Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, partner of PE4Trans project, has organized the citizen panel (CP1) on sustainable future for their region. The  event took place on 15 of December and was full of Christmas mood and joy!

Great interest
The interest shown by the citizens exceeded by far the initial expectations. Over 60 were the applications on time, while many were those who applied and called after the application system was closed and the CP1 was held. As a result, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTh) had the opportunity to recruit a heterogeneous group of people of all ages, incomes, education levels, sex, vulnerable users or not, with or without disabilities. In particular, among the 28 non-expert participants there were two citizens who were blind and one in a wheelchair, mothers with strollers, students, citizens retired, people who work and who live in various municipalities of the Greater Area of Thessaloniki.

During the workshop, the atmosphere was cool and relaxed. Everyone participated in the discussions actively both in the working groups and in the plenary sessions. They felt comfortable to present their tables’ results to the plenary and, in some cases, the whole table stood up to talk about a part of the outcome they produced.

Great involvement
Generally, the main issue in transportation in Thessaloniki is the fact that the only existing public means of transport are the buses that often do not work causing significant mobility problems. The need for the development and introduction of new transport modes with the view to establishing a multimodal transport system was highlighted at the CP1.

Another issue that everyone recognized was that the need for a change of mentality and people’s mobility habits is crucial. This shift of mindset towards sustainable means of transport was considered as very important. It should be set as a priority and it is essential to be accompanied by the change of drivers’ attitude, e.g. of those who park on the bus lane abolishing its utility. This was an issue underlined by every working group in all sessions and elaborated visions.
In addition, emphasis was given to the lack of green spaces, the insufficient protection of the environment today and the need for sustainable and environment-friendly development in every sector of our lives including transportation.

Emphasis, also, was given to the accessibility of vulnerable users (elderly, children and people with disabilities). The need of enriching the policies and strategies regarding mobility as well as improving the infrastructure of the city towards this direction was recognized of great importance.

Great visions
Many ideas were shared, discussed, analyzed and recorded at CP1.
All participants created a draft vision and the five who were voted as the best ones were further elaborated in the five working tables. The 5 main visions were:

  • RE-THESS: technology -oriented
  • A sustainable city with the inclusion and equal participation of all citizens: the main idea is accessibility, inclusion of all citizens’ needs to the policies and strategies and establishment of participatory processes
  • A car-free city: car-free historical center of Thessaloniki with green spaces
  • THESS-ALAS: exploitation of the area of Thermaikos bay with the development of sea transport
  • A city that starts with a “C”, I choose to stay in my city!! : City in a two-way relationship with its inhabitants, we take care of our city so that our city takes care of us

How to do it? Preparation
Before CP1 many dissemination activities were carried out. Prof. Naniopoulos was interviewed by 3 radio stations and 1 television show during the recruitment process. Through these interviews he provided information for the PE4Trans project and the “mission” of CPs and he invited people to participate as members of the team. AUTh issued a press release on the institutional website included information on CP1 and its invitation letter which was reposted by some online blogs and sites on a local and national level. A Facebook page was created in Greece fed with relevant content concerning CP1 and PE4Trans in Greek (100 likes received for the page). An email with the invitation letter was sent to chambers, NGOs, organizations and unions of Thessaloniki.

A special logo was created for the Citizen Panels in Thessaloniki to nudge the participants, develop the feeling of belonging in a team and engage them more with the aims of the project. This logo was designed to be used in any local CP-related activities for all the CPs that are going to take place in the frame of PE4Trans project in Thessaloniki. Having a special logo for the “team” someone is part of, might make him more engaged, encourage him to participate actively and finally, make him feel that he is involved in an official process and outcome.