Vilnius is a capitol city of Lithuania. It is political, cultural, economical, educational and scientific center. The population of Vilnius is 542 thousand, but including suburbs the number would reach 850 thousand. Furthermore, every day Vilnius City is visited by 150 thousand people who work there or use various services. Therefore, one of the biggest problems in Vilnius City is the problem of transportation. More than a half of Vilnius residents indicated this problem as a major one.
In the last 20 years the number of cars increased almost fourfold. With the improved standard of living, people mobility increased as well. Such public transport as trolley-buses and buses has lost its prestige. The city holds only a couple of two-level road junctions; there are not enough under- and over-passes for pedestrians. There are no traffic detours because all of them became inner streets of the city. Traffic jams last for 6 hours a day and in some road blocks they exceed 12 hours. The average travel speed in the streets is 16 km/h. Forced stops, accidents, road works, repairs of underground communication services often create huge traffic jams that overtake all streets and last for hours. Annual losses of almost 1 billion Euros are calculated because of traffic jams and under-developed public transport.
Constantly increasing traffic jams result enormous losses (according to the data provided by The Ministry of Transport and Communications - 2 billion Litas per annum). The government adopts important resolutions without any business contests, discussions or alternatives. That is why the civil initiative was founded and a CREATIVE GROUP was assembled. This group established a new goal – to present to the society an analysis of communications infrastructure (tram) special plan and a study of an alternative (metro). The study was carried out with a reference to the data used to compile a global plan of Vilnius City and combining it with the new supplemental research data. The experience of designing, building and exploiting tram and metro systems in other European cities was taken into consideration as well. The study looks at a time span of up to the year 2050, taking global development prospects and tendencies of various capitol cities into account.
Analysis of Tram System
City planners were ordered by politicians to prepare a possibility study for the introduction of the tram system. The study also analyzed an alternative – metro system. However, authors of the special (tram) plan rejected the alternative of metro appealing to questionable and poorly analyzed reasons: small population, huge construction expenses and bad geological conditions.
The first reason is utterly unjustified because a number of European cities with population below one million have successfully operating metro systems. The examples are provided in the table below.
NOTE. According to the standards of Soviet Union, metro system could only be planned and installed in cities with a population of 1 million and higher. As a result, the majority of citizens still think that installing metro system in cities with a lower population would be uneconomical.
The second reason is also unjustified. According to engineering geology and hydro-geology researches, the conditions fall under the category of average complexity. The data was collected, analyzed and assessed by Prof. K. Dundulis and his work group. The conclusions show that geological and hydro-geological conditions in Vilnius are most favorable for metro constructions.
The third reason is justifiable because the installation of metro system costs 30 percent more than that of tram lines, however, comparing to other public transport, maintenance expenses are 4-7 times lower.
On the subject of tram services, such important aspect as cultural heritage should be noted. There is a rumor that tram system would be useful for cultural heritage, especially in Vilnius Old Town - traffic flow would supposedly decrease, there would be more space for pedestrians. With a removal of trolley-buses there would be no distasteful electrical cables, and the tram system itself would fit perfectly in Old Town without causing any damage to cultural heritage. However, a thorough analysis of this so called "tram project" shows different results.
Protected historic landscape and architectural heritage would actually be in danger. Engineers of the tram project admit that laying tram lines in narrow streets of Old Town and City Center (Stoties, Sodų, Pylimo, Jogailos and Vilniaus) would require various modifications: changing direction, incline or surface level of the streets. Some sections of Pylimo Street would not accommodate any other means of transportation, and the width of pavement would dangerously decrease to 1 meter. In other sections of aforementioned streets a carriageway would take place of present pavements, and parts of old street lawn would be converted to pavements (engineers suggest narrowing Reformatų and P. Cvirkos squares and totally refusing Malkų market square). Such changes to national heritage are prohibited by law.
Even more uncertainties arise while reading conclusions of the study. They are unfavorable to the tram system. Regarding impact on traffic organization and traffic flows, compilers of this special plan state that "Introduction of modern tram system to Vilnius City street network is relevant to adequate decrease of lanes (where street lawns are unavailable) in streets chosen for modern tram lines. <...> In every respect some of the tram lines will undergo essential changes in traffic organization. The impact of changes will depend on geometric properties of the street, traffic intensity and fitting possibilities of the tram system.”
“In every respect modern tram traffic organization having a priority in crossroads will encumber transport flows in crossroads (along with other road sections). Traveling time by car will increase, and the average speed of transport flow near tram lines will fall to 4.5 - 5 km/h.”
With expenses like that a question rises: is this transport system really suitable for Vilnius City. Thus a group of specialists teamed up for social purposes. They analyzed the tram project and prepared a possibility study of metro system introduction to Vilnius City. They assume that metro system would be a better solution to the transport communication problem because:
1. The special plan (tram system) solves Vilnius public transport development questions up to the year 2015. Authors of the study (metro) solve problems of all traffic with available measures for 4 years and plan public transport development prospect up to the year 2035.
2. The special plan (tram) is oriented to fully exploit public transport. Authors of the study (metro) orients to least time consuming solutions for passengers.
3. Compilers of the special plan (tram) suggest modernizing STREET transport system by stationing tram-lines. Authors of the study (metro) suggest creating not a street system but a metro transport system.
METRO LINES AND THEIR INSTALLATION EXPENSES
I. Line Nr. 1. VIRŠULIŠKĖS - KATEDROS SQUARE
Karoliniškės, Viršuliškės and Justiniškės residential districts are located on the upper Nėris terrace, on the right river bank. Pilaitė district is still expanding. Therefore, the junction of Justiniškių Street and Laisvės Avenue encounters largest traffic flows. Whereas working places are situated mostly on the lower Nėris terrace, on the right river bank, it is suggested to start constructions from this line, installing and exploiting this metro line from Viršuliškės district to Mindaugas Bridge.
This possible line could be later expanded to the west - Pilaitė as well as to the east - Žirmūnai. Due to high passenger traffic the exploitation of this line would be very effective during rush-hours. Almost 9000 public transport passengers use this line during rush-hours. In addition, about 7000 people travel this course by cars at this time.
With reference to this assumption, line Nr. 1 would need to transport 16000 passengers during rush-hours (from 7 to 9 AM). With an exploitation speed of 40 km/h, the 5km route would take about 7-8 minutes.
II. Line Nr. 2. PAŠILAIČIAI - RAILWAY STATION
Whereas Vilnius is located in the southeastern side of Lithuania, the northern entrance to the city is heavily loaded with traffic. In Vilnius streets network Ukmergės Street became the most actively developing area. Pašilaičiai, Fabijoniškės, Šeskinė residential districts and various infrastructure objects are located on the both sides of the street. Moreover, the city rapidly expands to Širvintai - Ukmergė direction, and urban concentration in this area is obvious.
The first stage of this line includes City Center, large-scale objects (shopping malls "Akropolis", "Senukai", future national stadium, etc.) and future tall buildings in Šnipiškės. Line Nr. 2 would provide better city expansion conditions in north direction. Moreover, the traffic in Ukmergės Street would decrease significantly. High capacity public transport system would allow expanding city boundaries on both sides of this main road.
III. Line Nr. 3. JUSTINIŠKĖS - ANTAKALNIS
This line will follow from the west to the east and will connect future western city detour with Saulėtekis building complex in Antakalnis district. This metro line should be installed under future Šiaurinė Street, in current zone of high-voltage transformers located on the slopes of a nearby ravine. In such way a great infrastructure would be created, and current unexploited areas would become very valuable in urban and economic aspects. This line inter-crosses with lines Nr. 1 and Nr. 2, thus creating a possibility to reach any district in a shortest period of time. Allocating land for metro tunnels and finishing Šiaurinė Street constructions on time would determine the lowest price of this line.
This line would provide the possibility to install various circular lines. The metro system could be expanded even further. One of the possibilities is to install an additional line connecting Lazdynai district with Litexpo building complex, Gerosios Vilties and Panerių streets and Railway Station where this line would merge with line Nr. 2.
METRO SYSTEM IMPACT ON CITY DEVELOPMENT
Metro system is a very important element of city infrastructure. The experience of other cities show, that installation of metro system intensified their economic life. The price of real estate in a range of 500 meters from metro lines increased by 25 percent, thus resulting intense city development in these areas.
Installation of prospective metro lines to the city suburbs can be planned according to the general city plan and its specifications. Therefore, planning of metro system would become a part of city planning that helps solving transport problems in these areas.
POSSIBILITIES OF HERITAGE PRESERVATION
For the last few years Vilnius City has suffered from rapidly increasing traffic jams. Not only city residents but also old buildings suffer from air pollution and vibration. Therefore a new means of public transport is considered.
Most of the threats to Old Town heritage and nature could be prevented by choosing another means of public transport - metro system. It can be installed by excavating tunnels deep under ground without any threat to archaeology, street lawns or buildings.
There are a number of similar examples throughout the world. While selecting tunnel routes and places for stations, both: underground heritage and heritage above the ground are considered. Geophysical and other researches can show in advance the places of valuable materials what helps to preserve them by excavating a little bit deeper.
On the other hand, underground transport (metro and vehicle tunnels) really helps to decrease ground traffic. Therefore, Old Town would have more places for pedestrians, more public areas; all street lawns would be saved. Archaeological layer would not be destroyed, so archaeologists could do researches consecutively and without haste.
Underground transport would free city from traffic jams, save time of residents, and leave more space for public areas, pedestrians and cyclists.
EVALUATION OF ENGINEERING GEOLOGY CONDITIONS
Overall geological and hydro-geological conditions in Vilnius City were evaluated. The analysis of ground water and geological structure in future metro line places was carried out. These researches show that most of Vilnius City territory is quite suitable for metro installation. According to complexity of engineering geology conditions, places for future metro lines mostly fall under average complexity category. Complex engineering geology conditions can only be found in several places; namely where future metro lines would go along Nėris river terrace, where level of ground water is high.
Engineering geology conditions for the future metro construction in Vilnius were additionally compared to geological conditions of underground tunnel excavation sites in other European cities (Amsterdam, Berlin, Hamburg, and Rotterdam) where tunnels were successfully excavated and have been exploited since. The comparison shows that underground facilities in these cities were build in more difficult conditions.
OVER-VIEWING SOCIAL BENEFITS OF METRO AND TRAM SYSTEMS
With the improved standard of living more and more Vilnius City residents reject inconvenient public transport and travel by cars, thus making traffic jam problem even more obvious. Specialists of The Ministry of Transport and Communications indicated the importance of this problem and its price. The research show that because of traffic jams citizenry loses about 1.581 billion Litas a year. Fuel expenses amount to 615.28 million, and 965.81 million are lost due to wasted time of residents.
Observing the current situation, the study of possibilities to install the tram system was conducted. The study showed that tram project is the most practical and seems as a best alternative for Vilnius City.
However, alternative projects had no such studies, thus it can not be truly stated that there is no other and more useful project than the tram system. Moreover, the study was prepared by the interested company and not by an independent expert. Models of public transport flow compiled by the independent expert showed that installing tram lines A and B would only increase travel time and worsen the whole situation.
While preparing the study of possible tram lines, a part of the society suggested the possibility of metro system - a means of transportation that is located in other level than other means, thus solving the problem of traffic jams.
Both: tram and metro systems are very expensive, therefore, before deciding which project should be exercised, it is crucial to evaluate and compare social expenses and benefits of both projects. In this part we will compare social expenses and benefits of metro and tram services.
The comparison of possible metro and tram prices consists of 16 criteria that were chosen to evaluate more accurately which system in the eyes of the society is superior - tram or metro. The comparison of possible prices consists of such criteria:
1. Land price and ground rent.
2. Additional driver preparation expenses.
3. Value of destroyed infrastructure.
4. Differences in speed of new means of transportation.
5. Relationship with other means of transportation and decreased capacity of roads.
6. Comfort and esthetics.
7. Building stations in valuable areas.
8. Accident rate.
9. Price of construction.
10. Impact of construction works.
12. Price change of current real estate.
14. Environmental impact.
Most of the criteria have a specific economic value, however, some of them, for example, heritage, comfort and esthetics, are very difficult to evaluate. They cannot be left behind as well because these criteria are important enough. Thus while analyzing the results it should be pointed out that there are such criteria that cannot be evaluated by price.
The rest of the criteria have a real economic value. All initial data needed for calculations were collected in cooperation with other, mostly European cities. The research also used data collected by Lithuanian scientists and institutions, as well as data from the study by French company "SYSTRA".
Calculations were done according to given formulas, and methods were described.
Preliminary results show that socially metro system is more useful than tram system. The price of planned tram lines is 52 million Litas per kilometer, whereas the possible price of metro installation is 120 million Litas per kilometer. Having in mind social aspects the price of tram lines increases to 101 million Litas per kilometer.
Although metro system is more expensive, the annual social benefit of this service in comparison to tram lines would be 4 times higher. Metro line, which is parallel to tram line A, every year would bring 66 million Litas bigger benefit (on an average 6.6 million Litas per kilometer).
Thus additional social benefit of metro system would buy off all investments of 1.25 billion Litas in 19 years.
On the other hand, tram lines in a same period of time would create 1.25 billion Litas losses that would show up as a lost social benefit.
Infrastructure development projects are a part of local government activities. While planning city development, local government respectively develops new and modernizes existing infrastructure objects. Available financial resources collected by taxes are allocated by local government to up-keep existing infrastructure objects and public services such as education. Another concern is large-scale infrastructure development projects. In most cases local government has not enough funds to develop these projects. Since infrastructure development often is a necessity and not a whim of government officials, cities are forced to search for possibilities to draw additional funds for expensive infrastructure development projects.
In Soviet Union a tendency prevailed that projects of this nature were financed by central government subsidies. In a western world other financing arrangements are common. One of the popular ones is so called PPP or Public Private Partnership, where infrastructure projects are partly financed by private investors, or private businesses immerse into project in other forms. PPP principle is often applied in Great Britain, mostly in financing transport infrastructure projects.
While analyzing general composition of infrastructure project financing, it is clear that "side" funds comprise more than 60 percent of project value. Central government subsidies amount to 28 percent, and local government funding amounts to 11 percent of overall project funds.
FINANCING ARRANGEMENTS OF OTHER INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS
Examples from other cities of the world show that a great deal of infrastructure projects is financed by borrowing deficient resources from financial institutions, whereas local government institutions postpone financial liabilities. Regardless chosen infrastructure financing arrangements, everything is paid by citizens. EU funds are collected from ES residents, central government funds - from state, local government funds - from citizens. Borrowed funds are commonly repaid by citizens of municipality; however, some cities have alternative ways. A number of cities introduce temporary infrastructure taxes to finance new infrastructure objects. It is the same with states and state-wide objects. Some cities introduce road taxes where a certain amount from fuel price goes to transport infrastructure funds. Basically these taxes are the same as excise duty. In densely populated cities such as Singapore road taxes were introduced, and the fee differs from the time of day. Such arrangements should be thoroughly analyzed because they help citizenry to avoid additional expenses related to necessity of borrowing.
Most of the previously analyzed cities borrow part of the funds for infrastructure projects from financial institutions. This pattern is very common when there is a lack of financial resources. However, this pattern is not the cheapest one. In search of cheaper patterns some cities introduced so called infrastructure taxes that help to avoid borrowing procedures. Such cities can realize expensive infrastructure projects on their own or with a help of central government.
Vilnius City does not have its investment fund system; therefore it would be wise to choose a private investor with a partial support of local government. Looking forward to future investment needs it is necessary to discuss a possibility of transport infrastructure taxes and investment fund system.
DEVELOPMENT PERSPECTIVES (DEMOGRAPHIC ASPECT)
The importance of Vilnius City is constantly growing nation-wide and investments to city economy are increasing. In the last five years on the average 4000 apartments and 1000 cottages are built each year. Housing rent is also increasing significantly. These secondary features show that every year more than 5000 people settle down in Vilnius. In another 20 years the population of Vilnius City should increase by 100 thousand.