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Low-maintenance green tram tracks as a socially acceptable solution to greening a city

Sikorski, Piotr, Wińska-Krysiak, Marzena, Chormański, Jarosław, Krauze, Kinga, Kubacka, Katarzyna, Sikorska, Daria
Urban forestry & urban greening 2018 v.35 pp. 148-164
aesthetics, attitudes and opinions, biodiversity, cities, color, economic feasibility, green infrastructure, lawns and turf, people, vegetation, weeds
The creation of green tramways has become a common solution in many European cities in efforts to meet the increasing demands for green areas. However, maintaining high-quality vegetation requires costly maintenance. In this study, we assessed the possibility of managing green tram tracks in a manner that combines people’s attitudes with economic and ecological performance. We examined low-maintenance vegetation along existing tram tracks that has undergone natural succession to answer several specific questions. The aims of the present study include 1) assessment of how residents perceive the existing low-maintenance green tramways of various ages (1-11 years), 2) identification of measurable vegetation quality parameters affecting residents’ aesthetic preferences, and 3) assessment of whether viewing distance (from close up or from a distance) is a factor affecting residents’ perception of green tramways. Based on our results, green tramways were valued five times higher by residents than conventional tram tracks. Respondents indicated that the most important features of green tracks were vegetation coverage, with only a minority specifying factors such as uneven colour (33.9%) or the presence of weeds (7.1%). Perception also depended on turf age and biodiversity. Additionally, the greatest effect on the perception of tramways was the viewing perspective: as deficiencies in quality became less visible and were considered negligible, tramways were perceived 19% more favourably when viewed at a distance than when viewed close-up. The results of our research indicate that low-maintenance green tram tracks are an economically feasible solution for introducing more green areas into cities. Despite deficiencies in turf quality, this approach can become an accepted element of a city’s green infrastructure, and such a solution should be encouraged. Considering residents’ expectations, high-quality turf should be intensively maintained in only areas observed from a short distance.