Nitra’s nitro boost

The city of Nitra has started its own race to become the Slovak leader in the Smart City concept. And it is driving fast towards the final line.

  • Location: Nitra, Slovakia
  • Population: 80 123
  • Themes: Smart city mobility systems and green infrastructure
  • Places visited: Faculty of Horticulture and Landscape Engineering, Slovak University of Agriculture

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines (and pedals)! The city of Nitra, located in the western part of Slovakia, under the Zobor hill and in the valley of the Nitra river, is setting up the pavement — figuratively — to tackle the issue of smart mobility and get one mile closer to become a leader in Slovakia in the Smart City category. Along with a focus in the areas of living standards, intelligent energy and energy management, the issue of redefining mobility for achieving a Smart City status was approved by the Municipal Council back in 2016. Since then, it has been rolling on.

Thus, the city has launched an intelligent and modern public transport with the involvement of electric buses, as well as dealing with alternative types of transport by constructing a network of cycle roads and through parking regulations in the city centre.

Bike sharing stands in the city centre: Nitra has thus far installed seven bike-sharing stations with 70 bikes available.

In its focus for improving living standards, smart solutions encompass the arena of information technology, and thus the city has been implementing initiatives such as smart applications, notification systems and smart benches. Moreover, it has also included developing the quality of public spaces with greenery, including accessible, open green areas, rainwater management, and motivating citizens to participate in activities that lead to raising living standards.

In its approach for an intelligent energy sector, the city has included environmentally friendly waste, water and heat management schemes. Their plan includes the elaboration of a technical-economic study with an emphasis on the use of renewable resources, as well as the introduction of new technologies to create energy reserves for the city’s operational needs. Use of electric batteries coming from municipal waste, biomass and water treatment outputs are also within its plan.

Finally, in the field of energy management, Nitra plans to implement a sophisticated system to simplify the processing of electronic requests from citizens. The city is also envisioning to complement the modernization of public lighting with intelligent monitoring and control of luminaires. Modernization of lighting in urban buildings, sports facilities and public spaces is also in the to-do list. In the meantime, a first step has been the LED Lighting project, implemented at the Cabajská Elementary School and tennis courts. Calculated energy savings oscillate between 40 to 50%, including lower maintenance costs.

The Municipality aims to finalise the implementation of all the goals of their Smart City concept by 2022, using all possible resources to draw funds.

ACCELERATED DEVELOPMENT

Within its smart mobility objectives, Nitra is building a network of charging stations (with a total six already working), developing electromobility for its public transport system (exchanging fuel buses for e-buses, thus dramatically reducing carbon emissions through Horizon 2020 subsidies), and stimulating the procurement of e-vehicles by supporting measures, such as allowing for them to use reserved bus lanes, free parking for charging stations and discounted parking rates in designated city locations.

Moreover, the city is aiming to boost the car sharing dynamic with public electric vehicles spread throughout the urban cadastre. During the first stage, 10 public electric vehicles are expected to be deployed. Added to this, Nitra has been implementing since 2014 its strategy for a bike sharing system. This has included an assessment of the existing cycling routes, connecting the urban cycling routes to the regional tourist routes, designing new routes, and solving potentially problematic traffic nodes.

The bike sharing system started operations itself in August 2017, with seven bike sharing stations and 70 bikes available, and operated via a smart application by the public transportation company Arriva Ltd.

Within the area of smart applications, even more, Nitra is preparing the implementation of a mobile application to inform users on traffic closures and restrictions in the network. Moreover, the city is already dealing with an intelligent parking system, providing information as where parking spaces are available and the costs of them. The system works with sensors installed under the pavement to indicate availability or not of a parking space. And within this scheme, Nitra is also collecting and analysing data, through the use of the ParkDots system, by Deutsche Telekom, on occupancy of parking spaces and the most exposed areas. Long-term data collection and analysis will allow for the local government to better understand driver behaviour, making the city able to take better decisions on parking policy issues. For example, data will show where cars tend to be parked for a long time, making it possible to adapt measures to better use these areas and to encourage or regulate this behaviour.

The ParkDots system, with its underground sensors, is aiding drivers find available parking spots throughout the city, helping reduce driving time and traffic. Photo: Viktória Selmeczy.

The ParkDots mobile application can be downloaded by locals and visitors and allow for an easier driving and parking experience. Needless to say, Nitra is driving fast towards its envisioned Smart City future, tackling many other themes, such as green infrastructure by currently being elaborating its General Plan of Greenery Public Procurement and its Climate Change City Adaptation Strategy, expected to be finalised by the end of 2019. Yes, Nitra’s road seems paved; its destination, clear.


Roll model

Nitra’s Sustainable Mobility Plan includes strategic documents that embrace the following mayor goals:

  • decreasing the emissions, noise and other negative impacts of heavy traffic within the city;
  • supporting a network of alternative transportation (e.g. cycling) by connecting the city centre, suburbs and other sites of importance in the city; and
  • increasing the share system of public transportation within the portfolio of the whole transportation means used by citizens and visitors of the city.