by Michael Lambrinos*
All of the candidates have presented their election manifestos, debated, and traveled across the country to persuade voters that they are the most qualified. Many policy issues have resulted in lengthy declarations and hours of televised debates. However, one topic that has received little attention, despite the fact that it affects everyone's lives on a daily basis, is mobility. Either candidates' support groups have limited expertise in mobility, or they believe it is not a vote-winning issue.
The president is well-positioned to set an example by using public transportation and non-motorized modes of transportation for personal mobility, as well as promoting cycling and walking
In reality, mobility in Cyprus faces a number of challenges, including traffic congestion, air pollution, and a lack of sustainable transportation. To address these challenges and build a more sustainable and efficient transportation system, the new president must take a broad and innovative approach. The following factors should be considered:
The existing transportation system should be reviewed with an eye toward economic, environmental, and social sustainability. This could include implementing new policies and strategies such as prioritizing public transportation and active modes of transportation (walking, cycling, and micro-mobility), implementing urban tolls (congestion charging) in congested areas, and proper parking management to reduce congestion and encouraging the use of sustainable transportation modes. Furthermore, the President should work to promote the development of new technologies and infrastructure, such as electric and self-driving vehicles, to aid in the creation of a more efficient and sustainable transportation system.
All sectoral policies must be based on sustainable development, with the new president leading by example. This could include investing in green infrastructure and transportation systems, as well as promoting environmentally friendly modes of transportation such as cycling and walking. The president is well-positioned to set an example by using public transportation and non-motorized modes of transportation for personal mobility, as well as promoting cycling and walking through infrastructure development and awareness campaigns. The President should also work to raise public awareness of the importance of sustainable transportation and to encourage private-sector investment in sustainable transportation. Transport actions should be inextricably linked to actions in the areas of land use, energy, environment, economy, tourism, and health.
The current transportation investment model, which prioritizes vehicle traffic, must be reformed to direct more resources toward the development of public transportation and non-motorized transportation. This will necessitate substantial investment, and the President should collaborate with the private sector to ensure that this investment is strategic and efficient. The amount of investment required will vary depending on the plan's specific goals and strategies, but it should be substantial enough to result in significant changes and improvements to the existing transportation system. A rough estimate could be between 1% and 2% of the country's GDP or a few hundred million euros. In this regard, community funds will be critical.
Consideration should be given to the development of a rail system that connects major urban centers as well as gateways to Cyprus. This could aid in reducing congestion, lowering emissions, promoting sustainable mobility, and providing more efficient and convenient transportation options for both residents and visitors. In the early days of the new Presidency, a study to assess all aspects of a new rail system should be commissioned. The introduction of tram systems, at least in Nicosia and Limassol, should also be considered. The feasibility study for trams conducted in Nicosia in 2015, which demonstrated their viability, provides a solid foundation for the city's tram system implementation.
Setting up a green fund to decarbonize the country should also be considered. This fund could be managed by a government agency, with contributions coming from a variety of sources. The fund's resources should be allocated to various sectors, including transportation, to help develop sustainable infrastructure, services, and technologies. To do so, a specific policy framework for the fund, including its strategies, objectives, and scope, as well as identification of the various sources of inputs, such as carbon taxes and private sector investment, should be developed first.
The planning of urban development and transportation should be integrated. Currently, the two sectors operate independently, resulting in uncontrolled urban sprawl throughout cities. The new president should establish a mechanism and procedures to ensure that the two sectors develop in a coordinated and integrated manner. First, a clear vision for sustainable transportation and urban planning must be developed, followed by the formation of an inter-ministerial working group or inter-agency committee to coordinate and integrate mobility and urban planning policies and initiatives, as well as the cooperation and coordination of the ministries of transport, interior, and environment.
The Planning Council's usefulness and role should also be reviewed, and public participation and consultation on transportation and mobility actions should be significantly strengthened to ensure that local communities' needs and perspectives are taken into account. A national transport authority should be established to ensure more effective and integrated transportation system management. This authority will be in charge of coordinating and managing transportation policies and actions across the country. The advantages of such power are as follows:
- Coordinating transportation policies, programs, and initiatives across various governmental levels and agencies.
- Simplifying the decision-making process and lowering administrative obstacles to the execution of transportation initiatives.
- Giving stakeholders, including businesses, the public, and transport service providers, a single point of contact.
- Increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of transportation services through better management, planning, and funding.
- Make sure that the transportation sector's initiatives are in line with larger national goals and strategies.
The specific structure, functions and responsibilities of a national transport authority will depend on the specific needs of Cyprus, but examples from other countries such as Malta, Ireland, Finland, Estonia, Scotland, New Zealand and Denmark can provide valuable guidance.
*Michael Lambrinos is a consultant for transportation and mobility.
[This op-ed was translated from its Greek original]