May 23, 2016
We are encouraged to use public transport for environmental reasons, to reduce traffic, to ensure public service sustainability, and to increase urban life quality. Awareness campaigns are funded out of the European or local administrative budget.
This is a repost of Municipiul Săcele, originally published in Romanian by Marius Malinescu (@ on Twitter, also on Facebook and Instagram) and translated into English by the European Commission as part of the Europe in My Region 2016 blogging competition.
All large cities tend to impress in the town centre and completely ignore their peripheral areas. An ethnic, political, or financial motivation is often used to get the resources, only to redirect them to more visible areas later, with a more profitable impact.
For two weeks, I’ve been testing the Brașov-Săcele route, which tourists only reach if they’re passionate, but where regular people travel on a daily basis. The area is a diverse mix of commercial and residential buildings, production facilities, a business park, some slight traces of tourism, various entrepreneurs, and many retirees, and combines all income levels, stretching out to areas populated by Roma, Hungarian, and Transylvanian Saxons in addition to the majority Romanian population.
I can say the public transport route between Brașov and Săcele is the essence of social communion, of the desired working class with a tendency to develop above average, with an attraction towards the classes of the newly rich. The town halls are still separate, pending territorial unification.
With REGIO funding, Autonomous Brașov Transport Administration has managed to develop public transport stops at the end of the lines, to introduce ticket machines that provide round-the-clock availability, travel card readers, electronic information displays showing the estimated time of arrival, WiFi Internet, and has trained the drivers to provide assistance to disabled passengers.
Details about the funding programme are available here and here, along with the contract description: Project description – Developing public transport stops in Brașov. Neighbouring cities may find the information useful.
The Săcele Autonomous Communal Property and Service Administration persists in doing nothing. It covers a significant part of what is going to become a metropolis, but at the level of an ongoing humiliation, from the aggressive bus driving to the filth, wear and tear, safety, and control issues. The passenger becomes a mere piece of merchandise, useful only during the campaign period, when one of the candidates rides on a bus made by the former lorry manufacturing company and asks, from the ironic poster: “What if we could travel like this?”, addressing beneficiaries that lost all hope many years before.
The people in the area are used to a hard life; they cling to each other at each sudden stop, turn, speed bump, trying not to drop their canes, spades or brooms, because Săcele includes a significant Roma population, employed for tending to the green spaces when, under the supervision of the man carrying the planner, they pretend to be useful to urban hygiene by exchanging lines such as:
“I’m not going to lie to you… What shall I do with the rake here – heap up the grass?”
Integration is talked about without offering a genuine chance of zonal evolution when a cultural centre, also rehabilitated with REGIO funding, is still not operational, even though the project value is a third of what Brașov received and transport is just as high a priority, providing a faster link between remote communities and an empty building.
For instance, the transport line still doesn’t cover the Roma-populated areas (Gârcini), and two years ago they tried to have a separate transport line, which reminds us of the state of Alabama, where Afro-Americans were only allowed to sit in the back of the bus. It is easier to blame violence, which is visible in the ticket collector’s fear of enquiring about their ticket, thus starting the vicious circle of losses. The theft incidents on line 5 in Brașov were reduced with the help of the relevant institutions: another example of social and administrative pressure.
The area gets positive points in comparison with the traditional area of Poiana Brașov, so that companies training their employees ultimately want it, but without competitive services, you stay isolated even though you’re on one of the routes to Bucharest. The same level of scheming, clans, influence, and group persists.
I get off at the Poenelor stop and my eyes follow an old woman with a scraped nose and a Romanian couple happy to find that the residential garbage bins are full and diving into a rigorous selection, greeted by the residents, which means they’ve been doing this for a while. An iron-tipped cane makes a dry sound going back to the bus that defies the darkness inside.Mathew Lowry