The expert who is driven by making things better for people on the move
We are back in Malmö, more specifically in the old headquarters of Kockum’s shipyard, which is commonly known as “Gängtappen”. When the office was built in 1962, it was a prominent building and, along with the iconic Kockum crane, was a significant landmark in the city for many years. Nowadays, the newly renovated Gängtappen is home to various enterprises, one of them being Sigma Civil.
We have arranged a meeting with Jessica Jaremo, a planning architect who is a specialist in traffic planning and responsible for assignments at Sigma Civil. Jessica got her master's degree in Spatial Planning at Blekinge Institute of Technology in 1999 and, after 18 years as a consultant and six years working for the municipality of Malmö, she has invaluable experience in urban and traffic planning.
“I didn't really have a childhood dream that led me to becoming a planning architect. But I have always been curious about how cities are connected, how they have developed the way they have and what can be done to improve things for the residents,” explains Jessica as to why she chose a degree in spatial planning.
Jessica began her professional career with the municipality of Malmö and worked there for a few years before going into consulting. According to Jessica, experience from municipal government together with those from the private sector are a good combination. Since urban planning is very much about perspective, looking at the towns and cities from an infinite number of angles, all of which must be taken into account, broad experience is valuable.
“If you have never understood the importance of a street drain, or the location of a pedestrian crossing, you will not be as good at designing and implementing big visions that simplify the city and its flows and make it more attractive to the residents,” says Jessica about the importance of understanding and having experience of the bigger picture.
Jessica has been at Sigma Civil since the summer of 2022, starting here because she wanted to work at a smaller consulting company where contact with clients is closer and relationships lead to better collaboration, which in turn leads to better solutions and end products. In other words, better quality through mutual interest.
“There are only 10-15 traffic planners at Sigma Civil and we are distributed all over the country. We collaborate all the time and I get to work on projects from Kiruna in the north to Ystad in the south. I enjoy the variety this gives me and at the same time I learn a lot by seeing how different cities have solved their planning and what challenges they have had,” says Jessica about the different assignments.
She is currently sharing her expertise on an assignment for Swedavia where she and her colleagues are simplifying and improving some of Sweden’s regional airports. Right now, they are working with the airports in Luleå, Umeå and Visby and there’s a good chance that it will be Kiruna's turn next. Airports are divided into two areas. An “airside” and a “landside”. The airside area is everything that is inside the security checkpoints and where the aircraft are located. The landside area is the roads to and from the airport, the parking areas, bus stops, landing areas and the check-in areas, i.e. areas of public space outside the terminal buildings.
“We review flows, availability and capacity for all traffic to and from the airport. And by that I mean all traffic in the form of pedestrians, cyclists, public transport, taxis and cars,” says Jessica about the assignment for Swedavia.
The task is to make it attractive and easy for travelers. And that involves planning and building for more sustainable travel with solutions that make it better and easier for the traveler to get to the airport by other means than with their own car. This is then compiled into a long-term development plan for the landside areas of each airport.
“I find it really exciting doing these investigations that will promote more sustainable travel. Our clients have a firm grasp of what the situation looks like today and where the problems are. My job is to give expert advice on how to remove these problems and maybe even turn them into something positive,” says Jessica about the assignment for Swedavia.
“Much of what I do is about compromise and prioritizing, but at the same time no one should feel de-prioritized.”
As a basis for their work Jessica and her colleagues have a large bank of data on how traffic flows today and at what times but Jessica's expertise and experience are required to be able to deliver a solution that works in harmony with the customer's vision, the travelers and future sustainability goals.
It is always about compromise and the challenge is finding a solution that all potential travelers will be satisfied with. Although the goal might be to minimize car traffic and increase the use of public transport, it is important that the solution feels natural and smooth for everyone involved. Airports are also workplaces that people have to go to every day. Many of the smaller regional airports are within cycling distance of the town centres, which means that it is possible to find solutions that facilitate commuting to and from the airport by bike.
“Much of what I do is about compromise and prioritizing, but at the same time no one should feel de-prioritized,” says Jessica about meeting the needs of as many people as possible.
When Jessica and her colleagues work on larger areas and routes that stretch all the way from the countryside to the city centre, the priorities shift as you get further and further into the city. On the outskirts the focus is often on heavy traffic whereas the closer you get to the city centre the focus shifts to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport. And it may not always be the case that all these different forms of traffic can use the same space, so the challenge is to find solutions that work for everyone. It is not only the air that is affected by driving, we also have to think about the surfaces that are required to accommodate everyone who drives. So everything is connected and that's what fascinates Jessica and inspires her to constantly look for solutions that will change behaviours, rather than just building wider streets or taller parking lots.
For Jessica and her colleagues, the future will be fully focused on sustainability, both economic and social as well as environmental. What they know for sure is that you cannot combine attractive urban areas with full capacity for car traffic. And that is why it is so important that traffic planning runs side by side with development planning so that all aspects are considered and all needs are analyzed from the word go.
“We just want to find solutions that make it easier and better to choose other ways of getting around than on your own in a car.”
“Everything that exists between buildings is traffic and all traffic is people in motion and that is why it is so important that people's needs are prioritized when we planning architects work to make cities and environments better for those who live and move there,” says Jessica about where the focus should be.
The work of planning towns and communities undoubtedly contributes to a better tomorrow. This effort lays the foundation for environments where everyone can feel safe and easily navigate city districts, making them attractive to residents and workers alike.
“Until now cars have controlled everything but if we are to make travel sustainable, we must plan for changed behaviours without, for that matter, making life difficult for car owners. We just want to find solutions that make it easier and better to choose other ways of getting around than on your own in a car,” concludes Jessica as we round off our conversation.
We thank Jessica, our expert on people in motion, and take the elevator down through Gängtappen and step out into an area where people are in motion, an area that was planned with a focus on people and not car traffic.