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Cities Join Forces to Push for Unified Metropolitan Law in Poland

INFRASTRUCTURECities Join Forces to Push for Unified Metropolitan Law in Poland

Cities such as the Tri-City, Łódź, and Warsaw have been striving for metropolitan status for years. Now, these cities are joining forces and discussing a unified draft of a metropolitan law. Although each urban center has its own unique characteristics, all hope that appropriate regulations on cooperation between major cities and surrounding municipalities will bring many benefits. One key area that stands to gain is public transportation. The establishment of a metropolitan area would mean additional funds to combat transportation exclusion in small towns.

The creation of metropolitan areas has been a topic of public debate for several years. During the PO-PSL government, a law was passed that envisioned the existence of several metropolitan unions, which were supposed to be established on July 1, 2016. Although the law was passed, the subsequent government did not issue the necessary regulations, and in 2017, a new bill prepared by the Ministry of the Interior and Administration was adopted, establishing a metropolitan union only in the Silesian Voivodeship. The topic of the metropolitan law returned to public debate after a change in government. The Tri-City, Łódź, and Warsaw are among those fighting for metropolitan status.

“We, as the Warsaw local government, are conducting discussions with the Ministry of Finance together with other local governments. We are initiating internal, inter-municipal discussions on implementing the metropolitan law. We would like to discuss such a project and present it to the central authorities. We are convinced that implementing a true metropolitan law will, first of all, unify and integrate the transportation system in the city and the agglomeration and provide additional funds for the local government to develop transport,” says Katarzyna Strzegowska, director of the Warsaw Public Transport Authority, to Newseria Biznes.

A metropolitan union connects municipalities, cities, and counties and facilitates their cooperation. This allows for joint investment planning, securing funds for investments in education, waste management, or public transport, such as providing bus and train connections. Where a metropolitan structure has been established, public transportation is better organized, and connections are more efficient and quicker with a single ticket.

“The metropolitan law is particularly important regarding transportation exclusion. We focus primarily on transportation issues around large cities and municipalities, towns, and villages that rely on services provided by the city. Without proper communication, infrastructure development, and funding for its maintenance, it is difficult to ensure educational accessibility, access to health, cultural services, or those related to running a business,” argues Hanna Zdanowska, Mayor of Łódź.

In Poland, the problem of transportation exclusion has been growing for years, affecting up to several million people. The collapse of local public transport means that in many regions, the only means of transport is the car. The Jagiellonian Club calculated that between 1993 and 2016, regular intercity bus transport lost almost three-quarters of its customers, with a decrease in service availability by about 50%. Since Poland joined the European Union, the average bus occupancy has decreased by 40%. Municipalities without organized local public transport are home to 13.8 million people. According to EUROREG data, transportation exclusion affects several million people in the country, causing daily difficulties for 6 million of them.

“The metropolitan law gives a chance, especially to smaller municipalities around large agglomerations, for normal functioning. As large cities, we try to assist surrounding municipalities with communication, but it is sometimes a bottomless pit. For example, the longest tram line that operated from Łódź to Ozorków ran outside large cities like Zgierz or Ozorków, through rural municipalities that cannot afford to build or maintain the infrastructure. Without a law that provides us with additional funds to build the entire communication base and infrastructure, it will be difficult to dream of these municipalities being able to develop evenly. Good communication with large cities that provide health, higher education, or cultural services is needed,” explains the Mayor of Łódź.

The “Integrated Territorial Investment Strategy of the Łódź Metropolitan Area for 2021-2027” adopted in May 2024 indicates that despite the overall increase in demand for transportation services, the role of carriers offering road transport is decreasing. This affects private bus operators for whom short routes are the least profitable. This trend is crucial for the peripheral areas of the Łódź Metropolitan Area, where it can lead to transportation exclusion and where bus transport should be the key mode of public transport for providing connections to railway lines. Therefore, supporting a joint transportation offer, integrating local bus connections with Łódź Agglomeration Railway trains, will be important, thus including many transportation-excluded localities into the public transport system.

Local governments in the area should ensure that modern and integrated transfer hubs are created within the Łódź Metropolitan Area, utilizing existing, developing, and planned stops and railway stations. The strategy includes expanding bus connections to railway stations and stops, launching synchronized connections to these stops, and reorganizing current bus routes to align with railway lines.

“The metropolitan law is not just about transportation but also about the possibility of building common spatial planning issues. Large cities often limit their development to protect environmentally valuable areas. Surrounding municipalities have completely different expectations in this regard and often attract our residents by offering much cheaper land and the possibility of building on areas we consider valuable for protection and quality of life,” points out Hanna Zdanowska.

Key challenges for the Łódź Metropolitan Area include increasing energy efficiency, adapting to climate change, improving the state of the natural environment, and strengthening the area’s cohesion. The strategy also emphasizes the importance of protecting natural resources and enhancing biodiversity.

“The metropolitan law also enables a range of other activities that allow normal functioning beyond just the municipality. In terms of air quality, we saw how it looked in Kraków, which invested heavily in reducing sources of individual emissions and practically eliminated coal stoves, while surrounding municipalities that did not adapt because they had no obligation to do so continued to pollute Kraków. The previous effort and work had little impact on the lives and quality of life of Kraków residents,” says the Mayor of Łódź.

In the previous parliamentary term, a bill was created to establish the Łódź Metropolitan Union, but work on it stalled in the Sejm in 2020. Its solutions were modeled on the already functioning Upper Silesian-Zagłębie Metropolis. According to the proposals contained in it, the union would have the right to dispose of 5% of PIT revenues from the residents of the member municipalities. Revenues from this source were estimated in 2019 at around 200 million PLN per year.

“Now everything has changed. As announced by the Ministry of Finance, the law on the finances and share of municipalities and local government units in public finances will change. Therefore, it is difficult to determine this precisely at the moment. Previously, it was 5% from PIT; we may need to prepare completely new solutions for financing. Certainly, there is no money that is not worth reaching for, but there is also no money we would not be able to spend on building strong metropolises,” emphasizes Hanna Zdanowska.

In the previous Senate term, work was also underway on bills for the Kraków and Pomeranian metropolitan areas. The Tri-City has been fighting for such regulations for eight years and advocates for an individual law because each metropolis has different characteristics. Its project was submitted to the Ministry of the Interior and Administration at the end of February this year.

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