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Smart City Lublin
Lisa Smith29. May 201915 min read

Smart City Lublin: A Smart City with a Social Dimension

Lublin, with a population of 340 000 inhabitants, is the largest economic and academic center and also the only metropolitan macro-region in Eastern Poland. Including the Lublin Metropolitan Area, this brings together more than 608 000 residents in 21 neighboring municipalities, with a total area of 2121 km2. Lublin is among the most dynamically developing of Polish cities and holds top rankings for sustainable development, for its strategy for attracting investors, for quality of life, and for the level of its investment in infrastructure.

Lublin is currently perceived as a key business location in Eastern Poland: it is an excellent location for investments in the services industry sector and has one of the six largest IT ecosystems in the country. Compared to other centers in this part of Poland, the city is distinguished by its very high level of investment outlays, both in the private and public sectors. Lublin is also a thriving academic city: it has nine universities educating 62 977 students in 2017/2018, which puts Lublin in the forefront of national academic centers. On top of this, at 10%, they have one of the highest level of international students.

The image of Lublin is being shaped by four strategic development areas: openness, friendliness, entrepreneurship and academicity. As a city of science and knowledge, Lublin presents itself as a good location for shared business services centers with a financial–accounting, medical and legal profile. The city is also cultivating its traditional strengths in the machine and automotive industries as well as in food processing. Priority sectors also include IT services, biotechnology, health care and pharmacy. 

Urban Corporate Governance in the Smart City of Lublin

What makes Lublin’s management model smart is the strong socialization of its decision-making processes. Over the last few years, the points of view of residents have been consulted for more and more important issues, using a variety of participation tools. The compromise developed thanks to their use forms the basis of making decisions of a tactical or strategic character. The Civic Budget, the Green Budget and the Citizens’ Panel (see below) have entered the deliberative repertoire for any actions constituting the axis of the Smart City 3.0 concept. This model will also be used to create the new Strategy of Lublin 2030, whose core will be worked out with the cooperation of residents in the planned two-year participatory process.

The concept of Lublin as a smart city appeared for the first time in the "Lublin Development Strategy for 2013–2020". Compared to generic urban strategies, this document had a different concept, structure and socialized way of its creation that engaged people other than just the experts or urban activists, business representatives and academies. The strategy determines the axis for future city development, but it does not contain an exhaustive list of activities to be carried out by the city: instead, it describes the scope of the basic changes desired through the development of Lublin in an open manner, and is an inspiration for the plans and initiatives created by the residents.

Being a social document, the strategy itself puts into practice the inclusion of residents in the city management process – a key assumption of the Human Smart City 3.0 concept. The time frame of the current strategy ends in 2020, but the experience from its preparation and implementation will guide the participatory process of creating a new vision of the city, "Lublin 2030". In this new document, the concept of an intelligent, participatory society will be developed even more broadly, and the city’s community will be involved in the widely deliberative process. The introduction to these activities was realized in 2017 by a visionary project from the city management, "Foresight Lublin 2050". Its purpose was to define threats related to socio-economic, environmental or technological development. As a result of the works of several generations of Lublin residents, five scenarios of the city’s future over the next 30 years were created, forming the basis for the discussion on Lublin Development Strategy 2030.

Lublin – A Socially Intelligent City

The principles of participatory city management have been implemented through the "Civic Budget" for the past six years. As part of the democratic nature of decision-making in Lublin, supported by extensive communication and social discussion, residents determine the allocation of budget funds for their own ideas and proposals for changes. By the end of 2017, in all editions of the Civic Budget, 55 million PLN was allocated for projects, and the total number of projects submitted was 884. Recognizing the growing popularity of this solution and the involvement of residents in subsequent editions of the Civic Budget, Lublin became the first city in Poland to go a step further and create a separate participatory instrument called the "Green Budget". This is a proposal for those city dwellers who have ideas for urban greenery. Within its framework, apart form financial support, assistance is also offered to experts who advise in the process of creating projects related to greenery. Separating a participatory budget for greenery turned out to be a good idea: before its introduction, important infrastructure projects out-competed small projects concerning green areas reported in the Civic Budget. For the two editions of the Green Budget so far, the city has allocated 4 million PLN and the residents have submitted 181 projects. In 2019, the city of Lublin launched the first edition of the "Youth Civic Budget". The Youth Civic Budget is primarily a support for creativity, entrepreneurship and youth involvement in the life of local communities. It is intended to be money also for cultural, sporting and integration events that young people want to pursue.

In the spring of 2018, Lublin was the second city in Poland to apply another, extremely advanced mechanism of deliberative democracy: the "Civic Panel". The idea of the panel is to resolve issues important to the local community, by its own representatives. A representative group of panelists is randomly selected from the population of the city based on the criteria of the place of residence (district), gender, age group and level of education. So far, 440 women and 312 men from all districts of Lublin have been invited to participate, from whom a group of 60 people and another group of 12 people were appointed reserve panelists. In Lublin, the topic discussed within the Citizens' Panel was air quality and ways to improve it. During the meetings, the panelists were acquainted with the subject by listening to lectures from experts and members of non-governmental organizations, and then recommendations for solving the problem were prepared that were binding for the city authorities. As part of the work, 250 proposals were submitted, of which 55 received support at a level of at least 80%. According to the authorities' announcement, the panel will permanently enter the catalog of parity tools used in city management.

One other such tool for strengthening the control of residents over public spaces is the nationwide platform "FixIT!". Accessible through a web browser and a mobile application, it allows residents to report problems and defects observed in their immediate surroundings. The basic function of the platform is to describe the problem and tag its location on a map in order to inform on the failure of the relevant institutions responsible for solving certain categories of affairs: infrastructure, security, nature, buildings and others. The tool works perfectly in practice: thanks to FixIT!, about 10,000 defects in Lublin have been repaired, accounting for 30% of all faults recorded globally. Such a good result testifies to the residents' great involvement in shaping common spaces.

Integrated Intelligent Urban Mobility in Lublin

The organization of public transport is one of the basic tasks faced by a metropolitan city. The provision of infrastructure for residents alone is not sufficient, as public transport must also be characterized by low emissions of exhaust gases, facilities for the disabled, additional components enabling convenient transport for users (e.g. air conditioning, ticket machines, contactless payment or USB ports). What’s more, it should be equipped to allow a unit responsible for monitoring public transportation, to collect data and to analyze the state of the entire transport system in the city.

Along with a number of minor activities, the biggest challenge in the field of intelligent urban transportation was the creation of the "Integrated Public Transport System". It was a response to the problems of planning network connections, the availability of public transport in some areas of the city, the optimization of urban traffic, as well as the inflow of residents to Lublin. As part of these activities, a comprehensive reconstruction of the public transport system was carried out, creating new trolleybus routes, depots, intersections and streets. In addition, 70 trolleybuses and 100 low-emission buses meeting the EURO 5 and EEV standards were purchased. This is not the end of Lublin's aspirations when it comes to creating low-emission transport: Lublin is one of the few cities in Poland with an already 30% share of zero-emission rolling stock in its fleet of vehicles, and further investment is planned to increase this factor to 50%. By the end of 2020, the city plans to build 66 electric buses and a rapid charging center based on pantograph connectors and high power chargers (450 kW).

The "Traffic Management System - ITS" implemented in 2015 is responsible for the proper functioning of the transport system in the city, which supports the optimization of traffic signaling, monitors the means of transport and the road situation, and improves traffic analytics. Technologically, ITS is based on induction loops used to count vehicles and their detection. In addition, the loops are supported by video cameras that read vehicle registration numbers. Currently, ITS operates at approx. 50% of all intersections in the city, and is supported by 303 video cameras recording urban traffic. The whole system is controlled via the Traffic Management Center. What's more, works were started on the development of the system which, in 2019, will ultimately cover 90% of intersections in the city.

This ITS solution is complemented by the "Public Transport Management System", which is primarily used to monitor, inform and respond to the most important aspects of operating public transport in the city. Its key functionality is the management of timetables, done through the module responsible for supervising the urban transport fleet and private carriers, so that users can determine the real-time location of a given vehicle on the digital city map while receiving information on possible delays or accelerations of a specific line. The "Dynamic Passenger Information System" is also compatible with this, through electronic boards installed at bus stops. The system allows passengers at the bus stop to check information on the time of arrival of transport on a given route, or delay times. This solution currently covers 65 city stops.

These urban transport systems are complemented by a "Paid Parking Zone" covering the city center, which promotes the ownership of electric and hybrid cars by exempting them from the designated fees.

Lublin’s Intelligent Alternative Transport

Taking into account global trends and the increase in the popularity of public transport in relation to private transport, Lublin is focused on providing diverse methods of moving around the city, adopting functional and cost criteria. The City Office created the Active Mobility Department, whose task is the promotion of alternative transport methods and the creation of policies and standards for cycling and walking. First, "Lublin Standards for Pedestrians – Directions for Pedestrian Development in Lublin" was created in 2016. The document diagnoses the pedestrian traffic situation, describes the directions of development and the concept of the pedestrian and gives examples of solutions. In addition, pedestrian standards have been developed on three different spatial scales of the city, taking into account its planning scale, a street and a detailed perspective, in order to take into account all problems related to pedestrian traffic.

In recent years, the role of bicycles has also increased in Lublin. In addition to the growing number of private bicycles, including electric bikes and cargo solutions, the most popular alternative system of moving around the city is the "Lublin City Bike". The operator of the system is Nextbike, which provides solutions for self-service city bike systems in several locations in Poland. The system has been very popular since its launch in June 2014, as confirmed by statistics. Currently, Lublin City Bike consists of 1001 city bikes, including tandems, and 101 stations. The total number of rentals in the season is on average 562,000 and the number of registered users exceeds 90,000, which is 20% of Lublin’s population. In the Ranking of City Bike Systems in Poland, developed by, the Lublin City Bike was ranked at second place. Lublin plans to expand on this, taking into account quantitative needs, as well as the development of technologies towards 4th-generation solutions and increasing its share in the rolling stock of electric bicycles.

Smart City Lublin City Bike

The Lublin City Bike system is complemented by the "Scooter Rental System – Blinkee". The solution has been operating since 2018, by the Green Electricity Company. Scooters operate under the dockless system, using a mobile application. Currently, there are 20 vehicles in the city, which should increase in subsequent seasons. The supplier system will ultimately also include electric kick scooters and bicycles.

As part of educational activities supporting competences in the field of mobility in 2015, “Model City of Learning Road Traffic” was created as the first professional facility of this type in Lublin. It serves children, young people and people with disabilities in learning how to behave on the roads and while cycling. The Model City of Learning Road Traffic is equipped with elements of traffic organization along with the accompanying infrastructure, buildings and vehicles (including vehicles adapted for the disabled and electric vehicles).

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Soft Solutions for a Smart Lublin City

In addition to large projects based on complex technological solutions, the city of Lublin also focuses on soft solutions which relate to various aspects of the city and its inhabitants. In order to expand access to library resources, for example, the "Lublin Virtual Library" was launched, which consists of a cooperation of libraries and cultural institutions working together for the digitization of resources, as well as creating a mechanism and platform connecting this combined resource to enable fast and universal access. A similar activity was the launch of the “Lublin Digital Archive”, which contains digital archival materials in the form of acts, cartographic documents, photographs and audiovisual resources.

Another project related to the digitization of processes implemented within the city was the creation in 2015 of the "Lublin System of Spatial Information", the aim of which was to integrate a spatial database as part of a website and dedicated applications. The system itself consists of several components: TurboEwid, InterEwid, WebEwid and the City Geoportal. Thanks to this system architecture, both residents and employees of the Lublin City Office are able to benefit from it. The system makes it possible to keep registers by individual departments of the City of Lublin and provides the possibility of data visualizations on several related websites, such as urban investments, planning and local elections, for all who are interested.

In order to effectively conduct ongoing monitoring and supervision over municipal waste management, the City of Lublin has also implemented an “Electronic Registration System for Municipal Waste Collection” based on RFID technology. 

Lublin’s Smart Future

In the scientific literature on smart cities issues is an ongoing debate about a new form of intelligent city: generation 4.0. Within this framework, cities will not only have to adapt new technologies with the support of residents, but also to choose solutions compatible with solutions that have not yet been created. Currently, Lublin – a city with a strong position of residents as partners in the decision-making processes – is part of the Smart City 3.0 generation. The process of increasing the city's intelligence is rapidly accelerating, which translates into challenges that take into account technological changes, infrastructure and the evolution of mentality in the selection of smart components. Appropriate identification of these challenges and their adaptation is both an opportunity for and, at the same time, a threat to the development of cities. The main question is, is it worth participating in a race where the main criteria are the level of intelligence and the generation of smart city development?

The most common mode of operation of cities striving to raise their intelligence is the widest possible use of new technologies and IT solutions in the process of infrastructure improvement. The aim of these activities is to improve the way of managing various urban systems to improve the comfort and quality of life of residents. So understood, increasing intelligence is treated as an impulse for development or even a civilizational paradigm, the axis of which is a precisely metering management system supported by the most modern available technology. Fascinated with modernity, we greatly exaggerate the systems for which data clouds are the primary source of information. We believe that technology will improve the city by itself, and automation will take care of the residents. 

In Lublin, we believe that the penetration of sensors and electronics in the city does not automatically give it intelligence, nor does it translate directly into an increase in the quality of life of its residents. Intelligent solutions must be designed not so much with momentum as wisely and ergonomically. They should take into account the real needs of the community and involve and educate residents in the design and implementation processes. This means giving up ready-made templates available on the market designed for a typical user. The City of Lublin believes that urban intellect appears only as a result of the analysis of residents' needs, the possibilities of adapting technology and its real social usefulness. The key to this process is the involvement of the residents and making Lublin a transparent city, open to both criticism and all forms of co-existence. Therefore, in addition to creating participative platforms that allow residents to speak on important issues for the city, the priority will be to expand the decision areas in which residents will be included. Their citizen’s role will not be reduced to that of a social consultant, rather to that of co-decision-maker, taking responsibility for the consequences of their choices. From this perspective, the intelligent city of the future is a place co-managed by fully empowered citizens.

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Lisa Smith

Lisa Smith holds a PhD in chemistry from the University of Melbourne, where she studied a mixture of arts and sciences. She has worked as an editor for Wiley’s materials science program since 2010, and works on both fiction and nonfiction writing and editing projects in her spare time.