The Energy Agency of Podravje (EnergaP) is helping the city of Maribor, Slovenia, to implement its sustainable mobility initiative. The BENEFIT project, funded through the Intelligent Energy - Europe (IEE) programme, plays a key role in this effort.
Maribor is the second largest city in Slovenia with around 110,000 inhabitants. The city’s development has been determined by its geographical position at the junction of roads connecting Central Europe with Southern Europe and Western Europe with the Pannonian plain. Due to its distance of just 18 km from the Austrian border, Maribor represents the gateway into the country as well as to the Balkans. This favourable position makes the city a cultural and economic centre for north-eastern Slovenia. The side-effect of this strategic location is the high volume of traffic and consequently the environmental impact that this is causing, especially given the low popularity of public transport.
Promoting public transport in Maribor has been a challenging task. The route connections are insufficient, the time schedules of buses are not well organised and the ticket system is old and inefficient, without using the possibilities of information and communication technology. Furthermore, the mobility policy at the regional and national level is not well structured and coherent. Policy and legislation do not motivate citizens to use public transport for work and therefore mobility management is not among the priorities of employers or employees. It is only in the public sector that employees’ transport costs are covered, but still the incentives provided are not enough to boost the use of public transport.
In January 2009 the Maribor City Council adopted the Local Energy Concept which outlines the city’s aims for sustainable mobility. At the same time, EnergaP started implementing the IEE-funded BENEFIT project. The project is oriented towards the promotion of public transport as a key element for sustainable mobility. The aim has been to conserve 2.3 million litres of fuel and 5,600 tons of CO2 per year by the end of the project duration (36 months) through awareness raising activities and highlighting the advantages of public transport.
Among the priorities has been the formation of a sustainable mobility council with 9 members (users, researchers, city administrators, bus service providers, Energap) with an active role in promoting and supporting the public bus system of Maribor. Energap will be the coordinator of the council and will act as the Sustainable Mobility Centre for the city.
The first results of the BENEFIT project are already visible, while more is expected to be delivered in the near future.
The initiative to adopt a sustainable mobility model in Maribor has contributed to a viable and modern strategy that will serve the citizens’ needs and will have the smallest possible impact on human health and the environment. EnergaP has played a key role through the implementation of BENEFIT project, which functions as a “kick off” activity for sustainable mobility in Maribor. The lessons learned from Maribor can be of great use to energy agencies, public authorities and local energy actors from across Europe.