Innovation is a word which has been popular for several years now, and which has often been associated with business and science. Nowadays in Poland, successful cooperation of these two fields can be observed, a great example of which are the public transport solutions introduced in collaboration of the city and Cracow University of Technology.
Numerous cases of successful cooperation of science and business can be found in Małopolska region. The scientists of Department of Robotics and Mechatronics at AGH University of Science and Technology have been working on a laser system aimed at fast and precise diagnosis of faults in airplanes, yachts or winter sports equipment. The university also prides itself on its interdisciplinary construction team, which specialises in space industry technologies. There are various examples of innovative activities, and the effects of the cooperation between universities and business or public administration can be found on a daily basis, for instance, when using public transport.
Vast research on the preferences of passengers in Polish cities shows that bus public transport is fairly popular due to its availability, speed and punctuality. The securement of the last two factors seems to be a challenge for the organizers of collective passenger transport, and the easiest way to do that is by separating special lanes for buses. Kraków has been cooperating in this respect for several years with Department of Transportation Systems at Cracow University of Technology.
Bus lanes can be created as additional traffic lanes or through the change of the purpose of one of the existing traffic lanes. As far as the latter is concerned, there almost always appear discussions between the advocates and the opponents of such a solution. Hence the cooperation of the city council with Department of Cracow University of Technology, since each implementation of a bus lane must be preceded by a detailed analysis of traffic and the number of passengers of collective and individual transport must be taken into account.
Most frequently, the analysts use simulation methods which assume the appearance of new passengers encouraged by the improvement of bus travel conditions. If the amount of time saved by bus passengers is greater than the amount of time wasted by car passengers, then creation of a bus lane is legitimate.
Research at Cracow University of Technology
The research on the efficiency of bus lanes has been conducted in Department of Transportation Systems at Cracow University of Technology for many years, and its results are taken into account when creating plans for the development of Kraków public transport. The research includes, among others, the analysis of the time that buses spend on the bus lanes, the time saved by passengers when various bus lanes applications are used, and the optimization of the number and structure of vehicles using bus lanes (also including the unauthorized ones).
Another element analysed is the influence of numerous factors which disrupt bus travel and which result from the organization of transport, traffic and the changing traffic conditions, the changes in the behaviour of traffic participants, and weather conditions. The research, also based on simulation analysis, is aimed at preparation of such bus lanes construction methods that would make them most efficient. It also becomes an important argument in the debate on the relevance of bus lane creation in urban space.
Solutions in Kraków
There are almost 40 km of bus lanes in the capital of Małopolska. The greatest transportation speed (including stops) at the periods of traffic peaks is achieved on the bus lanes in Lipska Street, amounting to 27 km/h on average. The scientists at Cracow University of Technology have also proved that the bus lanes offering lower speed make it possible to shorten travel time. For example, on one of the better-known bus lanes in Poland, situated on Trzech Wieszczów Avenue in Cracow, the average speed does not exceed 15 km/h. However, the simulation shows that if the bus lane was opened for general traffic, the speed would drop to 9 km/h!
On the left
Although the bus lanes used in Polish cities are almost always located on the right side of the road, the range of available solutions is much wider. There are a lot of examples of European solutions with lanes located on the left side of the road (e.g. in Madrid or Nice) or located between the existing lanes which run in opposing directions – and the bus lane in Prądnicka Street in Kraków, one of the most efficient ones in the city (the average travel speed exceeds 27 km/h), is an example of such an idea.
The innovative solutions will probably start to appear in Polish cities more often, since the simulation research conducted at Cracow University of Technology shows their high efficiency. The question remains, whether these results will be reflected in the infrastructure of Polish cities.
Cooperation is imperative!
Most importantly, the decisions concerning new implementations should be made on the basis of reliable analysis results, to enable the choice of the most advantageous solutions that take into account the benefits and losses of all traffic participants. Consequently, the ongoing collaboration of the city with technical universities appears to be crucial. Plans for a bus lane network are created on the basis of the results of advanced traffic analysis – such solution was proposed in e.g. the transportation plan for Kielce.
Considerable expansion of the bus lane network is also possible in Kraków. Currently, an original concept for the construction of a consistent bus lane system is being created for the needs of the Urban Innovations Task Force, appointed by the President of the City of Kraków.