The Maltese capital of Valletta joined GrowSmarter as a Follower City to investigate its charging infrastructure and learn from the experiences in the Lighthouse Cities.
In the end, the city suceeded in doing so, but it also implemented Malta’s first car-sharing scheme. We spoke to Victor Battistino from Transport Malta about Valletta’s time as a Follower City in GrowSmarter
Why did Valletta join GrowSmarter as a Follower city?
The City of Valletta joined GrowSmarter to observe what other bigger cities are doing to face the problem with transport and to have as much sustainable transport as possible for people to choose from. We wanted to look into improving electrical transport modes and charging infrastructure and that was our main scope.
What city governance and stakeholder structures facilitate replication?
We joined the project because we [Transport Malta] are also the National Authority for Transport in Malta. We have taken measures that we replicate ourselves as the national entity. We can discuss solutions with the city council and then take issues up with the national government.
In Barcelona for example, which is a massive city, things happen at the city council level but in our case, initiatives happening in the capital city are carried out by the government of Malta. We talk to and discuss things directly with the Ministry of Transport, which is a very positive thing and it is probably more difficult for this to happen in Barcelona.
At city-level you don’t always go to the minister, but that aspect is easier for us. We make a phone call to the ministry, schedule a meeting and get things going. I think a good relationship between city-governments and national authorities is very important. That has given us some advantages here in Valletta.
Which replication steps in GrowSmarter have proven to be effective for the process?
For us, replication takes place at a high level. It is about getting the people taking the decisions involved directly with the solutions and have them touch the solutions themselves.
One has to remember the level of involvement of Valletta: our main scope was to do a mapping for implementing increased charging infrastructure. A big exercise, but we had a limited scope in GrowSmarter. We were not focused on housing development, for example. I can appreciate a generic approach, but one has to come to the context of each individual city. We were not planning to implement everything in GrowSmarter, so the impact was always going to be limited.
Having said that, what we saw happening in the Lighthouse Cities in regards to vehicle sharing was very influential. We have actually launched car sharing, for the first time, just under a year ago. We have taken the experiences on vehicle sharing in the lighthouse cities and tried to adopt them for the Valletta roll-out. So even though it was not originally planned as something Valletta would do in GrowSmarter, I can say that the influence from the Lighthouse Cities on the issue of car sharing has left a great impact in Malta. We have learnt a lot from the project, not only on the original purpose, but also on the impact of car sharing.
How would you advise other cities to identify and select a useful measure for replication based on your experience in GrowSmarter?
I would keep it simple: We had a very positive experience and I would advise everyone, especially cities and small countries, to go into projects with an open mind and not limit themselves to their original scope for joining the partnership. Make sure to join and participate – even as observer – in all the aspects, because somehow, somewhere, one day, you will need to use that experience and knowledge in your own city and country. I would advise other cities to look closely and remember it is sometimes useful to just listen and observe. And keep an open mind!
How do you assess the replication potential of smart solutions within Valletta?
The smart solutions we have adopted for Valletta include the first car-sharing in Malta and now we also have bike-sharing, scooter-sharing and motorcycle-sharing. And we have just had an announcement by the car-sharing company that they have brought in more cars to supply the demand. Of course, one has to assess the number of users and the financial plans and in the case of Valletta Car-sharing makes a lot of sense.
Public opinion is also important, and we had some issues in Malta because parking is free and car sharing takes up parking space, but slowly we seem to be winning on this too.
What resources, knowledge and capacities are generally needed to replicate solutions and how can they best be transferred?
I would say that unless you have technical people and political decisions makers who have experienced these solutions in other countries, it is difficult to convince them to replicate these solutions at home. It’s not a massive problem with technical people, but it is not always easy to find politicians ready to take bold decisions affecting the population. It’s difficult to convince a minister to install charging infrastructure if he or she has not seen it working in other places. For us, that means experiences from other cities are valuable – experiences from lighthouses are required to replicate.
Have you already shared the experience of car-sharing with other municipalities:
As I always say: Valletta and the regions around Valletta affect the whole population, so when we started car-sharing in Valletta we were talking about almost 60 percent of the nation being covered. It impacts everyone. Car-Sharing was a secondary issue for us in GrowSmarter as the main issue was the mapping and network of increased charging infrastructure when we started. I can say that the impact was not only on Valletta and the immediate regions touching it, but has impacted the entire Maltese nation.
Has Valletta achieved the goals it had when it joined GrowSmarter as a Follower city?
If I had to evaluate the participation, I would 100 percent say yes on completing our improvement on increased charging infrastructure study but I would add the fact that launching electric vehicle sharing in Valletta, in the regions around it and impact the whole nation is a big plus. It makes it 200 percent successful - One hundred percent on the study and one hundred percent on the Car-Sharing.
Learn more about replication in GrowSmarter in our Guide to Replication.