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Marbella's transport overhaul: Free buses, extra taxis, mass investment...and 6.5 tonnes of paint
10 January 2021 @ 20:26

FREE round-town buses in Marbella have proven an enormous success in cutting private car use – in fact, 85% of passengers on local public transport had taken advantage of the scheme, according to councillor in charge Enrique Rodríguez.

Marbella authorities launched the Tarjeta Municipal de Movilidad ('Municipal Mobility Card') just over two years ago, which has led to 'enormous savings for residents', Sr Rodríguez says.

At present, a total of 65,476 people are card-holders, entitling them to use the urban buses for free, and use of this service has gone up by 16 percentage points from 2019.

During its first full year in 'action', the Municipal Mobility Card was used by 69% of passengers, rising to 85% in 2020.

And the rise could have been nearer 100% if it had not been for the pandemic – bus trips fell from 3.5 million in 2019 to three million in 2020 as a result of the population of Spain's being told to stay at home, and a sharp reduction in tourism in the Costa del Sol's second-largest town. 

Despite 2020 being an 'atypical year', the bus service continued to adapt to, first lockdown, then the various 'unlocking' phases and later restrictions put in place at different times to contain the spread of the virus, Rodríguez reveals.

Adding to his department's drive to encourage residents to cut down on car use and its resulting air pollution without having to limit movement, Rodríguez says Marbella increased its existing 11 cycle lanes to over 40 over 2020.

Safety and convenience, as well as cleaner air, have been a priority, meaning over 2,000 works projects on maintenance, repairs and upgrading have been carried out on roads, traffic lights, road markings and signs, disabled bays, speed-control measures, loading and unloading bays, general pedestrian and driver safety, and parking spaces – including over 6,000 tickets for free car park use given out in local shops in a bid to give the town's trading community a much-needed financial boost by encouraging custom.

Buses being free to use for anyone registered on the local census has also helped Marbella's trade, as retail customers no longer have to worry about paying for petrol and parking, or transport fares, to visit the shops.

“Marbella's public transport system has been awarded a double certification by AENOR, making it one of Spain's first travel franchise firms with accredited anti-Covid procedures, and we have also added two extra buses to the fleet,” Rodríguez reports.

School buses in the town serve 529 pupils at 24 education centres along 37 travel routes, many of which were redistributed to ensure young passengers could keep their distance from each other – and, of course, all public transport vehicles were thoroughly and regularly disinfected.

“A payment system via direct debit has been set up, and we've now finished refunding all unused bus fees from the previous school year when children were learning at home,” the councillor says.

“Additionally, this year we plan to completely renew the fleet with six brand-new buses.”

Taxi services were among the worst affected by the pandemic, but Marbella council set up schemes to limit the damage – three exam sessions for new drivers, taken up by 62 candidates, a subsidised fast-track cab-driving licence renewal system, and vacancies opened up for a further 42 taxi drivers being among these.

“Last year, by popular request, we agreed to review taxi fares – which had been frozen since 2014 – set up seven new taxi ranks, meaning the town now has a total of 56 with an overall 336 cab stands, and installed 40 information boards detailing journey costs, to make the industry more transparent,” reports Rodríguez.



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