A feasibility study commissioned by Klaipėda concluded that the Lithuanian town of about 200,000 people could not sustain a tram or a subway transit network.
Lithuania’s third biggest city on the Baltic coast commissioned the study to analyse its transport flows and propose guidelines for developing its public transit. The study that cost 461,000 euros raised some eyebrows, as the recommendations seemed self-evident.
“Building tram lines in Klaipėda would cost about 200 million euros, while fast buses would cost some 100 million,” according to Gintaras Neniškis, the head of administration at Klaipėda Municipality.
Neniškis claimed he inherited the study from the previous city council and did not believe it was necessary.
“Public transport specialists who know the city of Klaipėda well would have given the same recommendation in much simpler terms,” he said.
Even though the study was funded by the European Investment Bank, the city committed to invest ten times more into green public transit, otherwise it would have to repay the grant.
Ordinary citizens seemed to agree.
“I find the idea ridiculous,” Neringa told LRT TV. “When more and more people are leaving […] imagine the city building a tram.” Klaipėda population decreased from around 190,000 in 2001 to around 150,000 by 2016.
“We know already we don’t need any of that, it’s a small city, I think we have enough public transport,” said Agota on the streets in Klaipėda. “They’d do better to build better walkways, the streets are now more walkable,” said another resident, Algis.
But the city’s former head of administration said the study is not useless.
“It does not only say what’s possible and what’s not, what’s expensive and what’s not. It’s a comprehensive study of the public transit and transport in general in Klaipėda,” said Saulius Budinas who now sits on the municipal council.
“A tram is part of a modern city’s image,” he added.
In proposing the idea, the Klaipėda authorities considered the example of Olsztyn, a similarly-sized town in Poland. It dismantled its tram network in the 1960s, but recently spent some 120 million euros to rebuild three lines.
Klaipėda, too, used to have trams in the early 20th century. It now plans to rid the town’s centre of any transport running on fossil fuels by 2030 and invest into electric transit.