The limitation to the car in Barcelona shows the metropolitan fracture

There is no election campaign in Barcelona without heated discussions about mobility.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
24 May 2023 Wednesday 23:04
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The limitation to the car in Barcelona shows the metropolitan fracture

There is no election campaign in Barcelona without heated discussions about mobility. And this 28-M is no exception. It is one of the main matters in dispute, of those that account for the city model proposed by each candidate because it is related, in addition to the ease or difficulty of going from one place to another, with urban planning, the activity economy, the consumption of fossil fuels, pollution, noise, loss of time... In short, with the well-being - or unease - of the citizens. And now more than ever it highlights the importance of the metropolitan environment through which thousands of people travel, many of whom enter or leave the interior of the Catalan capital with poor public transport connections that contrast with the good service enjoyed by the Catalan capital. What is done - or not done - inside affects the outside and vice versa.

All the mayors, with disparate prescriptions, some clearly opposed, are asking to put an end to this territorial rift, an issue that largely does not depend on the Barcelona City Council but on other administrations, the Generalitat and the central government, or agreements between cities that should be taken in the Metropolitan Area. In any case, the issue has a special prominence in the municipal debate.

The last four years have led to a global loss of road space for private vehicles within Barcelona. We see it in four examples. Aragon, formerly considered by many to be an urban highway, between 2019 and 2021 gave up two lanes, one for buses and taxis and another for bicycles. La Meridiana, another road that was dedicated to motorized traffic, has extended the reform started at the end of the previous term which means the loss of a car lane on each side up to Felipe II. The works will finish this summer and everything is practically ready to continue towards Fabra and Puig. Consell de Cent, along with Comte Borrell, Rocafort and Girona, all streets of the Eixample plot, are already green axes; that is, for pedestrians. The works are also almost ready. And in Diagonal, the tram is being implemented between Glòries and Verdaguer with the aim of opening it next March. The second phase is pending until Francesc Macià, which would complete the connection of the Trambesòs with the Trambaix, for which the drafting of the projects has already been commissioned.

In all cases, priority is given to pedestrians, public transport and bicycles. In other words, collective media and active mobility in front of the car. A decision that is not to everyone's liking and that generates strong public and political controversies, very present, of course, in the electoral campaign.

At the same time, the general recovery of mobility after the crisis caused by the pandemic has long been a fact. In many cases, the levels are even higher than those of 2019. Peak hours once again show agglomerations of vehicles – half a million enter the city every day – and of passengers on public transport. The rounds are jammed every day, also in the mornings towards Llobregat and in the afternoons towards Besòs. And the trains – metro, Rodalies and FGC – come and go full like sardine cans most days.

The mayoress and BComú candidate, Ada Colau, advocates that action be taken within the city by transforming the spaces as in the examples mentioned without having to wait for metropolitan connections to improve. In his opinion, with its car-limiting measures, the City Council is pushing other administrations to improve collective services – especially Rodalies –, to open dissuasive car parks or new lanes reserved for express buses. And he cites his government's commitment to the Diagonal tramway as an example of its commitment to connectivity with surrounding cities, in addition to having doubled the municipal investment in public transport and the extension of the network of bike lanes

In any case, the communes are proud of what they have achieved in the Eixample, which has gone from having a daily traffic of 350,000 cars in 2015 to 285,000 now, although the congestion, precisely due to the reduction of lanes, has grown in some streets of the district. Colau also remembers that pollution has been cut by 30% since she became mayor (actually only NO2 emissions have been cut).

The debate about the tramway, which also represents a major urban transformation, is still alive, despite the fact that the various polls that have been published show that the connection via Diagonal has growing public support. The matter has shaped two irreconcilable political blocs. On the one hand, those in favor (BComú, ERC and the PSC, which have formed a large majority), and on the other, the other groups, which oppose the connection. The PP, Cs and Valents even propose that the section under construction be reversed.

The ex-mayor and once again the mayor of Junts, XavierTrias, has led the rejection of this means of transport, despite the fact that the number five of his candidacy, Damià Calvet, has been a strong defender and when he was Councilor for Territory to sign the works that are now being carried out partly funded by the Metropolitan Transport Authority (ATM). As things stand, the post-convergents reluctantly accept the part that is being built - to undo it would, in their opinion, be pointless - but they don't even want to hear about the second phase and propose a high-capacity electric bus , the D30. Even so, his candidate does not rule out submitting the issue to a referendum, as he is in favor of consulting major urban transformations as well as street pacification. For the super-blocks and the green axes – also for the network of cycle paths – it also proposes audits. Trias, who sees imposition in the mobility policies of the BComú government and the PSC, is advocating to agree on them.

The socialists advocate that we act with prudence in the center of the city. The unwanted impacts of urban planning in recent times on traffic are one of the reasons that have led the group led by Jaume Collboni to advocate slowing down the extension of green lanes and super-blocks, which it also wants to thoroughly evaluate. At the same time, in public transport, remember the budget agreement reached with ERC in the Generalitat that will allow several metro lines to be extended (the L1 to Badalona, ​​the L3 to Esplugues, the L4 to Sagrera). In addition, it proposes extending the L2 to the neighborhoods of La Marina and creating a new bus, the H20, parallel to the Litoral roundabout. The mayor of the PSC insists that the suburb must be strengthened and urges the Catalan Government to invest in these actions and in the L9 or the connection of the Llobregat and Vallès lines of the FGC through the L8, requirements shared with the other parties, including the Republicans, who take them as commitments from the Executive on the mountain side of Plaça Sant Jaume.

Rodalies is the main open electoral front in the metropolitan connections. A few days before the start of the campaign, the serious breakdown that took place in Gavà, which reduced the service of the R2 for three weeks and affected thousands of passengers, put this railway network in the spotlight for the umpteenth time . The PSC claims the strong investment, without precedent, from the central government to bring it up to date. The argument does not convince either ERC or Junts, who insist on demanding full transfer to the Generalitat. The candidacy led by Ernest Maragall also proposes to open a third tunnel along the coast that gives more capacity. And among other measures to improve metropolitan mobility, build 30 parks