulate their contract services directly with the municipality and will so be taken in direct responsibility for their actions. ATAC SpA will therefore strengthen its role as ‘controller’ of the public transport system, reporting directly to the main contractor, the Mobility Department of the Municipality, about the differences between planning and reality registered on an operational level. ATAC SpA has already fulfilled a deep reform of the public transport service. In 10 years, the number of driven kilometres grew from 99 million in 1993, to 140 million in 2004. A more complete net is bringing buses to the new boroughs on the outskirts which were traditionally cut-off from the public mobility system. A systematic differentiation of the Roman lines was introduced, consisting today of fast ‘express’ buses, local ‘urban’ lines with a high number of stops and ‘exact’ connections with fixed passage times. A system integrated by the ‘N’ night lines and the ‘rete festiva’, a parallel bus net operating only on Sundays and holidays and including the ‘ChiamaBus’, a special ‘call&reserve’ connection for areas served on a traditional way only from Monday to Friday. An innovation that considers the different mobility needs of the citizenship on weekdays and during the time dedicated to recreation, amusement and leisure, reducing, at the same time, the operational costs by avoiding waste. This structure will improve its functionality with the soon to be introdcued AVM – a satellite-driven controlling system that will allow the trace in real time of every vehicle, checking the state of the engine and electronics, keeping a direct contact between driver and the control centre and even counting the passengers aboard. This way, planning and controlling the public transport will become more and more effective. And it will introduce new services to the customers, like buying a bus ticket with the cellular phone, knowing with a call when the next bus will pass and being informed at the bus stops about delays and detours. The new ATAC SpA, due to the coming merger with the municipally owned Sta will grow over the responsibility of a mere public transport agency, becoming the operational branch of the Mobility Department by also overtaking responsibilities for the parking sector in the whole city, for the traffic lights net and for all kinds of politics linked to a sustainable mobility – like car-sharing, car-pooling or home-work shuttles. Already today, as area Mobility Manager, ATAC SpA led to realisation of a number of MM-actions that is as big as the rest of Italy together. The mobility agency of the future will have an even stronger role, for example, in planning new protected bus lanes and regulating the traffic lights to match the needs of public transport. And it will be easier to structure the vital intersection knots between private and public mobility and between the different modes of transport, like the subway-bus terminals on the outskirts provided with big parking houses for P&R. By putting together in one hand the planning and controlling of public and private traffic, one major principle had its break-through: private mobility will start to directly finance public transport, for example with municipal parking fees. The same thought that led the Association of Italian Mayors to ask the government to ‘make those who pollute contribute to the policies of sustainable mobility’. Due to the pollution-alarm launched this winter, the Italian State recently agreed to shift part of the fuel-taxation to finance the conversion of the bus-fleets of the cities of the peninsula. It is, hopefully, a first measure aimed primarily to cut the average age of the Italian public transport vehicles park: nowadays it amounts to over 10 years; with this €350 million coming, it could be brought nationwide to seven years and so reach the European target. Rome, in this case, has different needs, as it already managed in the last five years to lower the average age of its fleet from 12 to six years. 60% of the vehicle park can be used with wheelchairs – the social claim of ATAC SpA and Rome can be seen in its ticketing system, with special fares not only for seniors and students, but also for unemployed people and low-income families. Still, the fleet-renewing process is in progress. Rome will see the return of the trolley-buses, banished in 1972, with a modern version that allows them to drive on battery-lead in the historic part of the city. With this solution, ATAC SpA could match the needs of a modern and pollution-free mobility with those of protecting and highlighting the archaeological and artistic sites that characterise this city throughout the world. The same aim pursued years ago with the introduction of the electric fleet is still the biggest in Europe with 51 electric buses for 20 passengers serving mainly the narrow streets of the historic Centre between Pantheon, piazza Navona and piazza del Popolo and serving as shuttles from the parking lots for the nightly traffic-restricted areas of Trastevere and San Lorenzo. A positive experience that will be doubled in the near future is the introduction of a new generation of electric buses soon to make its debut in Rome, carrying twice as many people and with long-life batteries that will allow longer connections, steeper routes and a faster service. These new electric buses will be added to the first generation to spread this mode of transport to a bigger area of the central part of the city, where the private circulation is regulated by a video surveillance system. On the other side, methane-driven buses will appear on the streets of Rome in the near future. They will guarantee the connections from the inner circle to the immediate surroundings of the city. At the same time, the need to create methane stations in some bus parking lots is bringing the gas net to boroughs not yet connected to the distribution line. The introduction of methane-driven buses, therefore, will not only have the direct impact of ‘clean’ public vehicles driving around the town; it will also allow to create methane gas-stations in the city for private traffic and will lead to a more capillary net, connecting more and more households to the distribution system and reducing the number of gasoline-fed heating systems: ‘three strikes at a time’ for a cleaner and more liveable Rome. Two major implementations of the tramway system are also going through the last bureaucratic steps of approval. The ‘traditional’ tram line 8, now stopping at the archaeological area of largo Argentina, is planned to be continued up to Termini main station, where it will meet tram lines 5 and 14 leading eastwards out of the city. This will also reduce the bus traffic on one of the main streets of the centre, via Nazionale, that will be transformed to a protected tram line that, in this part of the city, will be powered by a central line on the pavement, once again avoiding a cable-web in the historic part of the town. The southern region of the city, on its side, will experience the modern ‘light-tram’ system: the optical guided vehicles without rails will connect the new boroughs behind Eur with the Metro B line. These are the main actions that have already been brought to a concrete development, to bring the ‘dream of ATAC SpA’ to reality: pollution-free public transport in the historic city centre and an infrastructural planning to create a modern multimodal public transport net. Indeed, by 2008, two thirds of the Roman public transport fleet will be ‘clean’ (tramways, trolley-buses, gas and electric driven vehicles), giving the municipality a solid platform to pursue innovative mobility policies. And only a few years later, in 2011, Rome will see the first part of the third subway line completed. ‘Metro C’ will cut the city from south-east to north-west, relieving the overcrowded A-line (that is facing a complete modernisation in the next three years) and crossing the Tiber river and the historic Centre of the city with modern ‘archaeological’ subway stations. It will be 25km long, with 30 stations serving also the areas of the Colosseum, piazza Venezia, largo Argentina, piazza Navona and the Vatican. Metro C will have common stations with Metro A at San Giovanni, right inside the antique Roman eastern city walls, and at Ottaviano-San Pietro, nowadays the nearest underground station to the Vatican. It will also cross Metro B right under the symbol of Rome, the Colosseum. This way, by creating a sort of net, the single crossing point of the A and B lines at Termini main station will be less crowded, allowing people to choose where to change the line. Automatically driven, it will have a safety system on the platforms, with glass walls separating the waiting areas from the tracks that will open only when the trains come to a stop. The costs amount to €3,000 million which 70% will be paid from the infrastructural fund of the State, 18% by the Municipality of Rome and 12% by the Lazio Region. With the Metro C fast becoming real, Metro D planning is reaching its defining phase. This fourth underground connection is thought to cross the city and, again, its centre, from south to north-west, where it will meet with the new branch of Metro B, the B1-line spreading from piazza Bologna and leading to the boroughs north of the Aniene river, that is beginning to be constructed. On the European level, Rome and the municipal mobility agency ATAC SpA, participated in a series of programmes and actions such as ‘Civitas’, ‘Miracles’, ‘Tapestry’, ‘Progress’ and ‘Intelcities’ and has established itself as a central referring point to private and public actors for the gaining of European environmental certifications and has pursued innovative financial actions rewarded by positive international ratings, such as bond options or cross-border-lease operations to keep up with the constant reduction of public funds for the local transport sector. And, last but not least, a particular effort has been made to create an innovative information system for public transport clients. Rome, ATAC SpA and its subway has started ‘RomaRadio – The Tube Station’, informing the passengers of Metro A and B live, day-by-day news information, changes and challenges on public transport as well as all other significant events in the city, in Italy or worldwide. A radio operated by the staff of the press office of ATAC SpA, is also responsible for a daily page about mobility policies in the Roman edition of ‘Metro’ (free press), as well as for the Internet sites of the agency and ‘RomaRadio’, for the innovative hand-held PC information system ‘InfoAtac’ and, most recently, for the news broadcasted on the monitors aboard the last generation of buses and subway trains as well as on the new digital bus stops that are now in the testing phase. A difficult track which started long ago and pursued in spite of all the clear and hidden obstacles has now come to a turning-point, facing the challenge of establishing the Roman model as the social, environmental and innovative face of public transport.
Issue 1 2005
Atac S.p.A, International Association for Public Transport (UITP)