Improving Kiev’s public transport

By Marjola Xhunga

Improving Kiev's public transport system

Interview: how the EBRD and Taipei are helping to upgrade transport infrastructure and address road congestion in Kiev, Ukraine.

The EBRD is financing several ambitious projects to improve Kiev's public transport. Over €100 million has been invested to replace old trains and buses but managing a chaotic traffic remains a challenge in this city of 2.6 million people.

Matthew Jordan-Tank, the EBRD’s Principal Urban Transport Specialist, Jack Chen, the Taiwanese Senior Consultant in charge of EBRD-Taiwan Business Development and Maxim Yakover, Kiev Metro’s Chief of IT and Telecommunications Department, explain how a blend of finance and knowledge will make change happen.

How is the Bank helping Kiev to improve the public transport and better manage the traffic?

Matthew Jordan-Tank: In keeping with the complexity of Kiev’s urban transport system, where traffic congestion is chronic and overcrowding is common on the public transport networks, the EBRD recognises that investments in isolation in this situation are not enough. For example, one needs to think of the complex interactions between car traffic, public transport quality and reliability, parking, pricing of services and regulatory aspects. While the Bank has committed over €100 million for the modernisation of public transport, it is also investing €15 million towards the establishment of a modern, computerised management system to improve traffic flow in Kiev.

Modern traffic management goes well beyond the traditional installation of traffic signals. Today, through the use of telematics and other IT innovations, the ability to regulate traffic flow in real time in response to changing traffic levels throughout the day is possible and cost-effective. Elements such as area-wide traffic control systems that receive traffic data and adjust the length of time traffic lights stay green during rush hour; CCTV monitoring to allow for real-time emergency response to accidents; and variable electronic signage to alert road users to traffic conditions as they occur are all common today. When combined effectively, advanced traffic management systems of this nature can lower congestion levels by over 20 per cent. In a large city like Kiev, with over 500,000 cars in circulation daily, this adds up to significant productivity gains, not to mention a reduced carbon footprint for the city, and improved road safety as well.

As part of the investment, the Bank is also offering training to Kiev transport officials. Thanks to generous Taiwanese funding, in November 2009, we managed to bring seven Kiev public transport managers to Taipei to learn about the Taiwanese public transport model and how that can be replicated in Kiev.

Why Taipei?

Jack Chen: Because Taipei has one of the most impressive public transport systems in the world. It is operated by the Easycard Corporation, a company founded in 2000 and which has acquired a reputation for its reliable, home-grown IC-AFC (Integrated Circuit - Automatic Fare Collection) system and gained experience in integrating different public transport service providers under one system. This successful model has been emulated by other countries around the world.

Ambassador Siao-Yue Chang of the Taipei Representative Office in the UK has given her full support to the EBRD investment in Kiev transport, believing that the Taiwanese public transport model is an ideal showcase for Kiev and other EBRD countries of operations. This is why the Office has encouraged and funded training for Kiev’s public transport officials and will continue to put forward technical cooperation funding and IT expertise to support EBRD investments.

What was the training about?

Matthew Jordan-Tank: Representatives of Kiev transport companies were exposed to the full array of Taipei’s transport system, which is impressive from many angles. Firstly, residents there benefit from the use of an electronic smart card, called the EasyCard, that can be used seamlessly in the metro, all bus routes, automated parking garages and even for small purchases at convenience stores. The level of IT-integration achieved is inspiring. The participants also visited the traffic management company and electronic toll collection concessionaire companies, which are running world-class systems. The site visits provoked intense discussion among the Kiev participants on how to plan the next round of modernisation – a key objective of the whole trip. I hope this first experience can be replicated elsewhere because Taiwanese experts have a different and valuable experience to share with our clients, especially in the area of IT applications for public transport and traffic management integration.

Maxim Yakover: We wanted to understand the city government’s public transport policy as well as how they implement information technologies in public transport systems. We wanted to learn from our Taiwanese colleagues how to build a company that can give Kiev one card for all public transport services. This has helped Taipei to solve the problem of traffic jams and increase the use of public transport and I hope we can apply the Taiwanese model in Kiev.

Are you optimistic after the training? Do you think that the Kiev metro will one day operate as smoothly as the Taipei metro?

Maxim Yakover: I am troubled by the current state of public transport in Kiev. Taipei has a similar population size and transport system to Kiev’s but the level of technology in Kiev is very poor. However I am optimistic that we can make it better.

Will it take more knowledge or more money to make improvements?

Maxim Yakover: We need more money combined with experienced consultants such as the colleagues we met in Taipei.