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Necessary and ugly, or the capital's new transportation infrastructure

07 of March '24

A new section of a streetcar line on Kasprzaka Street in Warsaw has just opened. Its creation will make life easier for residents of the notorious Bliska Wola neighborhood dubbed Hong Kong. But does the transportation infrastructure have to be so ugly?

The first passengers took the new route in Wola on Tuesday, March 5. It runs from Plocka Street to Wolska Street, where the streetcar descends partially into a trench. The construction of the new streetcar route covered a section of almost 3.5 kilometers. New tracks were built between Wolska and Skierniewicka streets - about 2.3 km. Passengers can use the new stops here: at Plocka, at the Warszawa Wola train stop and at Ordona. In theory, all of them are adapted to the needs of people with disabilities, caregivers with children in strollers and senior citizens. This also applies to the stop in the pit - Reduta Wolska. However, not everyone agrees with this.

Wizualizacja skrzyżowania

Visualization of the intersection

© Tramwaje Warszawskie

The pit stop, however, has stirred up a number of controversies related to obstructed access to the platforms and questionable aesthetics. Passengers walking through the underpass had to negotiate the stairs several times, walking up and down to get to the streetcar - this mistake has already been rectified, with the addition of a small shortcut consisting of several steps in the middle of the restroom.

Wizualizacja wykopu

Visualization of the pit

© Tramwaje Warszawskie

Although the stop is equipped with elevators and ramps, people with limited mobility have reservations about it. The elevators have not yet been put into operation, and the ramps, despite their considerable length, are so narrow that they do not allow two wheelchairs to pass side by side.

The temporary pedestrian crossing, which significantly facilitated communication in the area of the expanded road interchange, has also disappeared from the surface. Unfortunately, now pedestrians and cyclists are again forced to use the underpass when crossing Wolska Street. Cyclists can possibly cross the roadway, but then they won't be able to join traffic on any of the bicycle paths, because the appropriate exits have not been built. Cars are once again on top - literally and figuratively. It's also worth mentioning that throughout the last local government term, only a little over 3 km of new streetcar tracks were put into service in Warsaw (in addition to Wola, there is still a section in Tarchomin). With such a small scale of activities, one might expect more thoughtful solutions.

Trasa tramwajowa na Kasprzaka

Streetcar route on Kasprzaka Street

photo: Ewelina Lach | press materials of UM Warszawa

There arealso reservations about the aesthetics of the new pit stop and its durability. The bare concrete walls were painted only with gray paint, protected with an anti-graffiti coating. Warsaw Tramways explains that this is a standard solution. The damage did not have to wait long - the walls were painted the very first night after the line opened. As the investor explains, the northern wall of the excavation is eventually to be overgrown with various species of climbing plants. Problematic, however, is the southern wall, which will always remain empty without sunlight. Tramway officials are considering organizing a mural competition. The underpass under the Wolska roadway, on the other hand, will remain empty.

Although the developer argues that standard solutions for all of Warsaw have been used, the discrepancy between the appearance of these spaces and Warsaw's subway stations is huge. This realization, but also previous ones, such as the reconstruction of Plac Trzech Krzyży, shows how important it is that transportation investments in the city be carried out in cooperation with landscape architects(k)s. Urban public space cannot be considered only as an element of infrastructure and designed that way.

Kacper Kępiński

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