Spatial relations and transport accessibility in Małopolska Region

The report is the result of the study “Functional and spatial relations between urban centers and their surroundings”, which main purpose was to analyze the functional and spatial relations and connections in the network of cities and to determine their impact ranges in 6 regions of Poland.

The report has been published by the Institute of Geography and Spatial Management of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków in cooperation with the Regional Development Observatory of Małopolska Region. The project was started in July 2018. The survey included cooperation of six polish regions (voivodships): pomorskie, małopolskie, kujawsko-pomorskie, zachodniopomorskie, warmińsko-mazurskie, łódzkie. The research methodology was common to all regions and gives an opportunity to compare results for all of them.

A number of research issues and questions were used, for example:

  • What is the grade of matching public transport links to functional links (labor market, education)?
  • What is the strength and directions of city connections in the public transport system?
  • Are there any areas where a public transport service doesn’t work sufficiently?
  • What kind of actions should be taken to improve the efficiency of public transport service?

Road accessibility

Studies that have been carried out show that one of the most important elements strengthening the potential of cities is road accessibility. An access to roads of various categories determines the transport accessibility of cities, which is an important factor conditioning a level of economic and social development. Road transport in Małopolska Region is the dominant type of transport, both in the scope of goods and passenger transport. Unfortunately, the Małopolska Region doesn’t have well-developed road infrastructure, and thus transport in all parts of region.

The Kraków Metropolitan Area (KOM) and the municipalities located along the A4 motorway route have the best accessibility, both from the economic and quality of life perspective. However, this accessibility deteriorates the more north and south of the region’s main transport axis of this system. Counties of Tatry Mountains area, Nowy Targ, Gorlice and Nowy Sącz have the poorest accessibility.

Kraków, as a capital of Małopolska Region, is available from almost the entire area of ​​the region in less than 2 hours. The municipalities of Muszyna, Uście Gorlickie and Piwniczna-Zdrój are located in the longest distance (in terms of travel time) from Kraków.

The south-eastern part of the Małopolska Region remains one of the weakest region due to a road and transport connection with others. It is the most important barrier in attracting external investors and may provoke a migration outflow from such areas to those with better accessibility and development.

An access to other urban centers with an administrative service is often more important for residents than accessibility to the capital of the region. Most people live within the range of Wieliczka town and Chrzanów town, which are influenced by the vicinity of Kraków and good communication with the cities of the Śląsk Region. Wieliczka town and Chrzanów town are available in less than 120 minutes for all inhabitans of their counties. Similar positive situation concerns Brzesko and Bochnia with the vicinity of  the A4 motorway.

Public transport

According to research, 26,867 connections between 62 cities in Małopolska Region have been recorded in 2019, which accounted for over 15% of public transport connections in the countryside commonly. On Sundays, connections (14,687) between cities accounted for over 20%. Kraków is best connected with other cities compared to other six examined regions. Strong connections with Kraków are observed both along the railway lines (Oświęcim – Trzebinia – Kraków – Tarnów – Rzeszów) and roads served only by buses (e.g. to Olkusz, Skała, Proszowice or Myślenice). Although accessibility from rural areas to cities in the Małopolska Region can be assessed as good, 16% of the localities did not have a public transport station at all.

It is worth emphasizing that almost 90% of inhabitants live in towns with access to public transport to the nearest city: excellent (27%), very good (15%) or good (16%). Locations with weak and very weak accessibility were concentrated in several zones: Gorlice County, Tarnów County, Limanowa County, areas near Miechów, counties: Kraków, Proszowice, Dąbrowa Tarnowska, Tarnów and Brzesko.

Locations with weak and very weak accessibility were concentrated in several zones:

  • Beskid Niski (Gorlice county),
  • Pogórze (Tarnów country, Limanowa country),
  • Wyżyna Miechowska,
  • Dąbrowa Tarnowska county, Tarnów county, Brzesko county.

57 cities, where 24.000 people live, had no connections to the town between the hours of 6 and 8 a.m. Such cities occur only in the northern and eastern parts of the region. However, even in well-developed KOM area, rural towns with only two daily routes to the county town were recorded. Importantly, over 50% of towns had a direct connection to Kraków, including almost all towns in the region. In total, 69% of the region’s residents living outside Krakow have a direct connection to it in the public transport system.

Public transport is also a very important component of the transport system in the context of commuting to secondary schools. In the Małopolska Region, most students attend to schools in Kraków, where a large number of highly specialized institutions is located. Nowy Sącz and Tarnów are also large centers of secondary schools education, followed by Nowy Targ, Limanowa and Oświęcim.

Functional links between cities and towns

The range and scale of impact of individual urban centers in the Małopolska region are very diverse. The influence of three main urban centers is clearly visible: Kraków, Tarnów and Nowy Sącz, with the dominance of Kraków. The western part of Małopolska Region is strongly linked with Śląsk Region, which is reflected in the intensity and directions of flows from centers located there.

The most powerful city center is Kraków – over 84,000 people arrive to work in, and less than 20,000 leave it every day. Together with Tarnów and Nowy Sącz, they gather over 37% of those who are work migrants (data from 2016). An area of ​​strong economic suburbanization has developed around the capital of the region, which also gathers towns with considerable commuting.

The Carpathian area (with some exceptions of Nowy Sącz, Gorlice, Nowy Targ or Zakopane) and the borderland with the Świętokrzyskie Region – isolated centers (Wolbrom, Sucha Beskidzka or Dąbrowa Tarnowska) with their small but attractive towns, is characterized by low intensity of commuting. Among the cities with a negative balance of commutes we can also distinguish former coalmine cities located in the western part of the Małopolska Region.

Read the report (in Polish language)