City of Plovdiv (Bulgaria)
The Municipality of Plovdiv is the second largest city in Bulgaria, approximately 152 km south-east of the Bulgarian capital Sofia. It is situated in the southern part of the Plovdiv Plain on the two banks of the Maritsa River, connected by bridges. It has six hills, some of which are 250 m high. Even though it is situated in a valley, it has good connections to the mountains where winter resorts and leisure time activities are carried out. The most popular transport modes are public transport and private vehicles inside the city, and intercity buses and trains outside the city. There are plans for expanding the bicycle network as the number of people using a bike is rapidly increasing, thus the network is reaching a critical point.
Plovdiv is also called the cultural capital of the country bearing numerous historical and archaeological spots that interest locals and tourists. It hosts economic and cultural events - the International Fair Plovdiv, international theatre and music festivals. There are many remains preserved from antiquity such as the ancient amphitheatre, and other roman sites. These attract a great number of local and foreign tourists and visitors throughout the year. So, the city is an important economic, transport, cultural and educational centre where many people gather. Additionally, the people flow through the city is increasing constantly. Both reasons cause concerns about facilities, information and accessibility.
Actual state of accessibility-work
Accessibility is an issue that has become important in Plovdiv due to the recent archaeological discoveries, infrastructure that is being built and the social inclusion trends. Moreover, the new buildings and renovated ones in Plovdiv include more accessibility features than before.
There has been a history of architectural steps towards improving accessibility, but mostly fulfilling the requirements defined by law.
Actions towards improving the public space have been private initiatives of local organisations of people with reduced mobility. Awareness raising by them is a well-spread practice. The public transport operators have also fulfilled some of the requirements for low-floor buses and training of personnel operating them. They are also working on programmes for improving the qualification of personnel in terms of their attitude towards people with reduced mobility – knowing their needs is understanding them. The public transport services provide information for local and foreign tourists.
However, there is not a department dedicated to accessibility issues. The municipality of Plovdiv has general and specialised administration structures related to social policies and PRMs: “Public Health”, the department of European policies and social activities (“European policies”, “Coordination and preparation of projects”, “Humanitarian activities and social actions”, “Social activities”) clubs of the retired people, people with permanently reduced mobility and impairments,; department of tourism; and the department of youth, policies, sport and public safety and order (“Public safety and order”, “Organisation and safety of the transport”). Currently, the elements of accessibility as defined by ISEMOA are responsibilities of various departments – architectural, planning, transport planning, social activities, etc. So, undertaking actions for improving accessibility becomes a complex task for the municipality.
The ISEMOA scheme tried to consolidate the key actors within the municipality, so that actions could be coordinated easily in the future.
The ISEMOA quality cycle was implemented by the Municipality of Plovdiv coordinated by experts from the Energy Agency of Plovdiv. An essential part of the work was the consultation with the local transport operators and the organisations of people with reduced mobility.
The results of the ISEMOA scheme inspired local actors to consider changing the current state-of-the-art and plan for improvement of actions. The modal split of the municipality of Plovdiv shows a high percentage of car-use that can be changed by introducing door-to-door mobility chains, to make public transport prevail. Encouraging walking also has the potential to increase seamless mobility.
- % public transport use: 45%
- % car use: 35 %
- % walking: 17 %
- % bicycle use: 2 %
- % carsharing: 1 %
The Department of Humanitarian Activities and Social Actions may further develop current activities like the strategy of the municipality of Plovdiv for providing equal opportunities for people with reduced mobility and impairments 2009-2011 and the “Activities on improving the accessibility in public space and transport”. An update of the Civil map for reporting dangerous and unsafe sites in the city of Plovdiv could also be a possibility for change.
The implementation of the ISEMOA scheme inspired ideas for a variety of improvements that will satisfy not only the demands of PRM, but will also be beneficial for local citizens and tourists.
The ISEMOA Accessibility Plan will continue to be developed and measures added. As a final result of its elaboration, a concise plan of the required accessibility actions will be developed. The local situation needs to not only adhere to local laws and regulations regarding accessibility, but also build a dedicated action plan for interventions related to general improvement of the public space and transport. The municipality of Plovdiv and its citizens realise that effects from facilitating mobility reach everyone, not only those with reduced mobility.
ISEMOA-inspired conclusions of the local stakeholders
A comprehensive view of accessibility is needed; like the one ISEMOA provides.
If no action towards improvement has ever been made, then a baseline is needed. Or, at least a basic overview of the actions implemented in the past.
When property is public and private, then an audit could be an initiative of locals, but also of the municipality.
Much should be known in regards to the local state-of-the-art regarding accessibility to inform appropriate actions.
Representatives of PRM groups give valuable feedback to the ISEMOA Team.
ISEMOA triggers fruitful cooperation.
ISEMOA builds new bridges; thus, making a network of accessibility responsible people.
Accessibility issues require time and attention, and ISEMOA succeeds in organising the whole process.