Varna is the third largest city in Bulgaria and the biggest seaside resort on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. Situated strategically in the Gulf of Varna and having 350,000 inhabitants, Varna is an important centre for business, transportation, education, tourism and entertainment and is often called ‘the maritime capital of Bulgaria’. The traffic in Varna is very intense and the old historical center is always full of on-street parked cars. The congestions, air pollution and noise are very high making the destination less attractive.
Varna is a prominent tourism destination with its Golden sands beach resort and in the high season (May to October) is visited by over a million of tourists. The main tourist attractions are located within the core city centre and along the coast to the northeast of the city, whilst the areas surrounding the city centre to the north, northwest and south are primarily residential areas with local urban centres. Varna also has a high student population with numerous universities and vocational high schools located across the city.
The public transport system in Varna is required to support all potential user groups, in particular residents, commuters and tourists. It faces a lot of problems because the urban traffic is very intense. Varna was a beneficiary of the OP Regional Development 2007-2013 by receiving funding for implementation of the ‘Plan for Integrated Urban Transport’. A key objective of the city’s plan was the modernization of the infrastructure and the rolling stock in order to increase the accessibility of the public transport network to non-residents thereby increasing the likelihood of tourists to travel from their resort to and around the city centre and boosting the tourist economy.
Varna has not any previous experience in SUMP. The city is participating in two EU projects related to urban planning and mobility funded by H2020: CIVITAS PROSPERITY and mySMARTlife. In the frames of PROSPERITY in partnership with CSDCS, the project team obtained the full support from the Varna Regional Government, which adopted the mission to be the Bulgarian state body that will establish the SUMP framework in Bulgaria and, as a first step, they voted a decision to develop a regional SUMP for connecting the remote tourism areas deprived of public transport with the main city.
The Municipality adopted a vision oriented to effective, attractive and sustainable urban transport development that complies with EU policy for development of sustainable urban transport systems, aiming at attractive, fast, accessible and environmental friendly public transport, deployment of automated systems for traffic control and management of the urban transport processes. As a preliminary mobility measure a new parking policy was implemented by introducing a Blue zone in the historical city center.
In 2019 Varna is exchanging experience in urban mobility with Santa Monica, California in the frames of the EU IUC Programme. The Varna team is convinced that the learning exchange will facilitate the process of SUMP development and implementation.