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Speeding Up Reforms in Public Transport Through Low-Cost, High-Impact Advisory Support

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For Tim Gould, one of the five CDIA experts posted for the Tbilisi Transport Department (TD) Advisory Project in 2018, choosing the arduous path of training the TD staff was a wise investment for CDIA.  

“We could have just designed bus lanes for Tbilisi so they would have well thought through, high quality designs; but we could only do a limited number of streets,” he said. “By teaching them [TD staff] how to do it and using our designs as teaching examples, we not only get to do the street, but they also learn how to do it so that in the future, they can do it even without our inputs,” he added.  

Four years after the conclusion of the CDIA-supported advisory project, Tim Gould was proven right! Using government resources, Tbilisi City Hall has now implemented bus priority measures along major avenues in the city. CDIA’s tracer study in 2022 also found out that the city has unlocked more milestones on their way to sustainable mobility.  

Steering away from a car-centric culture  

Despite measures to improve mobility, road congestion has been worsening in Tbilisi due to increased car ownership, poor quality of the bus network, unregulated taxis, and the proliferation of Soviet-era Bogdan buses. These adversely affected the economy and the environment of Georgia’s capital.  

To address these challenges, the city government adopted the Tbilisi Sustainable Urban Transport Strategy (2015-2030) in 2015. In line with it, CDIA provided a project preparation study (PPS) support for the Tbilisi Bus Network Improvement and Pilot Surface Transit System, which was conducted from July 2016- May 2017.  

CDIA provided follow-through support for a transport advisory service in 2018 to implement the bus study’s findings, particularly to assist the TD staff on measures that will promote the use of public transport.  

Suite of reforms  

The CDIA team, including Tim Gould who is a transport expert in bus priority, parking and cycling, worked hand in hand with Tbilisi officials to rationalize the city’s bus network and improve the commercial speed of its buses. Among the concrete measures they worked on include the introduction of priority bus lanes, improvements to key interchanges, adoption of a city-wide car parking strategy, and development of bus rapid transit corridors, among others.  

CDIA further recommended the establishment of a unified transport agency to address the current fragmented governance set up, which delegates different transport duties to various departments. It also proposed forming a taxi strategy and a cycling strategy, which supplemented the bus priority enhancements.  

On top of these, the team provided capacity building support on transport planning and bus lane design, including on-the-job training of TD staff on transport modeling, traffic data collection and analysis, application of Vissim and Vistro software and the use of AutoCAD. 

Based on the tracer study, significant progress has been made by the city in implementing the CDIA-recommended transport improvement measures. Using City Hall’s internal resources, priority bus lanes of at least 10 km have been implemented along Kostava, Robakidze, Baratashvili, Cholokashvili, Vake Park and other major avenues. The city is also planning to cover an additional 38 km of bus lanes, which is equivalent to about two-thirds of the city’s strategic bus routes.  

In addition, the strategy for taxi regulation has been adopted by the city while the parking strategy is gradually being implemented in selected zones.  

In 2020, the Transport and Urban Development Agency (TUDA) was established. Staffed with personnel who benefited from the training delivered by CDIA, the agency is now managing all the transport functions of the city. The agency has also gradually taken most of the recommended measures forward, including the development of a new 23-km bus rapid transit corridor along Didi Digomi up to Aghmashenebeli Avenue, which is expected to significantly increase the commercial speed of buses.  

High-impact changes in Tbilisi  

Various stakeholders have recognized the positive contribution of CDIA in Tbilisi’s planned shift to sustainable mobility. The low-cost, high-impact initiatives such as bus priority measures, parking strategy and taxi regulation, among others, were observed to have eased congestion in otherwise busy streets and intersections.  

The measures have also reduced travel time and improved access to education, healthcare, and places of work for an estimated 200,000 bus commuters, including women, children, elderly, and disabled persons.  

Apart from building the capacity of the Tbilisi Transport Department (now TUDA) to “do things in the right way,” CDIA is credited for the change in mindset among the TD staff from having a “vehicle-centric” to “people-centric” approach to transport planning.  

CDIA’s advisory support to Tbilisi has ended. Yet the real transformation, led by its skilled transport staff, has only just begun. 

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