Urban Restructuring and Transportation in the Financial Crisis Era: A Study of the Athens CBD
Z Christoforou, M Karlaftis, National Technical University of Athens, GR
Athens CBD has been severely affected by the financial crisis, while the Government announces cuts in Public Transport. We explore the changing patterns of land use in Athens CBD and estimate potential collateral impacts on travel demand patterns.
In May 2010, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) along with Eurozone governments provided Greece short- and medium-term loans of over 100 billion euros. In order to assure repayment, the Government announced spending cuts; the latter including major reductions in public transport investment and subsidies. In addition, the industry, all commercial activities and services have been severely affected by recession and are significantly contracted following overall economy trends.
Athens is the economic and political centre of Greece as it accounts for almost 50% of the country?s GPD, with the average annual income being around ? 27,000 per capita (constant 2007 prices). The Athens Central Business District (CBD) boasts a huge economic activity including commerce, finance, entertainment accommodation, and small-sized industries. It has a surface of about 39.000 km2 and a population of only 700.000 inhabitants as housing on the suburbs is preferred and the CBD is mostly used for offices, commercial uses, and entertainment purposes that produce a high demand for transportation (approximately 5.000.000 journeys on a typical working day). The CBD is served by a mass transit system of 3 metro lines, 2 tramway lines, 1 suburban railway line, 360 bus lines, and 20 electric bus lines (trolley).
Within all Athens metropolitan area, the CBD has been most severely affected by the financial crisis due to a previous inflation in land values and other reasons such as high criminality rates, every-day protests and manifestations, illegal migration, and so on. Regional commercial and industrial chambers estimate for 2010 a 20% reduction in the annual turnover of entertainment businesses, while 2.657 small- and medium-sized industries and 215 (17,2% of total) commercial stores closed within the CBD. On central commercial road axes (Stadiou and Panepistimiou avenues) this percentage exceeds 20%. Several other offices and stores have been relocated to the suburbs searching for lower rents. Pricewaterhouse Coopers ranked Athens 25th out of the 27 European capitals in terms of attractiveness for real estate investments; Cushman & Wakefield ranked Athens last among 36 capitals worldwide in terms of demand for office accommodation of foreign investors.
The financial crisis leads to an urban reconstruction and re-adjustment that causes significant changes in the city image, land use, citizens? habits and, most importantly, in transportation demand patterns. On the other hand, the Government announces cuts in Public Transport (PT) that are mainly used for journeys to and from the CBD. Budget cuts are decided on grounds of efficiency and consist in reducing and merging existing bus lines and in raising PT fares. PT planning while ignoring these drastic changes in Athens CBD could lead to deeper recession and a further shrinkage of the CBD financial activity, while reducing mobility and accessibility.
The objective of this research is to explore the changing patterns of land use in Athens CBD due to the financial crisis and to measure potential collateral impacts on travel demand patterns. To this end, we first trace and record all changes in land use (using GIS) in order to approximate the evolving economic geography of the CBD. We, then, attempt to estimate their impact on demand for public transport serving the CBD by exploring interactions between transport, consumer economy and social networking. Within this context, we appraise the sustainability of recent changes in public transport routing and pricing. Finally, we propose measures for mobility enhancement under a crisis regime while promoting sustainability.
Association for European Transport