Traffic in Athens is continuously deteriorating and traffic congestion is expected to further increase if no immediate action is taken. Unfortunately, the decade of financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic were two more missed opportunities. On one hand, the Authorities did not exploited the reduction in traffic in order to push new models of sustainable urban mobility, thus inertia led to the chaotic traffic conditions we are experiencing today but also in the future. On the other hand, Athenians did not seem to respond to the occasionally proposed mobility changes such as the Athens Great Walk and continue to stick on their private cars.
In several European cities which listen and implement the proposals of the Transportation Engineers, the key tools for sustainable traffic management (especially during the pandemic) are the sincere support of Public Transport, integrated parking management policies and the systematic promotion of active mobility (cycling, walking).
Public Transport (PT) is the main alternative to traffic congestion providing the most efficient way of mass mobility. Existing Public Transport systems can be made significantly more attractive mainly by ensuring their priority on bus lanes but also by significantly increasing service frequency. However in order for Athenians to believe in PT, the Authorities should first sincerely do so by immediate service upgrade and enforcing and guaranteeing their priority.
At the same time, targeted parking management can significantly affect transportation demand and especially mode choice. Today’s fully unorganized short and long term parking of passenger cars, taxis and motorcycles tolerated by Traffic Police inevitably leads to increased traffic congestion, not only by encouraging more vehicles entering the city but also by dramatically reducing the available space for traffic, especially at junctions. There is immediate need to adopt and implement integrated and targeted parking management systems such as Athens City parking management scheme (which does not promote long-term parking of visitors) coupled with systematic daily enforcement.
In addition, switching from private cars to active travel modes such as cycling and walking can have a significant positive contribution to short-distance travelling, as long as they are provided with the necessary public space (mainly at the expense of illegal or legal parking of private cars). Beyond the regaining of public space from private cars, there are also multiple benefits for the environment and the health of the Athenians.
These policies are traffic management oriented and can be implemented relatively quickly, provided a sincere political will, trust in scientists and persistence on the coordination of all relevant Authorities.
Interview at Kathimerini newspaper in October 2021