Academic journal article German Policy Studies

Impacts of Institutional Change on Urban Transport Policy in Rome: An Update

Academic journal article German Policy Studies

Impacts of Institutional Change on Urban Transport Policy in Rome: An Update

Article excerpt


In the late 1990s, innovation in the institutional arrangements boosted a new collaborative transport planning approach in the city of Rome. The creation of an integrated planning agency (STA) helped the transition from the level of theoretical and ideologically driven planning, traditionally anchored to the high volatility of the political arena, to the level of practical implementation and administrative stability. Today, after some 5 years of operation, such experience is producing significant results--including the long-awaited adoption and implementation of the New Master Plan and the consequent novelty of land use development around public transport nodes--and is ready to step forward to comply with the recent legislation reforming the organisation of local public transport systems.


The Context

Rome's metropolitan area, which includes the municipality itself plus 119 other small municipalities, has experienced in the last decade a significant suburban sprawl, with a growing share of population leaving the centre to live in the surrounding areas. The economic activities, predominately based on services, including transport, hotels, and public establishments, are generally concentrated within and around the historical centre, an area in which most government, leisure, and tourism activities take place.

This concentration of activities has resulted in an insufficiently developed radial transport system that has severely hampered the use of public transport. The metropolitan area of Rome has in fact shown, over the past three decades, a noticeable imbalance between the demand and the supply of mobility. In the last 35 years there has been a threefold leap in terms of kilometres travelled due to the increased length of trips and number of circulating vehicles (+ 650%). This growth has not been matched by a parallel development of the public transport system that has only recorded a 90% increase (in terms of kilometres travelled) during the same time period. Consequently, the public transport modal share, holding 56% of total motorised trips in 1964, has witnessed a dramatic decrease, and today is only accountable for 34% of motorised trips. Unfortunately it is the same fate for the walking mode, which has considerably declined following the reported rise of distances travelled.

This dominance of the private car is particularly difficult to manage given the urban fabric of Rome that was not designed to host the automobile. The roads are narrow, uneven, and do not form a grid pattern. Furthermore, the city lacks adequate ring roads so that even transiting across town often requires trips traversing the central areas. Not surprisingly, these conditions have resulted in high levels of congestion and pollution, particularly severe in a city with such a high concentration of artistic values and population. Such unsustainable environment is the result of decades, mostly the 1960s and 1970s, and partly the 1980s, of irrational urban growth that was caused by the combination of several elements:

* economic boom;

* population increase;

* lack of organic planning;

* influence of the automotive industry;

* scarce environmental concern;

* lack of political stability.

With specific reference to urban planning, this article examines the twofold changes that have reshaped Rome's land use trends during the 1990s:

1. the changing planning approach, which has successfully helped Rome complete the transition from dysfunctional practices to integrated and co-operative land use and transport planning;

2. the changing institutional setting, which is currently adding the last pieces to the puzzle of Rome's planning organisation.

The Changing Planning Approach

Urban planning in Rome has traditionally been based upon a clear separation between the work of the land use and transport department. …

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