Over the past year and a half, ICMA has facilitated a CityLinks partnership between Golden, Colorado, and Gjilan, Kosovo, as a part of the USAID-funded Democratic and Effective Municipalities Initiative (DEMI) program. While the Urban Institute is the prime contractor for DEMI, part of ICMA’s role is to create peer-to-peer partnerships between cities in Kosovo and cities in the United States, which provide opportunities for municipal staff to learn about international practices.
A few months ago, Golden’s Director of Public Works Dan Hartman, along with Deputy Director of Public Works Annie Beierle and Planning Manager Rick Muriby, traveled to Gjilan to assess traffic mobility and continue the CityLinks partnership. The team evaluated traffic flows, intersections, and pedestrian improvements, and the possibility for a local circulator bus, parking policies, and facilities.
Currently, street space is severely limited in Gjilan, and there are few places to park. Therefore, cars are forced to park on the sidewalks, restricting space for pedestrians and cyclists. Without a public transportation system in place, there is an overwhelming number of taxis, which also contribute to the traffic congestion.
The Golden team conducted two public input meetings, and approximately 100 residents attended, contributing more than 1,500 comments about bus service, intersection and road improvements, pedestrian and parking priorities, and design. Listening to the comments, the team discovered that the community had a strong desire for a local transit bus and would be willing to pay up to thirty euros for a trip. The community also indicated a preference for using their limited street space for pedestrians and cyclists, not for parking.
Then Mr. Hartman, Ms. Beierle, and Mr. Muriby compiled the data and created recommendations for parking, pedestrian improvements, and highway configuration based on the community’s feedback. Near the end of the trip, the Gjilan municipal staff and the Golden team conducted a workshop presenting the process and recommendations to all 22 of the participating DEMI cities.
Overall, the Golden team received overwhelming support from the city of Gjilan. Mayor Qemajl Mustafa awarded Golden a certificate of appreciation “for valuable support in designing traffic mobility in town.” The project’s chief of party, Ginka Kapitanova, remarked that the meetings Golden held have resulted in the establishment of an “excellent team working on mobility; it was impressive to see the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor, the Director of Public Works, and 7-8 more Gjilan municipal experts working together.” Ginka is confident that the professional exchange will make a lasting impact on the city’s mobility by improving pedestrian zones, sidewalks, bicycle paths, parking, and public transport.
Mr. Hartman remarked that the dedication he saw from the Gjilan staff was spectacular, and he is positive the city is prepared to move forward with Golden’s recommendations. It will take time for the traffic conditions in Gjilan to improve, but the demonstrated enthusiasm and commitment to fulfill community needs is a critical step in the right direction.