Jerom Theunissen Photography


July 22-25

City in Context

The historic and cultural heritage of the city of Rome were unlike many I have yet to visit during my travels. As such, over 25 million tourists come here per year to explore this ancient city, which features sights like the Coliseum, the Vatican, and the Pantheon, to name a few.

The city's metropolitan area is home to about 4.5 million residents. The city sees over 6.1 million trips daily. To get around, these residents have access to over 5,000 km of roads. With 2.65 million vehicles present, the city has the highest motorization rate in Europe at 850 vehicles per 1000 inhabitants.

The period after the Second World War saw rapid development of the Roman metropolitan area. Unfortunately, given the challenges of narrow and unmodifiable roads, there was little development of transport infrastructure. What's more, the establishment of a balanced public transport system fell through the frenetic growth experienced post-war.

As such, the city failed to develop according to the policies put forth in the city government in Masterplan of 1962. But my Italian contacts told me of the disparity between Italian city planning and execution. Uncontrolled development in the significant imbalance between transport demand and supply, resulted in a modal split heavily in favor of private vehicles. In fact, the last 35 years has seen a tripling of the number of kilometers traveled by private vehicles, due to the increase in average trip length and the number of vehicles on the road.

Metro and Suburban Rail

One of the major steps Rome took at the beginning of the 21s century was Rome’s cura del ferro, Italian for "railway therapy." It included extensions to the two existing metro lines, and the creation of a third line. After years of unchecked urban sprawl, these mobility interventions formed the basis for urban renewal in Rome.

The latest metro project in Rome is the creation of Line C, which will create an interchange with Line A at the Coliseum stop. The line has a total length of 25 kilometers, with 27 stations. The first phase of the project’s construction began in February of 2007. The financial crisis of 2008 severely limited available resources for the project, which led to delays. Over then years later, the project is still slow to continue, and inconsistency between administrations has not allowed the project to continue on schedule.

Active Modes - Walking and Cycling

Rome recently celebrated its 2770th birthday, which implies that Rome is by no means a normal city. The old adage, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” definitely fits in this case. This also means the city was built long before technological innovations of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries radically changed city planning paradigms to accompany them. In terms of Rome’s layout, the city is well suited to walking, with most of the central city accessible within a 15-30 minute walk.

The city’s new urban mobility strategy, published in 2013, has seen this opportunity to implement an active mobility model to systematically encourage short-dsitrance trips to be taken by bicycle or on foot. Rome’s city administration has ordered the closure of Via Fori Imperiali to vehicles, making this once congested street into a haven for pedestrians and cyclists to take in the sights of the Coliseum and the Forum.

Cobblestone streets, aggressive Italian drivers, and the lack of deducated cycle paths quickly turned me off from taking a ride by bike around the city. Cycling’s 1% mode share reflects the state of cycling in Rome. The existing network is not continuous and does not cover many roads. Better integration of cycling paths across the city’s streets and extension of the network to connect to major working destinations, PT network nodes and the main green spaces of the city would be steps in the right direction.

Tourism Flows and Urban Mobility Planning

For years, Rome has been one of the world’s most attractive tourist destinations, especially with foreigners. The saying “all roads lead to Rome” still applies to this day, and the proliferation of budget airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet have made tourism within Europe flourish. Events like the Jubilee of Mercy brought tourist numbers up to 20 million between December 2015 and November 2016. Of these, 40% cam via tourist coaches, 10% via trains, and 50% from private modes.

The city devised several ways to overcome the irregular flows of tourists in the city center and minimize setbacks to ordinary mobility in the city. Depending on the flow of pilgrims expected for a particular events, four different levels were used to classify demand, and dedicated metro service was planned accordingly. Increasing the number of bus stalls at metro-rail system exhange nodes in the periphery of the city encouraged transfer from coach buses to more sustainable circulation via metro. For the coaches that did wish to enter the city center, Rome required a permit which would be checked automatically with 21 license plate readers in the city. These systems together made travel via public transport more economical and simultaneously reduced large numbers of tourist coaches from entering the city.

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