Local Politics, Sustainable Urban Development, and Heritage: Urban Transit in Rome

By Hélène Nessi, Aurélien Delpirou

The Italian capital offers an interesting location in which to analyse the action of local politics attempting to control both transport and urban development; indeed, the “Eternal City” is known for its low quality public transport system, weak urban planning and for its political and cultural promotion of the use of the car as a main means transport. At the end a decade in which considerable amounts have been spent trying to cure “the genetic disease of a city conceived without transport plan”, the validation, in March 2006, of a new regulation plan for the city – a conclusion of an intense conceptual renewal and of a rather new administrative and institutional cooperation – confirmed that the availability of public transport is the priority for a modern Roman urban project. In a city formed of urban sprawl - which must manage the inheritance of a century of extensive growth, partly based on speculation and illegal use of land for construction - the rail networks appears to be the main tool for a sustainable urban development. The target is to coordinate the modernisation of the railway network/stations together with the rearrangement of the existing city and the development of secondary urban centres. The implementation of the joint operations of urban planning and transport meets obstacles similar to other projects in Europe, such as: institutional competitions, non-synchronisation of the decision-making process and the difficulty to group inhabitants around train stations. In addition, this implementation faced the specific heritage of the Italian capital, that is to say: weak legal and financial means for the city institution to implement the process, dependence on the main State authority and historical power of the private construction firms. The analysis of Rome offers the opportunity to identify the different issues faced by a changing metropolis and to raise a certain number of questions in relation to sustainable urban growth.

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