Over the ten years, from 2009 to 2019, the number of private cars in Lviv has increased several times. The car has become not only the most efficient way of transportation in the city in terms of comfort and speed and the only one that is not humiliated by other road users, but also a sign of social status.
Once people started earning more than monthly maintenance, their goal was to buy a personal car. The traffic congestion increased, so the citizens of Lviv spent more time in traffic than in public and private transport. The city authorities were blamed for the streets being too narrow, without the possibility of a significant expansion of the roadway and lack of funds to implement the infrastructure decisions provided for by the City Master Plan.
The city authorities understood that the desire of residents to drive their own cars will be increasing every year. Thus, in 2020, they started a large-scale development of transport infrastructure, using their own, loans and public funds. First of all, it was decided to complete the roads for the detour of the central part of the city and multilevel interchanges on the sites of the busiest intersections.
Feasibility studies for even more costly projects have begun – a chord highway that connects the northern and southern parts of the city with tunnels bypassing the congested center, as well as the construction of the subway as a high-speed underground connection, which will make it possible not to be stuck in traffic congestion, unlike other public transport options. It was anticipated that if a subway was to be operational, land-based public transport would become unnecessary, thus clearing more space for car traffic and parking.
Lviv was actively developing. Private investment was primarily aimed at housing construction in remote areas from the city center. This went in line with the requests from Lviv citizens: not to add any new buildings to the pre-war historical environment, not to put additional burden on the social infrastructure of the “sleeping” neighbourhoods of the Soviet period. Residents demanded 100% provision for parking lots at new buildings – 1-2 car slots per family. It is very expensive to lay engineering networks (water supply, sewerage, electricity) to new buildings on the outskirts of the city, so almost all the “infrastructure fee” – contribution of new construction developers to infrastructure development (4% of construction cost) offset these costs. Construction of the road and public transport extension remained a problem that the city had to tackle at its own cost. Cars appeared to be the only mobility mode at such new buildings.
The number of cars on the city streets rocketed. Whether it goes about getting children to kindergarten or school, getting to work, shopping, going to the cinema – every step requires a trip by individual vehicle. Lviv citizens spent more time in transport, congestion became longer, and their number increased. The city authorities responded to the congestion by starting the construction of new roads and interchanges. However, the funding was lacking, and the throughput capacity demand was growing faster than the supply provided by the city. The quality of life in Lviv was declining. Air pollution and noise levels made life in the city uncompetitive compared to the suburbs. Settlements from single-family homes in the 50-kilometer radius of Lviv were actively growing, and agglomeration was developing. However, in order to obtain most functions, except for residential ones, residents of the agglomeration were forced to travel to Lviv. And the car has become a means of accessing any service or opportunity.
Attention from urban public transport has shifted to the expectation to have the subway as a solution to all problems. Investments in quality of rolling stock, maintenance and development of infrastructure have ceased. The public transport, crowded with passengers, stood in traffic together with private cars. For those who could afford to buy a car, it was obvious that it was more comfortable to stay in the traffic congestion with air conditioning and radio, than in a crowded public transport degrading every year. Therefore, the solvent passenger left the public transport. The rise in fares was accompanied by constant protests from residents who saw no reason to pay more as quality did not improve. The fare remained low and the quality of public transport declined ever more.
Not everyone switched from public transport to cars. Some people appreciated the speed of movement above all else. This is how more cyclists, motorcyclists and scooterists have appeared. Motorcyclists and some cyclists were able to quickly maneuver between cars in traffic, which caused many accidents. Scooterists and less courageous cyclists have moved to the sidewalks, and together with people on electric scooters, Segway and gyroboards, they have created constant conflicts with pedestrians there. To resolve the conflicts, the sidewalks were divided into two parts – bicycle and pedestrian.
Drivers complained about too many pedestrian crossings. The number of crossings was being ceased, the intervals between crossings were increasing, so cars were able to speed up. Pedestrians began to cross streets in more unsanctioned places, so the number of accidents with serious consequences increased, formally for pedestrian fault. Initially, the number of traffic lights was increased because, due to the large number of people crossing in one place, the cars were almost unable to pass the pedestrian crossing. However, after realized that the traffic lights were reducing the capacity of arterial streets, and it was decided to build underground crossings planned to be further connected to subway stations in the future. Having no advantage in either speed, comfort, distance, or safety, pedestrian traffic became fragmented and of necessity. The number of pedestrians in the streets was declining.
As it became uncomfortable to walk on foot, every person going by car tried to park as close as possible to the destination. The areas near significant points of attraction in the central part of the city started suffering from increasingly more cars. As a result, residents started demanding the construction of parking lots, but at the same time required not to to enforce illegal street parking around the area. Under such conditions, no investor wanted to take on any project for construction of underground or aboveground parkings. Thus, the city was forced to start construction of parkings at the cost of the city budget.
Large infrastructure projects for the construction of new roads, multi-level interchanges, parkings and the subway faced the infeasibility issue due to lack of funding. At the same time, the available road network has been declining due to shifting attention to the construction of a new one.
The number of cars on the streets continued to grow steadily, traffic congestion became longer and longer each time. The opening of several new interchanges actually shifted the congestion to the next intersection with lower throughput capacity and attracted more cars as drivers usually opt for infrastructure with higher capacity until its potential is exhausted.
Alternatives to car travel around the city have become ineffective, uncomfortable, and dangerous. In the daytime, the entire city sits in traffic. In the low hours when there are no traffic jams, the traffic speed increases, and consequently, the number of accidents and deaths grows, too. The city budget is overloaded with projects that are out of proportion to its capabilities. Thus, today it has no way of solving pressing issues.