In the coming years, Turku will be investing in the promotion of walking and cycling, while ensuring that all modes of transport are viable. The CIVITAS ECCENTRIC project has brought a lot of good to Turku.

This article has been written as a part of the EU-funded CIVITAS ECCENTRIC -project: 

Text by Essi Karlsson.

Four years ago, Turku initiated the CIVITAS ECCENTRIC project, which aims to promote sustainable and smart urban traffic in the city. According to Project Manager Stella Aaltonen, the project has highlighted a variety of matters related to mobility.

- The ECCENTRIC project has helped us view mobility in a more comprehensive manner. It has generated many project concepts, which have then been developed further by various partners. This has led to a lot of new projects and processes, Aaltonen says.

Developing mobility of the future

CIVITAS ECCENTRIC has already helped create roughly a dozen new projects in Turku. These involve active cooperation with a variety of operators, such as Turku University of Applied Sciences, the University of Turku and the Regional Council of Southwest Finland.

According to Operations Manager Heli Järvelä from the Turku City Centre Association, Turku has worked hard to ensure a successful future. The City prepares a variety of reports that benefit planning and development within the association.

The City Centre Association seeks to develop Turku’s central area from a commercial standpoint. Key factors for the association include accessibility, easy navigation and comfort in urban areas. The operating environment in the city centre must promote trade and business activities.

- Turku is currently doing a lot of good from the perspective of commerce. We will gain a new beautiful Market Square, which has been designed with a focus on making things easy for vendors and customers, providing people with meeting places and ensuring easy access, Järvelä says.

The Market Square is intended to be completed in 2022, but some sections will be ready before that. The car park under the Market Square will be completed towards the end of 2020. It will also include charging stations for electric cars, which Järvelä appreciates. Based on wishes expressed by entrepreneurs in the area, the City Centre Association has asked the City to install even more charging stations in the city centre.

- We want to support sustainable development, but the city centre must still feature easy access routes for cars, too. While the goal is to make Turku carbon neutral and reduce emissions, this cannot be done simply by banning cars from entering the city centre.

Järvelä points out that, according to a study conducted by Turku School of Economics in February 2020, people choose the mode of transport that is easiest and most convenient for them. 

- We want everyone to have the opportunity to come to the city centre however they choose. We need to promote sustainable development, but it is important to ensure an overall solution that maintains operational capabilities and keeps the operating environment competitive,”Järvelä says.

From the perspective of the association, the sustainable Turku we are now aiming for will also bring in money, maintain the operational capabilities of business and ensure continued development, Järvelä explains.

According to Heli Järvelä, Yliopistonkatu has been revived during the market renovation as market sellers have moved there. Photo: Essi Karlsson.

Promoting walking through events

The association also supports the promotion of walking in the city centre. It organises events that are aimed showing people that the city centre is comfortable and safe to navigate even on foot.

- Our goal is to encourage people to explore the central area more and find new things, instead of always visiting only one or two places in the city centre, Järvelä says.

The City Centre Association is cooperating with the City of Turku to study pedestrian numbers in the city centre. Järvelä has also been involved in other projects, within which she has been able to highlight the perspective of entrepreneurs.

The collaboration has been rewarding and reciprocal. Even though we have disagreed about some aspects of sustainable mobility, we have been able to discuss things and consider how to ensure that all parties are satisfied with the developments, Järvelä says.

Moreover, the ‘Low-carbon transport in mobility hubs’ project currently under way involves collaboration between numerous cities to further sustainable development. Among the aspects being considered are new safe parking solutions for bicycles and cars. The intention is to test the new solutions in the autumn.

According to Aaltonen, Turku aims to change the distribution of transport modes so that sustainable forms, such as cycling, walking and public transport, account for 66%. Currently, private cars constitute 49% of all transport, which means that there is still much to do to reach the ultimate goals. 
Aaltonen hopes that traffic will become safe and comfortable enough so that no one feels the need to drive to ensure their safety. This is also important from the perspective of the national economy and general health.

- In my mind, it would be wonderful if we could safely allow even the youngest among us to use sustainable modes of transport on their own.

Aaltonen feels that the City should push people gently towards active forms of mobility. That being said, investments should be made in public transport, too, to ensure that people are not afraid to use it once the coronavirus crisis is over.

- We don't have a shortage of ideas, we just need more courage to make implementations, Stella Aaltonen says. Photo: Essi Karlsson- 

Mobility point to be constructed later

One of the initiatives that failed to reach fruition during the project is the Kupittaa district mobility point, which would enable passengers to conveniently switch from a bus to a scooter or shared car, for example. However, Aaltonen believes that the project will most likely be carried out later.

The wider adoption of carsharing will also require the parking arrangements for the cars to be resolved. That being said, CIVITAS ECCENTRIC has influenced the process and ensured that shared cars will also be a part of Turku’s future. 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, CIVITAS ECCENTRIC will not come to an end until November 2020, which is three months later than intended. Society has changed over the past four years in terms of mobility, and new modes have emerged. In Aaltonen’s view, despite the positive nature of the changes, the rapid pace of change has posed challenges for the project. 

The high personnel turnover during the four-year project has also been challenging. According to Aaltonen, experience will ultimately show how large mobility systems and solutions should be coordinated and steered.

- We have set out to build cooperation with a variety of operators. This is a significant change in terms of our operating culture, Aaltonen says.
Both the City of Turku and the City Centre Association are actively accepting feedback to develop their activities. Turku finds the inspiration for change from other European countries, which Järvelä believes to be one of the reasons Turku has been a pioneer in many areas.

In Aaltonen’s opinion, the City has no shortage of ideas, but it will need even more courage than before to realise them in the future.

Kansikuva: Yliopistonkadulla on hyvä kulkea kävellen tai pyörällä. Kuva: Essi Karlsson.