Holidays are the most eagerly awaited days of the year, which is why it is important everything goes to plan. Arriving in a city and not finding somewhere to park and spending hours in the car looking for parking can spoil those longed-for days off. At the same time, residents of these cities suffer the consequences of the arrival of huge waves of tourists as they can cause more problems than benefits in some cases.
One of the first priorities of the inhabitants of a territory is freedom of movement and the need to travel, which constitutes a fundamental right of the citizen. This requirement is difficult to meet in densely populated areas as is the case in cities in general, particularly those with variations in their usual traffic volumes in a short period of time such as tourist areas.
This situation usually leads to problems such as a decline in retail sales, environmental pollution of the city generated by carbon dioxide emissions and noise pollution caused by cars. Such a context therefore becomes a nuisance for residents and traders, while also creating a poor image for visitors.
Technology for Smart Cities and the action plans implemented by city councils help alleviate these situations. Isolated cases in coastal or mountainous region municipalities or even World Heritage Sites show how it is possible to reverse this trend and once again enjoy these cities.
Sète, city of canals and bridges
Known for its curious location and geographical distribution, this French town of 45,166 inhabitants receives between 320,000 and 400,000 tourists a year. Sète is communicated at various points by bridges that cross its canals which serve as the main access into the town, causing frequent traffic jams.
“When we talk about Sète, two things spring to mind: we cannot drive around easily or park”, bemoaned the deputy mayor of the town Sébastien Pacull in an interview with the French newspaper Midi Libre. To change this image, the town has launched an ambitious action plan to optimise and rationalise the space dedicated to vehicles, pedestrians and their flows.
It is a parking system that works in certain regulated areas, where you can now cross-check the sensor data with the use times of the parking spaces to optimise and manage parking areas more efficiently. Sensors have also been installed on the busiest streets to determine vehicle flow and measure traffic intensity. Other sensors installed on bridges identify whether they are open or closed to vehicles.
The guided parking in Sète system helps reduce traffic congestion guiding users based on real-time information on the availability of parking spaces on public roads.
Benidorm, the New York of the Mediterranean
This Spanish municipality in the province of Alicante has a high population density (1792 hab/km² and 69,045 inhabitants according to the last census of 2015) reaching no less than 400,000 inhabitants in summer.
Benidorm is the third city with most hotel beds in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona and is known as the New York of the Mediterranean, being the city with the most skyscrapers per square metre in the world after New York.
Given this large tourist influx it was necessary to develop a mobility plan, produced by the University of Alicante. The Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) of Benidorm document includes seven projects designed to ensure sustainability in mobility, starting with achieving universal accessibility in the urban area.
The action plans covered by the SUMP refer to pedestrians, cyclists, public transport, private transport, mobility management, training and education and clean vehicles. Each of these plans entails a series of actions such as the development of a universal accessibility plan, the improvement and expansion of pavements, the creation of more pedestrian streets, promoting use of the bicycle, the interconnection of the existing bicycle path network.
L’Escala a population of holidaymakers
This town on the Costa Brava has a population of around 10,200 people which usually multiplies during the summer. The large increase in its population during the summer generated traffic problems and congestion, largely caused by vehicles looking for free parking spaces.
The local government urgently needed to reduce traffic congestion and decided to install parking sensors on parking spaces and counting sensors at the entrances and exits to the most important car parks in the town. Through seven information panels strategically placed on the access roads to the town, vehicles are guided according to the actual parking space availability, reducing unnecessary traffic flow caused by cars looking for parking by up to 30%.
Tourism and heritage in the 21st century
While medieval cities were built to be inaccessible, the 21st century requires cities that are viable for traffic and the pedestrian mobility of their inhabitants and tourists. Many of the ancient cities in Spain urgently require transformation, for example Toledo, Alcalá de Henares, Salamanca, Ibiza, Tarragona, Santiago de Compostela, Segovia and Cáceres, to name but a few.
Tourist cities such as Ibiza, Alcalá de Henares y Toledo are also World Heritage Sites. In these cases The White Paper on Mobility in Heritage Cities has set a precedent on different ways of taking action to solve the problems that arise today.
The document states that the most common solution taken to make these types of roads accessible has been the building of a single platform and in many cases pedestrianisation. However, there are also other solutions applicable to these types of problems, particularly those related to vehicle traffic.
Alcalá de Henares, the responsibility of being a World Heritage Site
With 206,000 residents and an additional daily floating population of around 50,000, Alcalá de Henares is a municipality located in the eastern part of the Autonomous Region of Madrid. It is strategically located in terms of communications, since it receives all the traffic flow from the N-II road and is crossed by the Madrid-Barcelona rail line.
In an automobile census in the municipality in April 2014, 84% of vehicles there belonged to the tourism sector. Given these numbers, the city council started to implement several measures to solve problems caused by the huge influx of tourists and the need to ensure both the well-being of citizens and visitors.
One of the actions included the programme to promote bicycle use in the city and the creation of a series of parking areas to facilitate pedestrian transit, helping to improve environmental sustainability and increase mobility in the city centre.
Ibiza receives two million tourists a year
Ibiza is an island in the Mediterranean forming the archipelago and autonomous region of the Balearic Islands, in Spain. It has an area of 572 km² and a population of 140,964 inhabitants (according to the 2015 population census), and receives roughly 2,000,000 tourists a year attracted by the beauty of its landscapes and its world-famous entertainment and night-life options.
Being such a popular tourist destination started to generate various problems on the island. This seasonal influx complicated access to the centre and caused congestion of vehicles looking for parking in the Marina. This situation affected the well-being of the population and had a negative impact on trade and the image of the area. As a result, the local government decided to place sensors on the parking spaces of the Marina and install a panel to inform drivers of parking space availability, therefore avoiding unnecessary vehicle access in case all the spaces were occupied. This smart parking technology is part of Urbiotica's solutions and enables optimised management of parking areas and quicker access into the city centre.
Cities today have great disagreements concerning the use of the limited soil availability. Some cities prefer to dedicate more space to new parking areas, while others, such as Ibiza and some touristic places decided to optimise the management of the existing parking areas to make the most of them and this way reduce vehicles driving around searching for a free spot and hence reduce traffic jams. Citizens are satisfied because they no longer waste time looking for parking, suffer less stress and have improved quality of life.
More information regarding parking optimisation can be found here:
Urbiotica is a Barcelona-based company specialised in the design and development of latest generation sensing systems which provide real-time information on what is happening in areas of mobility, waste management and environmental monitoring. It currently has projects installed in more than 30 cities.
Tania Josa. Communication Manager
93 169 18 65
For more information: urbiotica.com