The countries of the Mediterranean area, North Africa and the Middle East have a historic, cultural and natural patrimony constituting an extraordinary tourist attraction and, therefore, potential source of economic development. However, the inadequacy of some parts of the transport system is a stumbling block.
The EMERET project aimed at improving, in the direction of a greater sustainability and interoperability, the efficiency and effectiveness of the transport systems of the tourist areas of the Mediterranean countries, by transferring to those contexts transport measures successfully implemented in European cities.
Specific objectives of the EMERET project were:
- to verify the transferability of innovative measures and methodologies experimented within the European cities in significantly different contexts, such as those of the third countries of the Mediterranean;
- to define a pilot project in the city of Bethlehem, on the bases of the above-mentioned experiences and a detailed analysis of the local problems;
- to identify a network of Mediterranean cities of particular interest for tourism in European and third countries.
An important objective of the EMERET project was, by forming a network, to lay the groundwork for the creation of a consortium of collaborating MED and EU cities. This consortium would thus already be in place for subsequent EC actions (“shared cost”) aimed at the diffusion in the third countries of both decision support systems for planning and evaluation models of the results of the transport-related measures on the socio-economic activities and on the environment. In other words, the EMERET network represents a significant head start on future initiatives.
The activities carried out during the project can be divided into two groups.
1) Analysis of the problems of the Bethlehem transport system and definition of the pilot projects.
The first step towards the definition of the pilot projects was the analysis of the transport problems in Bethlehem. On the basis of this analysis the following objectives were identified:
- to rationalise use of the space between motorised modes, public transport and pedestrians;
- to improve safety;
- to reduce traffic nuisance in sensitive areas.
The next step was to identify the best measures, among those successfully implemented in the framework of the European Commission transport research programme, for pursuing the above-mentioned objectives. The result of these activities was the identification of the following possible interventions, subjects of the three pilot projects to be implemented in the city of Bethlehem:
- reorganisation of the public transport system, at present completely fragmented, utilising the new bus station as interchange and integration node;
- reorganisation of the parking system, with fees charged in some commercial streets;
- pedestrianisation of some streets of tourist interest.
For each pilot project a selection of possible sites was made. On the basis of the collected information, different alternatives were compared to identify the best solution.
Accompanying measures were then defined to increase the effectiveness of the proposed measures.
Unfortunately, the situation of violent conflict in Palestine, and specifically in Bethlehem, has impeded the development of the planned pilot project activities.
2) Creation of the network of cities and benchmarking of their transport systems.
One specific objective of EMERET was to verify the transferability of the innovative measures and methodologies experimented with in European cities in significantly different contexts, such as those of the third countries of the Mediterranean.
In line with this objective, a benchmarking exercise was carried out in order to:
- assess the present condition of the transport systems;
- identify possibilities for improvement;
- identify how to obtain improvements.
A peculiar aspect of this benchmarki
A benchmarking exercise was carried out, taking into account the results of European research projects, in order to identify the principal problems and possible solutions for the transport systems of the above-mentioned areas. The major differences were that in the Middle East cities there is a higher number of accidents, injured people and fatalities, a lack of areas reserved to pedestrians, unsafe walking conditions, and finally a very poor user perception of transport system externalities.
The differences and gaps that emerged through the benchmarking exercise highlighted possible fields of interventions to improve efficiency and effectiveness of transport systems in the Mediterranean cities. The five cities involved can constitute the nucleus of a network of European and Mediterranean cities, oriented to the exchange of information on transport systems and best practices.
Special attention was focused on the transport system of Bethlehem city (Palestinian Authority), which constituted the main project test site. Three pilot projects were defined for the city of Bethlehem in order to rationalise the use of the space between motorised modes, public transport, and pedestrians, to improve safety and to reduce traffic nuisance in sensitive areas. These pilots are:
- Pilot project 1: the pedestrianisation of Star Street;
- Pilot project 2: the pay parking on Paul VI Street;
- Pilot project 3: the enhancement of the new station.
The three pilot projects provided information useful to the creation of a traffic policy in Bethlehem that could be both effective and acceptable to the public. Unfortunately, because of the conflict in Palestine, it was not possible to implement and test the measures defined and already tried in the European cities, and to evaluate their efficacy in a completely different socio-economic, cultural and religious context.
Main recommendations of the project are the following. It would be only practical to start the next project with the network, or a core network, already in place. To that end it will be useful to continue developing the contacts acquired so far, in both cities and research institutes. It will be necessary, to put in bluntly, to spend more money—to hire research assistance, to organise working meetings, to compensate technical experts in the network cities. And finally, it would be helpful to offer the most attractive incentive of all, participation in a full-blown European project.