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The blog of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities on urban mobility, development and efficiency
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From Waste to Watts: How Sewage Could Help Fix India’s Water, Energy and Sanitation Woes

Thu, 2017-03-23 01:21

Water-intensive agriculture, rapid urban expansion, increases in industrial activity and growing energy production are driving India’s water demand upward. Photo by Samuel Benoit/Flickr

As India’s summer intensifies, many states are already in the midst of a drought—and the hottest days have yet to arrive. At the same time, water-intensive agriculture, rapid urban expansion, increases in industrial activity and growing energy production are driving the country’s water demand upward. More than half of India is now considered severely water stressed.

Part of the problem is that India still manages its water as an infinite resource on a linear model of withdrawal, consumption and disposal. But a more efficient management model is to look at water from a “circular economy” perspective. Water’s usability doesn’t need to end once it washes down the drain. Rather, we can see industrial and domestic wastewater as a valuable resource from which usable water, nutrients and even renewable energy can be extracted.

Reusing Wastewater through Sludge-to-Energy Plants

Wastewater treatment facilities in most towns are rudimentary, as shown here. Photo by Vittal Boggaram/WRI

Sludge-to-energy systems can make the dream of a circular economy a reality by turning waste into an input, instead of just an output. These systems can be developed as independent, decentralized units that require minimal outside energy for operations. From raw sewage, they generate three useful products: energy, digestate and water that can be reused for agriculture, industry and even domestic uses such as watering gardens and flushing toilets.

Here’s how it works: Wastewater treatment plants first separate sewage into solid “sludge” and liquid water. This methane-rich sludge then undergoes two processes—thermal hydrolysis and anaerobic digestion—to quickly and efficiently remove pathogens and harness biogas. The resulting biogas can then be used as on-site energy to power the wastewater treatment plant, or can be purified further and sold as natural gas. In addition, the solid digestate left over after anaerobic digestion can be used to enhance soil. (However, the presence of certain heavy metals in the digestate, can make it unsuitable for land applications.)

A plant’s financial needs and the technical capacities of its operators can inform which kind of sludge-to-energy technology and system is chosen, and they can be installed in existing wastewater treatment plants, reducing the need for new infrastructure. This saves time, space and money.

A Win-Win for India

Sludge-to-energy systems can also help in another way. India’s urban populations have grown so drastically that sewage treatment systems cannot keep up with the amount of human waste being generated. There are only enough treatment systems in India to treat 37 percent of the country’s sewage—and that’s if they were all operating at maximum capacity. In reality, even less than 37 percent of sewage is probably treated—the rest is often dumped in waterways or on land. Untreated sewage contains large concentrations of pathogens and other contaminants that can make people sick.

Despite emerging policies to deal with urban sanitation, there’s been limited uptake of traditional wastewater treatment facilities due to barriers such as high installation and maintenance costs, the large amount of energy required to run such units, and the need for trained technical staff. In addition, traditional facilities require large amounts of additional space in India’s already-dense urban areas. Non-traditional, smaller sludge-to-energy systems could overcome these barriers by selling natural gas and digestate for revenue, and by using biogas to meet energy needs on-site. Sludge-to-energy systems can help wastewater treatment become financially feasible, provide renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions—all while helping to meet India’s growing water and sanitation needs.

Implementing Sludge-to-Energy Systems in India

WRI India is currently leading research on the potential for implementing sludge-to-energy systems in Indian cities. Past WRI research found that sludge-to-energy systems in Xianyang, China would yield sizable economic, environmental and social benefits—can the same be said for cities in India? Our research in India will map the policy and institutional landscapes of the water and wastewater sectors, consider which designs and approaches match India’s needs, and identify the potential for such systems to increase resilience to water stress. By harnessing resources from wastewater, Indian cities may be able to simultaneously gain a clean source of water, energy and improved sanitation.

Originally published on WRI Insights

With Mobile App Rewards for Cycling and Walking, Would You Continue to Drive?

Mon, 2017-03-20 19:59

Biking in Odense, Denmark. Photo by Rhys Thom / Flickr

Modern technology has revolutionized the way people interact with urban mobility and their cities. People’s movements have become inextricably linked with technology, in particular their smartphones. Today’s technology can call a car service, track your movement, alert you when the next bus is arriving and count your steps. What about taking this relationship a bit further—can it change people’s behaviors?

Experts around the globe are researching how to reduce the number of privately-owned, conventionally-fueled vehicles on the road. When one thinks of alternate modes of transport, one often thinks of biking in Europe. Although the Europeans are famous for cycling as a day-to-day routine, there are still many preferring to drive. So, how we can change their preference to public transportation, carsharing systems, electric vehicles, cycling and walking to reduce carbon dioxide emissions?

Empowering Technology to Transform Transportation

Horizon 2020 EMPOWER Project is using a rewards system to influence people’s transport choices, stemming from the mobile technology in our pockets. With 12 partners—one being WRI Turkey Sustainable Cities—EMPOWER is developing incentive schemes for cities, corporations and communities that are tested in LivingLabs in Goteborg, Helsinki, Manchester and Enschede. These experiments provide data about the most preferred incentives and services most relevant to each city.

Furthermore, EMPOWER is collaborating with 7 Take-up Cities (TUCs)—Budapest, Milan, New Castle, Reading, Antwerp, Odense and Bologna—on methods to fall out of love with private cars. The TUCs test a whole host of travel-smart initiatives including real-time information, reward and point challenges and the use of social networks to transform the transportation market and push individuals to choose sustainable modes. These apps, such as Commute Greener, Smart and Zwitch—not developed but adapted by EMPOWER—provide an open and flexible architecture for creating positive incentives in cities and industries.

EMPOWER intends to convert the loyal car-user into someone that chooses more sustainable modes. Therefore, when people first register, the app may require them to enter information about how they travel around the city. Based on what they say, the system sets tailored targets on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. According to the scheme developed, the reward could be a free coffee in a local shop, a bike product or a ticket to a movie.

Odense Will Cut Car-use by 15 Percent

Odense, the third-largest city in Denmark, aims to shift 36 thousand daily short car trips to cycling or walking, therefore reducing private car-use by 15 percent for trips less than 5 km (3.1 miles). To reach the target, Odense has chosen to promote cycling with positive incentive schemes focused on tracking trips, challenges and gamification. For instance, the city promotes cycling among students in a class of four- to seven-year-olds with a game called “Biking Friend.” For adults, they have another cycling app called “Ta’ Cyklen Danmark” (Go Bike Denmark).

In addition to cycling, Odense is developing walking campaigns with regular events at local markets, bakeries and supermarkets based on the app “Endomondo” (pictured below). When the app users reach a certain point threshold, they can earn prizes like those mentioned above. In addition to incentives, in order to reach the 15 percent target, Odense is focusing on increasing awareness of the campaigns. By utilizing social media platforms and creating flyers, cards, posters, magazine articles and decorating to-go coffee cups, Odense is educating the general public and paving the way toward its goal.

While many of these apps are still in their infancy, they are having a tangible impact. For example, even though “Biking Friend” started in August 2016, there has been a significant increase in the number of students cycling instead of driving to school since city representatives made 34 school visits to promote the campaign.

You Can Also Be a Part of EMPOWER!

 Although the TUCs are already chosen, cities and corporations can still benefit from EMPOWER’s incentive solutions. Interested groups can benefit from the EMPOWER Toolkit, mobile apps, workshops and conferences.

For more information:

Swapping Parking Spots for Bike Lots Can Transform India’s Cities

Wed, 2017-03-15 21:24

The Seeds for Change project in Gurugram, India, reclaimed four car parking spots to make space for 40 bicycles. Photo by Amit Bhatt/WRI

One city in India is swapping its cars for bikes.

WRI India and Nagarro Software, in partnership with Udaan NGO and NASSCOM Foundation, recently launched the Seeds for Change project in Gurugram, India, reclaiming four car parking spots to make space for 40 bicycles. The initiative, modelled after the country’s car-free “Raahgiri Days,” plans to replicate the pilot project in other parking lots throughout the city over the coming months.

By swapping car parking spaces for the humble cycle, Gurugram has taken a step toward a more sustainable future. While it’s a small step, this is the country’s first “pocket parking” initiative, which could lead to bigger changes in city planning.

A big deterrent to cycling, apart from safe streets, is safe spaces to park, as most spaces are taken up by car and motorcycle parking. The re-imagining of parking space for bikes will not only sensitize people towards walking and cycling, but will pave the way for creating cities for people rather than vehicles.

Fewer Cars, Better Cities

Roughly 300,000 cars enter Gurugram every day, and an equal number exist within the city. With more than 600,000 cars on the streets, traffic congestion is an obvious byproduct.

So are air pollution and road traffic crashes. All these cars are one reason why the city has seen a severe to very unhealthy air quality index and records around 450 road traffic deaths per year.

The Seeds for Change initiative is part of a larger concept known as “tactical urbanism.” It allows stakeholders and locals to work on new concepts without substantial political and financial commitments. The actions can be temporary or permanent, depending on the need of the location. Across the world, this movement is also referred to as “city repair,” “guerilla urbanism,” “pop-up urbanism,” or “DIY urbanism.”

While Gurugram is the first city in India to pursue tactical urbanism to shift transport from cars to cleaner transport modes, it’s already proven successful in other cities around the world. Car-shaped racks were installed at a parking spot in Buenos Aires to reclaim space for 10 bicycles; they then caught the attention of authorities, who increased the initiative to include 40-such cycle parking spaces. The city of Sao Paulo, Brazil made permanent mini public parks from parking spots along the roadside, providing a safe space for cyclists and walkers. City authorities in San Francisco designed some areas with sharp corners as seating spaces with planters. One NGO in Mexico introduced similar mobile parks, or “parklets on wheels,” to create safe public spaces.

Reclaiming Parking Spots for Bikes in Gurugram, India. Photo by Amit Bhatt/WRI

Small Changes for Bigger Impact

But perhaps what’s most exciting about Seeds for Change—and tactical urbanism more broadly—is the potential for success and replicability.

This technique brings about miniscule pop-ups that are striking and easily noticed by people, yet do not disturb daily life with large-scale changes. It also doesn’t require a huge amount of financing.

The project includes all stakeholders since the conception. The process of implementing a tactical urbanism project brings people on streets to experience its dynamics. They take charge of designing their environment, and feel responsible for its success and maintenance. Each stakeholder may have an individual solution, which can be synchronized in one design.

And finally, there’s a complete focus on place-making. While Gurugram has several private buildings like the Signature Tower and Gateway Tower as its landmarks, it lacks public spaces such as a Connaught Circle of Delhi or a Times Square of New York. Seeds for Change gives identity to the spaces around the city, creating an image and allowing people to identify with it. This brings a sense of belongingness to the public spaces that are accessible to all.

Seeds for Change can start the conversation on cities’ prioritizing people over cars. Citizens will identify with city corners, and will become responsible for them. This makes it more likely for vibrancy and greenery to increase, transforming formerly car-centric areas into safe spaces. And throughout India, the tactical urbanism movement can become an example of urban renewal via small-scale interventions.

The “Superblocks” of Barcelona: Despite Protests, City Follows with Sustainable Strategy

Mon, 2017-03-13 22:33

Barcelona’s Superblocks from above. Photo by Lucy / Flickr

In 2016, Barcelona launched superblocks, an innovative strategy to combat air pollution caused by vehicle traffic in the city. The sustainable tactic was detailed in Barcelona’s Mobility Plan, which aims to reduce traffic by 21 percent. Additionally, it says that 60 percent of road space, in which cars are circulating today, will be returned to the people. To reach its goal, the city began prioritizing pedestrian environments to reduce car traffic.

Barcelona could prevent 1,200 deaths annually if the city complied with the European Union’s air quality recommendations. Despite the advertised and intuitive health benefits, some residents of the El Poblenou neighborhood are not satisfied with less space for their cars. El Poblenou was involved in the superblock pilot project: What was a street for cars, is now a bicycle lane; where there was traffic, there is now space to move. High levels of dissatisfaction prompted residents to protest the new limitations to car travel, including driving at reduced speeds on the inner streets (which only locals have access to).

Another argument of the protesters was the delay in deliveries, due to the difficulty of vehicles accessing shops. While this may be problematic in El Poblenou, it is not symptomatic of superblocks as a whole. El Poblenou can learn from other neighborhoods in Barcelona, such as Ciutat Vella. Here, when streets are closed to traffic (or are too narrow), delivery trucks park on nearby streets and use a wheelbarrow or electric bike to make deliveries.

Superblock of El Poblenou Neighborhood. Photo by Toni Hermoso Pulido / Flickr

While some residents may not be in favor of superblocks, the numbers tell another story—one of success. First, the project is effectively implemented in four parts of the city. Second, in one neighborhood alone, pedestrian travel increased by 10 percent and bicycle travel by 30 percent, and motor vehicle traffic fell by 26 percent in superblocks and 40 percent on the inner streets. Furthermore, citizens have gained nearly 23,000 square feet across the district, more space than cars have to circulate. In an interview, Director of the Urban Ecology Agency of Barcelona Salvador Rueda, said: “If this standard extends through 2018, Barcelona can finally improve the quality of its air.”

The current superblock model in the Mobility / Disclosure Plan: Agéncia d’Ecologia Urbana de Barcelona

According to Rueda, the implementation of superblocks in El Poblenou is positive, since it fulfills the objectives of Barcelona’s Mobility Plan. Above all, the plan aims to prioritize sustainable transport: new bus lines and bicycle paths. Another aspect of the plan is placing restrictions on private vehicles, with urban tolls and an increase in the price for parking.

It’s not that people do not like improved air quality, quieter streets or more livable neighborhoods. It’s a change of culture and behavior that people don’t like. Even with striking health benefits, many aren’t open to this change. While it may be difficult to get residents on board, the city is not giving in. The project is an example of a city designed for people. For improved air quality, a higher quality of life and fewer deaths in traffic, long live the superblocks.

This was originally published in Portuguese on TheCityFix Brasil

Why it is Key to Include Gender Equality in Transport Design

Wed, 2017-03-08 23:23

A Women Travels by Bus in India. Photo by Benoit Colin/EMBARQ/Flickr

A 1996 iconic study from Vienna, Austria explored why there were fewer girls (above age nine) in public parks as compared to the number of boys. The researchers concluded that the boys were more assertive in their use of the park, and girls generally lost out in this competition for limited space. Following the study, in 1999, the city began a park re-design project, and the results were striking. By adding more access paths and landscaping to divide large open spaces into smaller sections, groups of boys and girls were able to create zones for themselves without competing. The city’s girls returned to the parks.

In the last two decades, Vienna has conducted over 60 pilot projects – across public transport, housing and footpaths – to incorporate equal access for men and women in design. Today, gender mainstreaming is core to Vienna’s planning strategy.

Gender mainstreaming, as defined by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, refers to a strategy for making women’s, as well as men’s, concerns and experiences integral dimensions of policies and programs in all political, economic and social spheres. Gender mainstreaming is essential to ensure that women and men benefit equally from a certain system and inequality is not perpetuated.

Gender Mainstreaming in Transportation

Transportation planning and design are commonly regarded as “gender neutral.” It is assumed that transport projects equally benefit both men and women and that there are no significant differences between travel needs and patterns of either gender. Investments are therefore oriented towards hard infrastructure and planning towards benefiting different social groups.

On the contrary, how women experience mobility is very different from men. This is deeply rooted in community-driven gender roles with economic, social and livelihood influences.

Designing for Mobility Needs and Travel Patterns

Mobility needs of women tend to be heterogeneous. While men use transport services largely to work and back, women combine domestic and caregiving tasks with work trips. This phenomenon is referred to as “trip chaining,” where trips are short, multimodal and frequent. Trip chaining is especially common among women in low- and middle-income economies. This is corroborated by a study conducted in Bhopal by World Resources Institute (WRI) India, which revealed that more than 50 percent of the 2000-odd women interviewed undertake chained trips.

Trip chaining requires women to juggle different tasks. Women are therefore more starved for time and are likely to avoid employment opportunities because of poor transportation design. As a result, making mobility accessible to women is crucial. For example, in an attempt to promote basic education, the National Literacy Mission adopted the idea of cycling for women in Pudukkottai – a district in Tamil Nadu. The campaign gave easy access to loans for women to purchase cycles. With access to improved mobility, about 40 percent of women admitted to being able to accomplish more than they could before. Women could also access employment at longer distances, jobs that they wouldn’t have otherwise considered.

Women tend to spend more time than men on caregiving tasks like tending to children, the elderly, etc. The Bhopal study shows that more than 30 percent of women travel with dependents, as opposed to less than 16 percent of men. It is common for planners to conduct transportation planning surveys to understand travel patterns and needs so that infrastructure can be planned to suit those requirements. The survey combines all types of paid employment into a single category, while caregiving tasks are spread across different categories. Professor Ines Sánchez de Madariaga, from the Spanish government, suggests that caregiving tasks become more evident if grouped under “mobility of care,” and therefore a more crucial input to transport design. London transport planners implemented several innovations using data from mobility of care like step-free access to trains, subways and buses to accommodate baby carriages, luggage and wheel chairs and level access platforms to trains.

Designing delivery systems around commuter needs can also improve accessibility of transport services for women. In India, bus aggregator services are growing. Within these models, commuters use smart phones to summon and book a seat on private shuttles.

WRI India conducted a survey in Hyderabad to understand if such models impact the perception and experience of personal safety and accessibility. Women that used public transport before shifting to bus aggregator services stated that getting a seat, punctuality and travel time were crucial in their decision of which mode of transport to use. A majority of women said that the time required to take aggregated buses was less than their previous mode of transport; many reported a half-hour reduction. Furthermore, an overwhelming number of women said that aggregated shuttles are faster, more punctual and better in assuring a seat than public counterparts.

Designing for Safety

Women have varying security concerns from men, and designing for personal safety is crucial for women to execute economic and social functions. Transport users are predominantly male, and women commuters are less comfortable with overcrowding. Getting an assured seat and having mechanisms to report distress institute a sense of increased personal safety, according to the women surveyed in Hyderabad.

Design and methods of access and pedestrian infrastructure should also incorporate gender considerations. In Hyderabad, women reported that they feel most vulnerable to theft or harassment on access routes and boarding points of buses and trains.

Walking trips are more common among women than men. In a Delhi slum, among people engaged in informal jobs, a study reported that 52 percent of women walked to work as opposed to just 26 percent of men. A similar finding in Vienna, by the gender mainstreaming approach, led to improved lighting along sidewalks.

Designing through Inclusive Planning

Under-representation of women in the transport sector leads to a low visibility of women’s perspectives, and the differences in transport needs and patterns do not become apparent. Higher participation of women in the planning and design process is therefore increasingly necessary. A commitment to gender mainstreaming must include gender awareness and capacity-building programs for policy and decision makers to completely understand and appreciate gender-related issues.

Transport design is generally responsive to the needs of the larger commuter base. The design process must be informed by gender disaggregated data for requirements that are equally important for men and women. For example, a survey in Spain revealed that more than 30 percent of commuters use public transport for employment. Sex disaggregated data exhibits that of the 30 percent, more women use public transit than men for employment.

Finally, it is important to have more women participate in operational functions of transport systems like drivers, station attendees, supervisors, etc. Some cities also include female participation in allied services that revolve around transport infrastructure. For instance, the city corporation in Dhaka, Bangladesh, introduced a program where 15 percent of vendor area around the bus rapid transit corridors was reserved for women.

Transport design is sensitive to income groups, but little attention is given to gender considerations. While there are mechanisms like reserved seating facilities for women in public transport systems, gender mainstreaming in the design process can address larger gender issues and open avenues for women to participate in the workforce, improve their standing in society and benefit the economy.

Car-free Day Continues to Steer Bogotá Away from Cars

Tue, 2017-03-07 20:05

Crowded cycle lanes on Car-free Day in Bogotá. Photo by Diego Bauman / Bogota City Hall

For 18 years, Bogotá, Colombia, has shown that a large city can survive without cars. In 2000, Mayor Enrique Peñalosa—currently in his second term—implemented Car-free Day. This initiative, which residents approved by referendum, takes place on the first Thursday of February each year and is a day without cars and motorbikes: the circulation of all motorized vehicles is prohibited from 5:00 am to 7:30 pm.

On this year’s Car-free Day, 1.6 million cars and 500,000 motorbikes (11 percent and 7 percent of regular trips, respectively) remained at home. To accommodate travel-as-usual, the city designated and extra 100 km (62 miles) of temporary bike lanes, adding to the current 400 km (250 miles), and encouraged residents to utilize Transmilenio, the city’s bus rapid transit system (BRT). Largely as a result of the expanded cycling system, estimates show that cyclists more than doubled on Car-free Day, jumping from 700,000 daily riders to over 1.5 million.

82 percent of Bogotá’s residents experience no behavior change on Car-free Day—they already travel the city without private, motorized transport. Despite no personal change, there is a noticeable difference in the city: less congestion, less air pollution and a sharp drop in the number of traffic crashes.

But there is also a downside to Car-free Day. Although the city encouraged using Transmilenio, the system had difficulties during peak times. Transmilenio, also launched in 2000, was crowded and delayed. As in recent years, some business owners have complained that the sales decreased and there was criticism over the aggressive behavior of cyclists. “The most important thing that this journey has forced us to discuss is, again, which model of city is more sustainable—a car-oriented one or a city where people walk, cycle and use public transport,” said Dario Hidalgo, Director of Integrated Transport at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, born in Bogotá.

In 2000, when the Car-free Day referendum was held, the population also voted on another proposal: to prohibit the use of private vehicles in the city by January 2015, a transformative shift that would require important investments in public transport and infrastructure for bicycles and pedestrians. Despite having a positive majority, the total number of votes was not sufficient for this more “radical” change to become a law. As a result, only Car-free Day was instituted, and it can only be reversed by another referendum.

Mayor Enrique Peñalosa pedaled on 2017’s Car-free Day in Bogota. Photo by Camilo Monsalve / Bogota City Hall

On Car-free Day 2016, Mayor Enrique Peñalosa raised the idea of completely banning cars for an hour each day. This year, Peñalosa suggested that the ban could be for an hour and a half in the morning and for an hour and a half in the afternoon. This sparked wide debate and fierce press-coverage. TV stations also highlighted the discussion, including Dario Hidalgo in the conversation. A few days later, in an interview with RCN Radio, Peñalosa said that he is not going to officially propose anything, but he stressed that “the majority are much better when there are no cars because there is less traffic and shorter travel times, and if we were radically democratic we should have many Car-free Days.”

Lessons from Bogotá can be shared with other cities. With Car-free Day reaching maturity, it is possible to see how the proposal has changed the urban mobility discussion and affected people’s behavior, benefiting the wide majority of inhabitants who don’t use private vehicles on a daily basis. Stimulating mobility behavioral changes is a great way to propose a transformative shift—as long as the changes are defined by and benefit the majority.

Originally published in Portuguese on TheCityFix Brasil

What an Indian Town Shows Us About Integrated and Accessible Cities

Tue, 2017-03-07 00:10

Children play in the streets of ITI Colony, as the roads are absent of the automotive congestion plaguing the rest of the city. Photo by Amartya Deb

Bangalore, India’s third largest city with 8.5 million people and a decadal growth rate of 46 percent, is known for its rapid, modern development driven by electronic and software enterprises. In the last decade, quaint neighborhoods have transformed into high-rise housing and sophisticated shopping and entertainment centers with increasingly complicated road networks, overflowing with automobiles. However, there are several neighborhoods that were planned decades ago for the Public Sector Undertakings (PSU), known as PSU Townships. PSUs are corporations owned by the government of India, and they have played an important role in strengthening the economy of the country post-independence. While several PSU Townships remain restricted to outsiders, ITI Colony has, over time, become very integrated with its surroundings. It has retained many of the features from its inception in 1948, allowing residents and visitors understand what life was like 70 years ago, while showing the benefits of being an accessible and integrated area.

ITI colony, Ramamurthy Nagar and their connectivity with the major city bus stops – Majestic and Shivajinagar. Map data: base map from Google maps (2015 data)

ITI Provides Affordable Housing, Education and Recreation for the City

As the rest of Bangalore is transforming into a modern city, ITI Colony still has its original low-rise, low-density charm. In 1948, the Colony was originally planned for employees of the ITI Factory (Indian Telephone Industries Limited), with limited access to entry for outsiders. The once lively factory was considered an important driver for city growth. For the last couple decades, however, the factory has not been as successful, and many of the homes and hostels have remained vacant. But the situation has benefited the city in a different way; with the ease of company regulations, non-ITI employees are allowed to wander through the Colony and, in some cases, move in. Given that rent per month ranges anywhere between 4000 to 6000 INR (US $60-90), it is considered affordable in the city of Bangalore. In addition, the ITI School, which was previously limited to children of employees, has now been opened to the general public, benefiting the nearby neighborhoods.

In addition to education and housing, there are many other benefits this 500-acre township offers to both residents and visitors, one being recreation. Due to the more traditional atmosphere of the neighborhood, there is less air pollution, congestion and road traffic, providing the city with more public recreational spaces. People from the adjacent neighborhoods take morning walks alongside residents from ITI Colony, and children play on the streets without the fear that many cars will pass by.

The formal and informal employment opportunities in ITI used to be the “pull factor” to the Township, but, today, the open spaces and the school are important incentives for people to own or rent land nearby. A current employee of ITI, who owns a home and lives adjacent to the colony, said that the amenities of ITI Colony is an advantage even after retirement.

Extending Benefits through Connectivity and Accessibility

While ITI Colony was designed to be self-sufficient, it also depends on its surroundings for various services like higher education, specialty healthcare and shopping. With non-ITI employees renting accommodation in the Colony, transportation to central, urban workplaces becomes increasingly necessary. The neighborhood now is well-connected to other parts of the city by public, as well as private, transport.

ITI Colony illustrates how well-connected, porous neighborhoods that share amenities and services with one another can offer a better quality of life to its residents. The neighborhoods may benefit from each other in terms of a vibrant social life, economic opportunities, green infrastructure (parks, sports facilities etc.), along with healthcare, education and housing. This connectivity, accessibility and sharing of amenities becomes important in modern cities where lack of space and a greater variation in demand for services does not allow for all facilities to be situated in one location or neighborhood. In this way, while the Township may represent the past, its gradual integration with the city through shared benefits and growing connectivity represent neighborhoods of the future.

What’s Holding Back Latin American Cities’ Clean Bus Transition?

Fri, 2017-03-03 20:59

Transmilenio BRT in Bogota, Colombia. Photo by: Comité Internacional de la Cruz Roja / Flickr

The 18 Latin American Cities currently signed onto the Clean Bus Declaration of 2015 are sending clear signals to the market about their commitment to transitioning their bus fleets to low or zero emission buses. The time to transition is now, as many cities in the region, like Bogotá and Santiago, are preparing to renew part of their bus fleets in the next couple of years—an opportunity to adopt zero and low emission buses that will not present itself again in the near future.

As these cities have recognized, transitioning to low and zero emission buses can create economic, environmental and health benefits. In general, zero emission buses have lower operating costs than traditional buses given their savings from reduced fuel consumption and maintenance, and cities like London have already noticed these savings. Low and zero emission buses can also help reduce emissions that contribute to poor local air quality and global climate change. Less noise pollution and vibration make for a more enjoyable journey for passengers and drivers, and improve livability for residents along transit routes.

Yet, the adoption of low and zero emission buses is still at an early stage across the region. Urban bus fleets are, for the most part, diesel-fueled. Compared to global leaders—in Europe, China and the U.S.—adoption is proceeding slowly. Only in 2013, Santiago tested its first electric bus, and in 2015 Campinas announced plans to acquire 10 electric buses, which would be the largest fleet in Brazil. Only Bogotá has achieved modest success with over 300 hybrid buses already part of its fleet.

What is holding Latin American cities back, and what can be learned from successful business models worldwide about accelerating investments in low and zero emission buses?

Adoption of low and zero emission buses around the world. Note the very few adoptions in LAC, Africa and Asia. Graphic by: Xiangyi Li /WRI

High upfront costs, technology risk and skewed procurement models hold cities back

The first major barrier holding cities back from transitioning is the upfront cost of low and zero emissions buses. Electric buses can cost at least between 120-150 percent more than diesel vehicles, especially if batteries are included in the overall cost. Financial disincentives can also add indirect costs both upfront and over a bus’s lifecycle. In Brazil, for example, import tariffs designed to protect local production and low-cost loans for local production skew investment decisions. Fossil fuel subsidies for diesel also factor into the picture by making diesel more financially attractive to bus owners.

Second, many bus operators perceive new technologies as risky and question whether they will be able to provide the same level of service as diesel buses. There are few examples of long-term electric bus operations around the world, so there are still lingering questions about their suitability to operate in Latin American conditions. In particular, it is still not clear with current battery ranges if operators need more buses to achieve the same route coverage they currently provide with diesel buses, or whether the buses and batteries themselves will hold up during 10+ years as expected in the region. Operators are not only wary about how the technology will respond, but also about changing the supply chain they have built over the past 40 or more years of diesel operation. These well-established supply chains include fuel provision as well as the supply of spare parts and maintenance staff, and can be quite difficult to change.

Finally, there is a need to ensure that commitments such as the Clean Bus Declaration are properly reflected in the concession contracts that are currently being developed throughout the region. Latin America’s organized public transport systems and bus rapid transit systems (BRT) have tended to favor the procurement and operation of its fleets using open bidding processes that prioritize least cost options. Although this model has many benefits (it can incentivize private sector competition and innovation), it often disqualifies more expensive technologies. Changes in the contracting model need to be introduced to ensure a level playing field for low and zero emission buses.

What Does the Region Need to Transition?

Various options exist for addressing the combined challenges of upfront costs, technology risk and skewed procurement models. Public administrations, technology and service providers, and the financial community each have an important role to play to build a market for clean buses in the region.

Strong market signals from the public sector

Several public sector actions can create confidence in the emerging market for clean buses. Public commitment—like Paris’s announcement to move towards zero emission fleets in the medium term—is critical, but rhetoric has more teeth when accompanied with funding. In the UK, the clean bus technology fund made capital grants available for cities, totaling nearly £7 million (US $8.56 million)  in 2015, to pay for higher technology cost. Grants and tax-based incentives on purchases, operations, and maintenance are important ways for the public sector to indicate it values the broader environmental, social, and economic benefits of clean buses.

Revisions of institutional frameworks and procurement processes can be transformational. The new Transantiago tender documents are opening the door to demanding a minimum number of zero emission buses in the routes it will be contracting out. Included in the new procurement documents is a provision for longer depreciation periods for clean technologies, which helps operators amortize the higher upfront costs over longer payback periods. These are clear signals to the market, and are good initial steps towards achieving implementation.

Technology and service providers build trust in technologies

Manufacturers, utilities and other providers of ancillary services have a pivotal role in helping the market adjust perceptions about the riskiness of their technology offering. Battery leasing—as manufacturers provide in cities such as Shenzhen—can transfer risks away from operators. Furthermore, package deals that include maintenance and training by the manufacturers can help overcome the risk perception in transitioning to new technologies. Technology pilots can help operators understand the technologies better, including both their advantages and drawbacks compared to current operations. Manufacturers can also help costs down. BYD installed its first Latin American factory in Campinas in 2014 to overcome import tariffs, while at the same time injected over US $65 million to the economy and created over 450 jobs in the process.

Blending public and private finance

Bringing together public and private financiers could be the catalyst to unlocking the clean bus sector. The problem is not necessarily that there is insufficient finance for clean bus investments as such, but rather that there are other, less risky opportunities that investors find more attractive. Here, public financial institutions can play a transformative role by providing concessional debt, credit guarantees, and seed capital for investment funds aiming to leverage private capital. For example, the Clean Technology Fund (CTF) through the Inter-American Development Bank provided a concessional loan for operators in Bogota to purchase the first hybrid buses that have been operating in the city. This mechanism provided available, affordable credit that otherwise would not have been accessible in the market due to the high risk of investing in the transport system.

The Time to Transition Is Now

Latin America’s clean bus transition hinges on three key actors’ ability to rebalance existing business models so that they achieve an acceptable risk-return for everyone involved. Creating the space for dialogue, where everyone has common knowledge of the available options, is important. This is essential for developing business models appropriate for the local circumstances. If all three actors converge, new business models will allow the public sector to meet its service objectives, operators to satisfy their bottom line and financiers to make a return on investment.

Linking up public authorities, bus operators, technology providers and financiers should happen early on in the investment process in order to take everyone’s interest into account. Low and zero-emission buses are a reality around the world right now, and cities in Latin America need to hop on board this trend before they get left further behind.

Financing Sustainable Cities is an initiative of the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities and C40 Cities, funded by the Citi Foundation, focused on helping cities develop business models that can accelerate the implementation of sustainable urban solutions.

The Climate Technology Transfer Mechanisms  project executed by WRI with support from the Inter-American Development Bank assists Latin American Governments in overcoming barriers for implementing low carbon transport technologies.

5 Key Lessons from 10 Cities at Transforming Transportation 2017

Thu, 2017-03-02 19:49

Cyclist in Sao Paulo Explores the City’s Extensive Bike System. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil

In January, at Washington D.C.’s Transforming Transportation, representatives from ten global cities gathered to share how they are fighting the unacceptable level of traffic deaths in their cities. While they may differ in many ways, the cities share a common goal: to make their streets safer for all people.

Each of the ten cities are part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety: Bangkok (Thailand), Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), Shanghai (China), Accra (Ghana), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Bandung (Indonesia), Bogotá (Colombia), Mumbai (India), São Paulo and Fortaleza (both in Brazil). As part of the program, partners from WRI, Vital Strategies, National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and the World Bank are supporting these cities to heighten safety through improved street design and mobility.

Illustration showing the various road safety interventions undertaken in the ten cities within the Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety since 2015. Graphic by: WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities Health and Road Safety

Among the shared lessons and projects, five main themes resonated throughout Transforming Transportation. Here’s a look at key lessons learned from the ten cities:

1. Cities need to shift from “vehicle-oriented” to “people-oriented”

Many urban streets have been designed to cater to cars moving at high speeds. The result is a lack of safe spaces for walking and bicycling, with high levels of traffic deaths and air pollution from vehicle emissions. Therefore, all ten cities are trying to shift their design strategies from “vehicle-oriented” to “people-oriented.” This type of approach is based on the philosophy that cities have a responsibility to provide a high quality of life for their residents. At the core of this approach is providing safe spaces for everyone to travel, whether they are driving, cycling, walking or taking public transport.

Each city has been conducting road safety audits and implementing design improvements for streets and intersections. Lowering speed limits to 40km/h(25 mph), along with adopting safer street design like narrower vehicle lanes, can have an immediate impact on safety. Furthermore, reducing speeds can also ease congestion by reducing bottlenecks. In São Paulo, the speed limits have been reduced from 70 to 50 km/h (43 to 31 mph) for over 300 km (186 miles) of major roads. Furthermore, the city has piloted low-speed zones of 30km/h (18.6 mph) in select high-risk areas. As a result, traffic deaths in the city have dropped by 21 percent. Fortaleza has also made necessary policy changes to incorporate low-speed zones within the city.

Samuel Danquah, Road Design and Transportation Coordinator, Accra at Transforming Transportation 2017. Photo by: EMBARQ / Flickr

2. Pedestrian infrastructure is the foundation of a safe road system

Almost all city trips involve some amount of walking, so safe pedestrian infrastructure should form the basis of all urban street networks. To address this, Mumbai has turned its attention to a lack of safe sidewalks and the need for safer access to public transport. The city selected 9.5 km (5.9 miles) of street to pilot the sidewalk safety interventions. This includes building a 1.8 meter (6 foot)-wide sidewalk as well as space for bus stops, taxi and rickshaw stands and street vendors.

Accra has been adding sidewalks to streets that were previously without them. “Through the intervention of the initiative, we see vehicles moved off of footpaths, and people are now able to walk safely,” said Samuel Danquah of Accra (pictured above). In Bangkok, a busy pedestrian market area now prioritizes safer walking by removing one lane of vehicle traffic to increase pedestrian space in the peak evening hours. Furthermore, temporary barriers are used to further protect pedestrians. Beyond sidewalks, there are many proven measures to improve pedestrian safety. “We are not reinventing the wheel… it’s about extending the curb, raising pedestrian crossings, improving the intersections and basically giving more space to people,” explained Hannah Machado, Coordinator of Road Design and Transportation for São Paulo.

Development of pedestrian infrastructure in Accra, Ghana. Photo by BIGRS Accra

3. Increasing cyclists leads to safety in numbers

Providing safe routes for cyclists increases transport options and contributes to increased road safety through its traffic calming impact. Shanghai has plans underway to build 2000 km (1240 miles) of non-motorized transport infrastructure in the form of bike lanes and pedestrian corridors. Additionally, Bandung has started a bikeshare program, as has Fortaleza. These bikeshare programs are anticipated to increase the number of people using non-motorized transport, as similar programs have in many other cities. Shanghai and Fortaleza are both planning to scale up their bike lanes to form interconnected bike networks throughout the city. São Paulo, which already has a bikeshare program, increased its cycling network to 400 km (250 miles) of bike lanes, resulting in a 66 percent increase in bicyclists and a 34 percent reduction in deaths.

Protected bike lanes in Shanghai. Photo by Ben Welle/ Flickr

4. Saving lives through improved public transport  

Cities are identifying modes of transport that can move people safely and efficiently. Bogotá, for example, has the Transmilenio Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), which carries 2.2 million passengers per day over 113 km (70.2 miles) of exclusive bus lanes. São Paulo and Shanghai are expanding their inventory of dedicated curbside bus lanes, which will improve the efficiency of their bus services. Ho Chi Minh City, known for moving people by motorcycle, is building metros and BRTs to offer safe methods for people to get around. Mumbai is planning to redesign a major bus terminal to improve pedestrian safety and access. Furthermore, Accra just launched a formal 21 km (13 mile) bus service to provide safer, more comfortable public transport.

Transmileino BRT in Bogota. Photo by EMBARQ Brasil/ Flickr

5. Educating stakeholders and connecting to broader issues

The last key theme revolved around how urban mobility interacts with both the public at large and people working within government. First, by improving intersections, calming traffic and allowing pedestrians to experience a safe road environment, all ten cities are beginning to change their road safety cultures. For example, Bogotá implemented 93 traffic calming interventions in 2016. “Through public space recovery, we are trying to show people how they can interact differently with public space and change the way they feel about it,” said Claudia Diaz Acosta, Advisor to the Bogotá Office of Mobility. Likewise, with support from NACTO, Addis Ababa has redesigned large intersections using chalk, cones, paint and other temporary materials, to reduce the exposure of pedestrians to fast moving traffic and show how spaces can be used differently.

Finally, city representatives are engaging with colleagues in different sectors to collaborate on creating safer streets, including conducting workshops and trainings on the practices, policies and strategies for cities safer by design. Support for these new projects is felt on all levels; even city officials are increasingly motivated to protect all road users. As Claudia Diaz Acosta of Bogotá explained, “we are building a city for children…if they are safe, we are all safe.”

Every Tree Matters: Brazilian Cities Prioritize Urban Restoration

Fri, 2017-02-03 00:08

Joinville Brazil is a Leading Proponent of Urban Trees. Photo by Mariana Gil / WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities

In addition to counting people, cars and kilometers of infrastructure, cities today are counting trees. Urban forests are another tool to combat climate change and increase quality of life in cities. Furthermore, concrete urban jungles lack a connection to nature, which directly correlates with various health problems for residents.

Urban trees have always been loved for beautifying public spaces. However, they contribute much more, with an impact on the economic, social and environmental sustainability of cities. Through real estate research, one can see that people prefer to live and work on greener streets. In addition to the visual attributes, a wooded space can reduce stress by creating calmer environments conducive to physical exercise and active transportation.

Furthermore, trees provide thermal control associated with humidity and shade. By sheltering buildings from direct sunlight, the shade from a tree can save up to 10 percent of the energy needed to regulate a building’s temperature. Urban trees also reduce air pollution and absorb water, thereby reducing the risk of flooding and erosion. For these reasons, prioritizing urban tree restoration is also a priority for enhancing quality of life.

The World Economic Forum and SENSEable City, a laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), developed the Green View Index (GVI) or Treepedia, a metric that evaluates and compares the treetops of cities. The GVI is calculated using Google Street View, which measures the density of canopy cover in street images. So far, 12 cities around the world have been studied: Boston, Geneva, London, Los Angeles, Paris, New York, Sacramento, Seattle, Tel Aviv, Toronto, Turin and Vancouver.

“As many cities experience warming temperatures, increased storm frequency and continued air pollution, the well-being of our urban trees has never been more important,” said Carlo Ratti, Director of SENSEable City. Although cities always need large infrastructure projects, small changes like planting trees can also make a big impact. Treepedia also allows people to know the location and size of trees in their communities, and residents can help classify, track and even advocate for more tree plantings.

Although Vancouver is the Treepedia city with the highest percentage of coverage (25.9 percent), New York City, with 13.5 percent, is highlighted. For more than a year, the metropolis has developed a program that aims to map each tree, one by one. The city’s Parks Department, with the help of 2,300 volunteers, recorded more than 685,000 street trees in all five boroughs, with statistics on species, health, width, latitude, longitude and GPS coordinates. The final product, an interactive Tree Map, houses the information for each tree on New York City streets.

Trees line the streets of Curitiba, Brazil. Photo by Mariana Gil / WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities / Flickr

Brazilian Cities are Making Tree Restoration their Master Plan

Brazilian cities are following the global trend of prioritizing care for urban forests. Curitiba is considered to be one of the greenest cities in Latin America, due to its many green spaces and approach to caring for the environment. Since 2013, Curitiba has followed its Public Afforestation Plan, a set of preventive actions and maintenance for the thousands of trees lining public roads.

Since then, 139,000 trees have been planted in accordance with the document, which requires planning based on technical and scientific criteria. The seedlings planted in public roads are selected according to their size, canopy architecture, resistance to pests and diseases, adaptability to the climate, root system and the presence of flowers or fruits. In addition, 80 percent of the trees are native to the area. Each year, the Department of Plant Production receives 15,000 requests for cutting or pruning trees on public roads and, on average, 25 percent are carried out. Each up-rooted tree is replaced by two in its place.

Porto Alegre, Brazil is home to one million urban trees. Photo by Benoit Colin / EMBARQ / Flickr

Porto Alegre is also leading the charge toward greener cities. The city implemented its Afforestation Master Plan in 2006, to provide guidance for planting policy, preservation, management and expansion of trees in the city. The plan’s objective is to establish parameters for urban trees, such as ensuring public sidewalks are 40 percent plant-covered. According to the latest IBGE Census, Porto Alegre is among the 15 most forested cities in the country, with around one million trees.

A year ago, thousands of trees were damaged by a storm that transformed the landscape of Porto Alegre. With winds that reached up to 120 km/h (75 mph), the event made clear the fundamental role that urban trees play in climatic resilience: Places with a high concentration of trees served as barriers against the force of the winds, avoiding greater damages.

Porto Alegre has already launched its First Resilience Strategy, a product from when the city was selected to participate in the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge. The strategy gathers recommendations and actions to prepare the city to face natural or man-made adversities.

Developing the Right Plan

Joinville is in the process of developing its tree restoration plan. According to Luiz Fernando Hagemann, architect and town planner, the Afforestation Master Plan will be completed in the first half of 2017. The process of constructing the document consists of several steps, including a very detailed analysis of UN recommendations, studies from earlier research in the city, a look into other cities’ plans and updating Joinville diagnostics.

This blog was originally published in Portuguese on TheCityFixBrasil

The Next Step in Financing Transit-Oriented Development in India

Wed, 2017-02-01 20:37

Busy Road in Jaipur, India. Photo by EMBARQ / Flickr

India’s urban population is expected to reach 600 million by 2031. Providing infrastructure to accommodate this growth will be a huge task. The Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) is encouraging Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) as one of its strategies for sustainable urban growth. There has been increased interest in India for scaling-up TOD projects in order to solve issues in existing and newly emerging urban areas. Therefore, it is important to understand that implementation requires cross-disciplinary integration and partnering at various tiers of government.

However, owing to the significant capital investments required, and long gestation periods without definite returns, few have signed on for TOD projects. There is a need to develop suitable financing mechanisms and concrete policy frameworks and regulations to encourage success.

Financing is Crucial to TOD

Successful global practices have shown that TOD cannot adhere to a one size fits all policy, especially when it comes to the financing model involved. Each component of the project needs to be looked at separately and the appropriate financing model applied. In addition, the role of all stakeholders in the financing process and the possible changes to the financing model need to be charted out.

There is significant capital available, allocated by the local, state and central governments, in addition to available funds from public transit agencies, businesses, financial institutions, community based organizations, philanthropies and developers. However, this money needs to be accessed and channeled effectively.

Existing Mechanisms to Finance Infrastructure

At present, there are several financial mechanisms that have been used for large-scale infrastructure projects in India. Depending on the type of project and the stakeholders involved, replicating these models could help future TOD projects get off the ground.

Public-Public Partnership: When two or more public agencies come together for a project, resources and responsibilities are pooled within a partnership agreement. For example, when the Ministry of Urban Development approved the Delhi TOD policy in July 2015, a pilot TOD project was initiated by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the state-owned NBCC (India) Limited to take the project forward.

Credit Assistance: This method is traditionally used for large-scale infrastructure projects in India and involves budgetary support, grants and loans from multilateral or bilateral development agencies. One such example is the Delhi Metro, which is an equity joint venture between the state government and the central government, along with significant soft-loan assistance from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Land Value Capture: This method recovers all or some of the increase in land and property value as a result of public infrastructure provision. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has successfully employed this financing method through property development. Phase-III of the Delhi Metro is looking to generate funds of close to INR 2500 crore (US $367 million) through the same method. The new Value Capture Framework Policy could help the government recover value generated via public infrastructure investments.

Public- Private Partnership (PPP): This approach involves private finance and advanced technical expertise made attractive with guarantees from the government. For instance, the Hyderabad Metro Rail Ltd (HMR) has been set up as a Special Project Vehicle (SPV) between the state government and the concessionaire, L&T.

Municipal Bonds: Tax-free bonds are issued by Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) in order to finance city improvement projects. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation was the first ULB to issue redeemable tax-free bonds in 2005. While the municipal bond market in India has thus far played only a limited role as a funding source, it has a high-track record in terms of repayment across all ULBs that have issued them.

Dedicated Funds Model: The Government of Karnataka has established a Dedicated Funds Model, where money is mobilized by imposing a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) tax based on the market guidance value of all properties within a distance of 500 meters (1640 feet) from the Phase-II of the Bangalore metro line. The funds would be credited to the Metro Infrastructure Fund and shared proportionately between the ULB and infrastructure providers.

Moving Forward

While TOD has had widespread global success, as with any infrastructure project, TOD will not be successful in India until the question of finance is answered. Infrastructure financing mechanisms should be contextual and financially sustainable. These could include tax increment financing (TIF), betterment tax, user charges, selling of air rights, green bonds, project bonds and others.

An encouraging sign is that the government has become flexible in terms of allowing commercial bank lending, using tools such as take-out financing, infrastructure financing institutions, infrastructure debt funds, external commercial borrowing and foreign direct investments (FDIs). The applicability of existing finance mechanisms and the possibility of innovative methods for financing will be crucial for the implementation and scaling-up of TOD.

This was originally published by WRI India

Voices of Efficiency: Cristina Gamboa, Juan Camilo González and Bogotá’s Leadership through Partnership

Tue, 2017-01-31 19:57

Bogota, Colombia is a Partner City of the Building Efficiency Accelerator. Photo by Rosalba Tarazona / Flickr

As Colombia’s capital and largest city, Bogotá has significant local government capacity. However, because of limited experience with implementing efficiency policies, the city lacks technical expertise to implement a new national building energy regulation or otherwise encourage more efficient construction. Bogotá is working with local stakeholders and the global Building Efficiency Accelerator (BEA) partnership to develop and implement locally-relevant efficiency actions.

To understand more about driving action on efficiency in Bogotá, WRI’s Eric Mackres talked with two local change agents: Cristina Gamboa is CEO of Consejo Colombiano de Construcción Sostenible (CCCS, the Colombia Green Building Council) and Vice-chair of World Green Building Council. Juan Camilo González is Manager of the North City Project for the Mayor’s Office and Advisor to Bogotá’s Mayor Enrique Peñalosa. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Eric: Why do you work on building efficiency? What opportunities or benefits do you see for economic, environmental or social impacts in Bogotá from taking action to improve building efficiency? 

Cristina: I got involved in the sustainable building industry in August 2009. We saw advocating for sustainability in the built environment as a key feature to combat climate change. As a developing country, there is a lot of opportunity to lock in efficiency early on. What motivated me was changing people’s mindsets and doing business in a sector like the construction industry in a different way: to continue bringing profitability to businesses but also facilitating strong social impact and environmental protection.

Two years ago, with WRI’s Jennifer Layke, we were dreaming of a project like the BEA that drives different actors forward and makes the private sector more conscious of decisions they make. CCCS has created a dynamic and profitable green building sector, and we want to further impact the affordable housing industry. Through these efforts, we want to focus on health and wellbeing—not only the business case.

Juan Camilo: Buildings account for a large percentage of global energy and water consumption, over a third for energy and a quarter for water, so there is a lot we can do to improve our cities. As we build our homes and commercial buildings better, we will be able to help our citizens, especially low-income citizens, save valuable resources and money.

One big opportunity we see for Bogotá is that because it’s located 2,644 meters (8,675 feet) above sea level, we don’t require air conditioning or heating, and gravity delivers our water from higher elevation with little energy. Therefore, our energy use is lower than most cities. If you are able to take advantage of that and become more efficient in other areas, it will be easy to become a zero emission city, one of our goals for new development.

What are the main challenges you see for achieving efficient buildings in Bogotá?

Juan Camilo: I see three main challenges:

The first is creating realistic norms. In Colombia, when talking about environmental laws, in many cases, the best possible scenario is adopting a legal norm. Often this norm is not feasible, and therefore no one complies. As a result, we don’t get the dream we wanted nor do we get what could have happened if norms had been designed to be feasible.

The second challenge is ensuring that adequately-designed norms are actually applied. Urban control is hard. We have issues with buildings that are built where they shouldn’t be. Imagine additionally trying to control for buildings to be built in a sustainable way. That’s even harder to control.

The third challenge is creating the right incentives. Beyond what’s mandatory, we need the right incentives: financial and cultural incentives, in terms of the real estate market, so that stakeholders start applying norms not because they have to, but because they want to. Those are the three main challenges.

Cristina: I would put the same issues in a different way. For a market to change and increase levels of sustainability in a city, particularly in the built environment, there has to be a mix of “push” and “pull” factors. The “push” is that there must be norms and urban control incentives. The “pull” is that there has to be a change in the mindset of people in the construction industry. By this, I mean that delivering sustainable buildings and green infrastructure in the short-term may be difficult because it’s not the way that business has been done for many years. However, seeing the opportunity of delivering value, while also having return on investment, can shift that mindset.

How did the city begin taking steps to improve energy efficiency in buildings? How did the leadership, vision and momentum emerge? Who were the critical players involved? What roles did they play?

Juan Camilo: It starts with the culture of the population. Bogotá’s population is starting to care about the environment; that is a big step. When everyone starts rallying around a common cause, and its proponents aren’t solely leadership, it helps the leaders and stakeholders do things better. Mayor of Bogotá Enrique Peñalosa believes that we have to be as efficient as we can and occupy well-designed and built space, instead of growing unplanned, which results in many inefficiencies.

What we have today is a national regulation that is not currently applicable because it still has some definitions that aren’t well-understood. We are now working with CCCS, WRI and the BEA to develop an energy efficiency initiative in Bogotá, make existing norms more applicable to Bogotá and apply them.

Cristina: There is total commitment from Mayor Peñalosa, and these programs reflect what citizens want to see in the medium and long term. In 2030, when we look back and see the growth of the population and built environment, we are going to be proud that we planted the seed of energy efficiency early on, in this decade. Bogotá is looking at cities as main places to combat climate change and deliver a high quality of life as we look forward.

What kinds of actions is Bogotá taking or will be taking to improve building efficiency? Why were these actions selected? 

Cristina: As Juan Camilo noted, one of the key things that Bogotá wants to work on is effective implementation of a national norm that mandates energy efficiency and water savings in new buildings. Through the BEA, we will work to deliver a policy that is adapted to the city’s needs and its climate and technical capacities. We need a tracking and data system to understand what the policy will do for curbing greenhouse gas emissions. We need to know how Bogotá fits into Colombia’s commitments for the Paris Agreement and the national goals of low-carbon growth.

Additionally, we want to have a demonstration project that will begin construction within one year. The idea of working through a project in the Plan Parcial Triangulo de Fenicia (a district redevelopment plan associated with the Universidad de los Andes) is to deliver, through the context of urban development, lessons learned for larger-scale development and replication in other parts of the city. Through these programs, the administration can showcase to other cities the way forward in delivering green change in urban spaces.

Building Efficiency Accelerator Workshop in Bogota, Colombia. Photo by Consejo Colombiano de Construcción Sostenible/ Flickr

What role has stakeholder and private sector collaboration—through the Building Efficiency Accelerator partnership or otherwise—played in supporting the city to take action and achieve its goals? What are some examples?

Juan Camilo: To develop an effective norm, you need to work together with those that have technical expertise. Here, in the Secretary of Planning’s office, we don’t have the technical expertise or experience to know if what we are designing will work. Therefore, it’s key for the success of the norm that we involve stakeholders and the private sector in designing and controlling the norm–we cannot do that by ourselves.

For example, Bogotá’s eco-urbanism norm has specifications for rainwater that are so demanding that the water company isn’t able to properly apply them. If the Secretary of Planning and the water company collaborated in designing this norm, however, the city could have saved gallons and gallons of water. But because there was no collaboration, it didn’t work.

Today, we are seeing that partners know a lot of things that we don’t. By bridging the knowledge gap, collaboration is helping us anticipate mistakes that we would make if we designed the norms by ourselves.

Cristina: The key word is leadership, and this kind of leadership is about partnership. Having these discussions early on, before policies are adopted, and having cross-sector dialogue and collaboration is key. The built environment is very complex, and its governance is shaped by diverse actors. The BEA partnership works across these conversations in an efficient and productive way. It also gives many organizations the opportunity to have their voices heard and incorporate technical problem solving, thus avoiding mistakes and doing things right from the beginning.

What tools and mechanisms have you used to communicate with and engage stakeholders? 

Juan Camilo: We started with a workshop where we invited different sectors: developers, experts, etc., and we heard what they had to say. There was a survey that WRI provided to understand what each stakeholder thought about the main issues, challenges and opportunities. Now, we are working with specific groups—a group for designing the norm, a technical group and one for the pilot project—that each involve people from the public and private sectors with technical expertise. We make sure they participate throughout the whole process.

Cristina: In addition to the workshop, survey, project management system and one-on-one conversation, having the backing and credibility of the Mayor and the Secretary of Planning has enabled this project to have the traction it needs to create effective conversations. We are building upon current knowledge and doing away with any gaps, thanks in part to the international partnership. This type of hands-on conversation and work is what keeps the city interested because it’s delivering results and not just a diagnosis. This is different from earlier projects that started but didn’t have the resources to make an impact through policies, projects and mechanisms to enable long-term change.

On-demand Buses in India: Opportunities and Challenges in Implementation

Mon, 2017-01-30 19:42

Bangalore Bus Network. Photo by Benoit Colin / WRI / Flickr

Imagine hailing a bus through a smartphone application in India for your daily commute from home to college or work.

On-demand transportation leverages technology to connect a bus in the vicinity with a passenger looking to travel in the same direction. This implies following a demand-responsive route to a pre-determined destination, finding passengers along the way. In contrast, conventional public buses ride along fixed corridors in a city, expecting to be found by commuters.

Convenient pick up aside, on-demand buses provide their passengers the assurance of seating for the duration of the journey, only allowing as many to board as there are empty seats. Consequently, accommodating fewer passengers on board, unlike conventional buses, also means fewer stops and a relatively quicker commute.

With air-conditioning and, in some cases, wireless internet as one of its features, an on-demand bus may be well-positioned to attract those commuting every day by privately owned vehicles. This is important if our roads are to be rid of traffic jams. An on-demand bus can carry up to forty passengers, reducing as many cars and motorbikes on the road, thus alleviating congestion. Commuters may also benefit personally, saving capital and operational costs involved in private vehicle ownership and usage.

Despite the benefits for cities and commuters, this model, backed mostly by the private sector, has repeatedly run into problems with state authorities. In Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, where the model has been in service since 2015, operations were suspended from time to time over issues of permit or competition with government-run public transport services.

In recent months, however, government agencies have recognized the benefits and have sought to regulate the sector. Implementation of on-demand buses has remained a challenge in Indian cities due to three key factors, which regulation must address: Permits, fare structures and route selection.

1. Types of Permits:

Public bus transportation in India, in simple terms, may be understood based on how commuters use a bus. If all passengers may only board a bus at Point A and be dropped off at Point B, as it happens on inter-city buses, a Contract Carriage Permit is awarded. On the other hand, if passengers may board or get off a bus anywhere along its route, as on any city bus, the operator needs a Stage Carriage Permit.

For operations in a city, therefore, on-demand bus operators require the latter. They have been unsuccessful in procuring one so far as the issue of such a permit has until now been reserved exclusively for state-run transport corporations. The reason: in order to extend public transport access to the poor, fares had to be kept low, making such operations unviable to the private sector. To guarantee uninterrupted services in such an environment, public transport came to be operated by government agencies.

Targeting a city’s premium-end commuters, however, on-demand bus operators could make a case for Stage Carriage Permit. But with state-run corporations providing air-conditioned bus services as well, regulation will need to ensure on-demand buses complement existing services and don’t compete.

2. Fare Structure:

While competition ensures that fares remain static or low, it may not ensure the long-term viability of either bus service and therefore threaten urban mobility. In a scenario where competition is eliminated, on-demand buses and state-run buses could collaborate in serving a city, resulting in a net addition of bus services.

Such an increase in bus capacity is crucial to meet the travel demands of a city’s rising population, which often turns to private vehicle ownership citing the scarcity of public transport services. For instance, in Bengaluru, studies have indicated a bus fleet requirement of over 10,000, while the city’s public transport provider currently only operates around 6,300 buses.

The elimination of competition may be achieved by a combination of cooperation and optimum fare levels. Working together in Public Private Partnership (PPP) models, the sharing of costs and revenues could better ensure the long-run sustainability of premium public bus services in Indian cities.

3. Route Selection:

Partnerships also hold the key to preventing on-demand bus operators from limiting services to the most profitable routes. A city needs connectivity throughout and not only on select corridors.

The current policy framework in which public buses operate in India allows little room for innovation. With restrictions on permits and capping of premium fares by law in some states, technology-enabled public bus models like the one described here, are too constrained to serve the cities in which they operate.

Greater involvement from the private sector in the provision of on-demand bus transport presents an opportunity for Indian cities to scale up capacity and meet the rising demand for everyday commutes. Enabling more innovation in public transport is crucial for less congested urban roads and more liveable cities.

Originally posted by WRI India

3 Students Look Toward the Future of Sustainable Transport

Tue, 2017-01-24 21:46

During Transforming Transportation 2017, Global Director of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities Ani Dasgupta met with three students (left to right), Manuel Santana Palacios, Seema Singh and Paul Molta to discuss the future of urban development. Photo by Luca Lo Re / WRI / Flickr

Transforming Transportation (#TTDC17) is the annual conference co-organized by the World Bank and the EMBARQ mobility initiative of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. This year’s conference was themed Beyond Commitments: Sustainable Mobility for All, and took place on January 12 and 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. Join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #TTDC17, by following @WRIcities and @WBG_Transport on Twitter.

Transforming Transportation 2017 not only highlighted the voices of transport experts, but it also amplified the voices of curious students. During the conference, Global Director of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities Ani Dasgupta met with three students, Paul Molta, Seema Singh and Manuel Santana Palacios, to discuss the future of sustainable mobility and urban development. We asked the students to reflect on Transforming Transportation and their key takeaways:

Paul Molta, Master of Environmental Management Candidate, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

2017 is an inflection point for transportation systems. Three forces are converging: 1. Ubiquitous digital connectivity, 2. Propulsion technology changes, and 3. Consumer preferences shifting from ownership to usership. However, looking to the past to inform the future will not lead to the transformational changes we need. This year is a call to action that business-as-usual does not work. Leaders around the world need to collaborate and create a shared vision for the transformation of transportation. This vision should set goals that all can aspire to, but craft solutions that meet local needs.

Three of these goals were mentioned multiple times. The first is that we must break down the binary between personal transport and mass transit. If quality mass transit is not delivered, people revert to personal ownership of vehicles. One solution is the creation of demand response public transport. The second goal is thus that growth must be green and inclusive. Technology is the enabler to go beyond the COP-21 goals, but it does not inherently deliver solutions. Sharing of data from all actors is one strategy  to enable a collective improvement in services, allowing the sum of technological pieces to be greater than the parts.

Third is a reminder that transportation is about access, quality, and safety. This can be achieved through the integration of public and private action using three main drivers: 1. Take people’s perspective (shift from only supply-side management to include demand-side management), 2. Provide options with intermodal transport that is vertically integrated in global planning, 3. Leverage transport to enable progress on equity issues (transportation can easily support the paradigm of inequity we have today). This allows transportation leaders to change the paradigm to Enable/Avoid/Shift/Improve. New business models are needed to engage multinational institutions to help break cycles in developing cities that can’t afford big changes, but will benefit greatly from them in the future. For example, separate asset ownership and service provision during the initial shift toward electric mass transit vehicles to reduce cost burdens. To further improve the cost-benefit analysis, there is a need to properly capture the co-benefits of access to transportation, beyond just transportation. There is a difference between funding and financing, and there is not enough local funding to do all the required innovative transportation projects.

Ultimately, transportation is at a fork in the road. We have the tools to deliver sustainable and equitable transportation. What is needed is the vision to guide the journey, and it is clear that global leaders have started to imagine this world; 2017 is thus a year of action and people are ready to move.

Seema Singh, PhD candidate in City & Regional Planning, Cornell University

Transforming Transportation, the two-day conference brought together policy makers, planners and leading transport experts from different parts of the world. From providing access of sustainable mobility to all to financing, from innovation in transporting goods to technological disruptions in mobility, from reclaiming public spaces to reducing energy consumption in transportation sector, the discussions over the two days covered a wide range of issues/ challenges faced by cities in the transport area and the way ahead. This blog post draws out my key takeaways from the conference.

A large part of the discussions at the conference centered around challenges faced in translating the international commitments and global targets set over the last few years (in climate change, sustainable development and road safety) into effective action on the ground. It was realized that to meet these global targets, there is a need for adequate political support at all levels. Ensuring greater alignment and synergy in transport initiatives taken at the local, regional, country and global level would also play a key role.

Some of the key transport focus areas that emerged from the conference discussions include the following:

  • Access to all: Transportation sector is undergoing a lot of technological innovation and transformation on one hand, however, there is a still a large section of the population which does not have access to transport. Discussions clearly brought forward a need to do a lot more to ensure provision of equal access of sustainable mobility options to all irrespective of age, gender, or otherwise.
  • Reduction in emissions from transport: Emissions from the transport sector are rising and will continue to rise in the business as usual scenario. While there is a need to promote more sustainable modes of transport (like walking and cycling), it is also important to come up with stricter regulations to regulate the large numbers of autonomous vehicles circulating on roads, especially in developing countries.
  • Safe systems approach: Road safety also emerged as a major area of concern. With statistics indicating more than 1.25 million deaths on road every year due to road accidents, there was consensus about adopting a ‘safe systems’ approach for safer cities rather than playing victim to the increasing accident rates. Most of these accidents/fatalities can be avoided or prevented by safer design and educating people on road safety.

In conclusion, it is certain that the transport sector will continue to undergo transformation in the coming years. While cities plan ahead to adapt to these new technological interventions, policy makers and planners should not forget the basic city and transport planning knowledge and aim to provide accessible and affordable transport solutions to all.

Manuel Santana Palacios, PhD candidate, University of California, Berkeley, Department of City & Regional Planning

This year’s Transforming Transportation conference, titled “Beyond Commitments: Sustainable Mobility for All,” emphasized on changing the paradigm in transport planning. Probably the main message was that well-planned transport projects and policies have an immense potential to reduce urban inequalities by providing better job accessibility for the poor and women; however, this potential has not reached its peak. I shared the belief that there is an enormous room for improvement in this regard, especially in cities in the Global South. This was highlighted by the excellent work on current gender and social equity levels in places like Mexico City, Lima, Peru, and Cali, Colombia, presented by experts from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. I was also impressed by the continued emphasis on the relevance of shifting from top-down approaches in transport to human-centered ones, stated by decision makers participating in the event. The notion of more inclusive planning processes resonates with the idea of planning cities for people and not for just fast mobility by private automobile – one of the main principles of sustainable transport. Despite the potential that transport has to reduce inequality, cities require more than infrastructure, digital technologies, and progressive policies; planners and decision makers need to better understand who are benefiting from sustainable transport interventions and being open to initiatives such as integrating bus rapid transit with pre-existing public transport solutions, including informal transport.

China Moves Toward Smart, Green and Inclusive Freight Transport

Mon, 2017-01-23 20:37

China’s freight sector needs a green overhaul. Photo by Kaj17 / Flickr

In China, trucks dominate the freight transport market and are increasing at a fast rate. In 2014, trucks moved more than 33 billion tonnes of freight in China. This accounted for more than 75 percent of total freight movement, which is 22 times higher than in 1980. As a result, trucks are the fastest-growing source of emissions from the transport sector. While freight trucks account for only 15 percent of the total vehicles in China (excluding motorcycles), they contributed to more than 50 percent of vehicle carbon dioxide (CO2), 35 percent of carbon monoxide, 41 percent of hydrocarbons, 68 percent of nitrogen oxides and 79 percent of particulate matter emissions in 2014. Road freight, especially heavy-duty trucks, are recognized as the most polluted mode of transport, contributing significantly to poor air quality. The World Health Organization found a strong link between air pollution exposure and public health. In addition to health implications, air pollution impacts the economy. In China, the total welfare loss due to outdoor air pollution was an equivalent of 9.9 percent of GPD. As a result, transport experts are trying to find solutions to achieve green, smart and inclusive freight transport in China.

Data source: China Statistical Yearbook (2015)

A Fragmented and Unorganized Market

In addition to being the most polluted, road freight has the most unorganized market in China’s transport sector. According to China’s Ministry of Transport, the road freight market is challenged by “3 lows and 1 high:” i) low concentration, ii) low technology level, iii) low efficiency and iv) high fuel consumption.

  • Low Concentration: Current trucking companies in China are characterized as “small, fragmented and weak.” More than 90 percent of the freight market is dominated by a large number of small companies with fewer than ten trucks; most of these small companies are “owner-driver” companies, and there were more than 6 million of them in 2015. The market is highly competitive, labor-intensive and not very profitable.
  • Low Technology Level: China’s road freight sector has poor truck and facilities conditions, illegal truck retrofitting and a lack of standards, logistics information systems and intelligent transport systems.
  • Low Efficiency: The average operational efficiency of road freight is lower than 60 percent, which is 33 percent lower than developed countries. In addition, road tolls are a major cost for trucking companies. Truckers have to choose less efficient routes in order to avoid excess road tolls. Additionally, excessive road tolls also contribute to overloading and oversized trucks.
  • High Fuel Consumption: China’s truck fleet is not fuel-efficient; its fuel consumption is 25 percent, 20 percent and 10 percent higher than Europe, Japan and the U.S. respectively. In addition, most trucks cannot meet the required emissions standards.
Solutions for Achieving Smart Road Freight

Due to the inherent challenges of the freight system in China, green freight was a major topic of discussion during the World Metropolitan Transport Development Forum (WMTD). On October 24 – 25, 2016, over 500 participants gathered in Beijing to discuss challenges and solutions for sustainable transport development. WRI China, Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport (BMCT), and Beijing Transport Institute (BTI) co-organized the forum, striving to encourage city leaders and transport professionals to address challenges in urban mobility.

During the forum, experts from around the world discussed methods to improve freight transport. WRI’s China team summarized the key takeaways and potential sustainable solutions:

  • Multimodal Freight Transport and Transshipment: China should encourage more multimodal freight transportation, especially to improve the intermodal transshipment (moving cargo from one mode of transport to another) in logistics hubs to enhance the connectivity of rail, waterway/port, road and air. International experience shows that efficient multimodal operation can save around 40 percent of emissions.
  • Internet Plus Logistics:  The traditional places for transaction and information exchange cannot meet the requirement of today’s logistics market. More and more logistics companies are applying the “Internet Plus Logistics” concept and “Uber-like” apps, such as Truck Alliance, to do route planning and cross-docking. To enhance logistics efficiency, big data and the new information technologies will soon replace the traditional information platforms. Experience shows that internet technology can help reduce 30-50 percent of empty miles (distance traveled by trucks without loading any cargo) in China.
  • Drop-and-hook (tractor-trailer): Drop-and-hook is a method to organize transport and trailer pool management to reduce empty miles and dwelling time (the waiting time for trucks to load and unload), and eventually optimize performance. “Drop” refers to delivering a trailer and dropping at the customer site (or a distribution center), and “hook” refers to immediately hooking up a loaded trailer and moving it to the destination. Evidence from Guangzhou trucking companies at the WMTD forum shows that drop-and-hook can save about 34 percent of logistics costs.
  • New Energy Trucks and Clean Technologies: Most practitioners encourage new-energy vehicles and clean technologies. Electric trucks, which have reduced noise and zero tank-to-wheel emissions are especially suitable for urban deliveries with frequent stop-and-go conditions. Experience from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency SmartWay Program shows that trucks can reduce 5-85 percent fuel emissions by using a combination of the verified clean technologies.
  • Low Emission Zone and Emission Standards: China also needs to introduce low emission zones (LEZ) and enhance vehicle emission standards nationwide. According to WRI’s recent study, LEZs can reduce particulate matter and nitrogen oxides by 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Furthermore, introducing LEZs in 20 major Chinese cities can also reduce more than 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030.
Creating a Cohesive, Green Logistics Industry

A smart, green and inclusive freight market depends on the eco-efficiency of the logistics chain as a whole. Fortunately, China’s logistics stakeholders have already started to work together on establishing a green logistics industry. China Road Transport Association, the biggest transport association in China, has been conducting a China Green Freight Initiative in recent years, establishing a strong stakeholder network to promote green freight. China’s Ministry of Transport also identified green freight as a top priority in its 13th Five-Year Strategy on environmental protection for transport. The government intends for freight carbon dioxide emissions to decrease by 7-8 percent by 2020. Fleets will also meet even more air pollutant reductions in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei, Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta regions. As a result, China will have a more sustainable transport sector and a greener logistics market.

Urban Biking Advice from Copenhagen, Portland and Beyond

Fri, 2017-01-20 20:28

WRI’s Andrew Steer and Claudia Adriazola on the Pennsylvania Avenue biketrack. Photo by WRI/Flickr

Does the future of city transport roll on two wheels?

After a nearly three-mile bike ride from World Resources Institute to Washington’s National Press Club, advocates of city cycling offered advice on how to make bicycles a healthy, economical, environmentally sustainable mode of urban transportation.

This is already a reality in Copenhagen, where half of all workers commute by bike and biking accounts for 17 percent of all trips and 50 percent of all work commutes around Denmark’s capital, according to Klaus Bondam, Copenhagen’s former technical mayor, who participated in the panel discussion on January 11. The typical worker in Copenhagen spends only 4 percent of income on commuting, compared to those in Houston, where the cost is 14 percent of a typical worker’s pay. In Washington, a relatively bike-friendly U.S. city, only 4 percent of commutes are by bicycle.

Panelists offered five steps cities can take to persuade more commuters to trade four wheels for two.

1. Create Political Buy-in

Let city leaders know that bike riders can mobilize as a political force. Sam Adams, WRI’s U.S. director and former major of Portland, Oregon, noted that cyclists were consistently ignored until they formed a Bike PAC which endorsed candidates and made donations. Even though the sums involved were small, politicians began to pay attention to the cyclists’ concerns about safety and the need for better infrastructure.

Finding common concerns among all stakeholders is key, and a good place to start is the urban economy. Traffic can drag down economic growth, at a rate ranging from 1.1 percent in New York City to 15 percent in Beijing.

“One of the key strategies in Denmark has been the National Bicycle Strategy, which brought together all different stakeholders and created a common language in the field,” Bondam said. Building public support for urban biking requires the same tools used to raise the public health hazards of smoking.

In order from left: Klaus Bondam, Danish Cyclists Federation; Leif Dormsjo, District Dept. of Transportation; Greg Billing, Washington Area Bicycle Association; Sam Adams, WRI; Craig Iscoe, Cycling Without Age; Jason Margolies, PRI (moderator). Photo by WRI/Flickr

2. Invest in Infrastructure

Encourage cycling by making room for cyclists. New bike-friendly infrastructure brought a 24 percent rise in Copenhagen ridership, with a 63 percent increase in a feeling of safety, Bondam said. When choosing where to build, prioritize use and accident reduction, as well as linkage of cycletracks to create full networks.  Building “cycle superhighways” that link suburbs with inner cities can be particularly effective. Shared bike platforms, like the Bikeshare system in DC, also play an important part in increasing ridership.

3. Combine Modes of Transit

Biking needs to be integrated with other modes of transport. That means ensuring that buses have bike racks, and making it easier for riders to bring their bikes on trains – a measure that helped expand the commuting range for cyclists in Copenhagen.

4. Emphasize Practicality and Benefits

In Copenhagen, a poll showed that only 5 percent of respondents said they bike for environmental reasons – 56 percent said it’s faster, and another 27 percent said it’s more convenient.

More than a quarter of respondents said they bike because it’s healthier. Bondam jokingly said that Danes like biking because it flatters their Viking roots—“there’s a sense of conquest when you get to the office”—but there’s plenty of research that suggests employees are happierhealthier and more productive when they get in a bit of exercise on their morning commute.

And it’s not just healthier for the cyclists. More bikes on the road means fewer cars, which decreases pollution. Lars Loese, the Danish ambassador to Washington who also attended the event, said 50,000 Americans die every year from pollution, a problem biking can help alleviate.

Bondam also emphasized the degree to which biking is an activity through which families bond in Denmark; more than a third of Danish families bike with their children. Danish kids start learning cycle games in kindergarten.

5. Have Patience

Nothing happens overnight. When asked how long it might take for residents of a U.S. city to embrace biking as Copenhagen has, Bondam responded cautiously: “A long time. Fifty years, maybe.” Not only do investments in infrastructure need to be made, but it takes a long time to internalize the culture of biking into a city’s DNA.

Progress is Possible

Sam Adams takes off from the WRI headquarters, leading our bike convoy. Photo by WRI/Flickr

The ride to the National Press Club showed that progress has already been made in the U.S. capital: the route followed bike-specific infrastructure most of the way, including a specific bike track and bike lanes down the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue between the Capitol and the White House. It was a glorious ride, in unseasonably pleasant January weather, and recalled perhaps the best argument of all for biking, which Bondam quoted from President John F. Kennedy: “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bicycle.”

Protecting Our Water Sources Brings a Wealth of Benefits

Fri, 2017-01-20 01:25

River divides the urban landscape of Shanghai, China. Photo by ThalesEGO / Flickr

The journey of our water from source to tap is long, and not one we think much about. For most of us, our water starts high in the mountains, hundreds of miles away. From there, water flows across natural and working lands until a portion is channeled to water pipes that move water to our faucets, to farms and to various types of businesses. Most often we think of those pipes as being our main water infrastructure, but upstream lands play a key role in capturing, storing and moving our water. By conserving these lands, we can better protect our water and generate additional benefits for people and nature.

Today, approximately 40 percent of the land in urban source watersheds of the world’s largest cities show high to moderate levels of degradation. This degradation impacts the present and future quality and reliability of water flows. But by investing in nature, we can reduce these impacts.

A new report released by The Nature Conservancy, Beyond the Source: The environmental, economic and community benefits of source water protection, shows that forest protection, reforestation and the use of cover crops can help four out of five of the 4,000 cities analyzed reduce sediment and nutrient pollution in waterways by a meaningful amount. For one in six cities analyzed in the report, the cost of implementing source water protection activities could be recouped through savings in annual water treatment costs alone. For half of the cities analyzed, these activities could be implemented for about US$2 per person annually.

These nature-based solutions also provide a number of co-benefits, including improving the health and well-being of people, preserving biodiversity, capturing and storing carbon and building more climate-resilient communities. When cities “stack” the value of these co-benefits on top of the savings realized in water treatment costs, they can derive even greater value.

Infographic: © The Nature Conservancy

Maximizing the benefits of conservation activities will require collective action. Water funds, which enable downstream water users to jointly invest in upstream land conservation and restoration, are a successful mechanism for securing improved water quality and, in some cases, more reliable flows.

For example, in Nairobi, Kenya, high sediment levels in the Tana River from agricultural run-off and development in the mountains catalyzed the development of Africa’s first water fund. Partners in the Upper Tana-Nairobi Water Fund jointly invest in providing upstream farmers with the training, resources and equipment they need to help keep the river healthy, conserve water and reap the benefits of higher crop yields and more stable farms. The fund also has downstream projected benefits including improved water yields and reduced sediment in the river. An analysis of the water fund structure showed that even by conservative estimates the selected watershed interventions could deliver a two-to-one return on investment on average over a 30-year timeframe. During a recent trip to Kenya, the message from water fund investors and participants was clear: it’s in their best interest to make this work. Taking care of the land will ensure the longevity of the agricultural community and create a more sustainable water future throughout the watershed.

As cities and populations grow, and climate change adds undue pressure on vulnerable freshwater systems, maintaining healthy lands around our water sources will be increasingly vital to the future of our water security. By investing in nature, we also invest in our future.

Download the report at or visit to explore the data using an interactive map.

Urban Water Governance in the Developing World: Accountability and Affordability Are Keys to Water Access

Thu, 2017-01-19 21:06

A woman carries water home in urban Mozambique. Photo by: John Hogg / World Bank / Flickr

In 2015, the United Nations and World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that there are 663 million people around the world without access to safe drinking water, with nearly half of these people living in sub-Saharan Africa. While Africa’s urban areas had a slightly higher rate of access to piped water than rural areas, this access decreased from 43 percent in 1990 to 33 percent in 2015. Seeing as Africa’s urban population doubled from 2000 to 2015, access to water remains a critical issue in the region, growing even more urgent.

How people in developing countries access water and what access entails are often mysterious notions for countries where clean water from the tap is pretty much automatic. To illustrate water scarcity and the emotion behind access to water, NGO and donor publications often feed the public with images of happy children playing in or putting their hands under clean water from a standpipe, like the image below:

A young woman drinks from water pump in Mali. Photo by Curt Carnemark / World Bank / Flickr

Solving the problem of access to water for 600-700 million is easy, right? Just give it to them, no? Sadly, this is not the case. Promising water projects can fail for a whole host of reasons—financial, economic, social, institutional, technological or hydrological. Pumps break, wells run dry, get polluted, projects don’t get finished…things fall apart.

Unfortunately, there is no shortage of failure in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector. Anyone who has worked in the sector, myself included, can list an instance where a project failed for some reason or another. The Playpump story is well-known. Others, such as this IIED studied example, are not. My doctoral research in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania documented a national infrastructure scandal that forced the resignation of the prime minister, unnecessary cholera outbreaks and institutional dysfunction in the water sector in the wake of a failed private sector participation effort.

In my view, failure—and potential success—will always be a factor of economics and governance. Economics is relevant because not only does infrastructure take funds to build, but water services also cost money to maintain. Governance is relevant because decisions about where services are built and maintained are often a factor of political, economic and administrative choice.

Service Delivery Models

If one takes a step back and thinks about what access to water is, whether one is getting water from the private or public sector, one often pays taxes and/or per unit purchase costs. An excellent exposition of this sort of service delivery model is the 2004 World Bank World Development Report – “Making Services Work for the Poor”. As seen in Figure 1, this simple model of WASH governance shows the “short route” accountability that is associated with purchasing water or sanitation services from the private sector. The “long route” of accountability is the more complex interaction that includes pressure on the government (central, regional or local) to either provide WASH services or regulate private sector provision.

Figure 1: Long and Short Route Accountability- 2004 World Bank WDR.

The realities of service provision are, of course, not as black and white as this simple model suggests. There are many WASH management models that have some permutation. While I acknowledge that the complex interactions implicit in any specific management model are critical, stripping down the analysis to the bare-bones basics is useful for messaging and conceptualizing the challenges.

Household Agency, the Enabling Environment and Project Sustainability

The take-home message is effectively one based in human geography. Individuals and households have certain levels of economic wherewithal and ability to exert political pressure on their government to provide WASH services, and these abilities (or inabilities) determine how and to what extent they are able (or unable) to access water. All too many times, those who lack access to water are those who are disenfranchised economically or politically.

Rather than constantly react to the myriad instances of failure, the WASH sector should proactively build on sustainability efforts through better analyses of country, regional and local enabling environment issues and through individual project design.

Fortunately, many of these systems of sustainability analysis exist. The problem is a lack of uniform agreement on how to implement them.

At the country level, these decision tools are numerous. My favorite is the set of FIETS criteria. Additionally, UNICEF has created an excellent Bottleneck Analysis Tool (BAT) to address enabling environment challenges in the WASH sector. At the level of the individual project, I believe that every single water project should have to pass some sort of sustainability test— giving donors, NGOs and governments a better sense of whether those new sources of water will even be there in five or ten years. USAID’s Sustainability Index Tool (SIT) is one potentially useful tool in this regard.

While improving the financial means of households and accountability of governments are two of the biggest imaginable challenges, these two concerns are critical to sustained increases in access to water. Acknowledging the more complex and country-specific service delivery frameworks and employing country-level and project-specific analytical tools are the only ways out of patterns of repeated failure.

What Does This Mean For Urban Populations? 

At minimum, it is essential to emphasize the importance of the governance and economics of access to water. Even more so, as David Satterthwaite rightfully asserts, access to clean and regular water, along with high rates of urbanization, increases disease and other environmental risks. The informal and unplanned settlements in the largest developing country megacities house a complex set of economic and governance factors. These areas are home to some of the most disenfranchised vulnerable populations. Water projects need to understand and account for this context.

In another blog post, Ed Bourque describes some of the most intractable barriers and constraints to increased access. It must be noted that markets for water do not always function fairly or perfectly, and in this blog post, he points to a classic case of “water mafias” who sabotaged and rendered a water supply project pointless. To read more about Ed Bourque’s work, click here.

Live from Transforming Transportation 2017: How Do Cities Make Disruptive Technologies Work for All?

Sat, 2017-01-14 04:16

Day 2 of Transforming Transportation 2017 explored disruptive technologies and their impact on mobility. This panel featured experts in mode sharing, electrification and automation of road vehicles. Photo by Luca Lo Re / WRI

Transforming Transportation (#TTDC17) is the annual conference co-organized by the World Bank and the EMBARQ mobility initiative of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. This year’s conference is themed Beyond Commitments: Sustainable Mobility for All, and takes place on January 12 and 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. Join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #TTDC17, by following @WRIcities and @WBG_Transport on Twitter, and tune in to for video streaming of select sessions.

New kinds of mobility—ride sharing platforms, electric cars and buses, autonomous vehicles—are creating disruptions in the transport sector. Thanks to big data and the widespread use of smart phones, personal transport planning around the world is increasingly becoming a continuum, where people can use a number of different integrated modes to make seamless, efficient trips, as Robin Chase, Founder of Zipcar, explained. While the evidence is still mixed on the current impact, the hope is that all this will get people away from personal car ownership.

Emily Castor, Director of Transportation Policy at Lyft, pushed back against the idea that one technology alone will create positive economic and social impact. Instead, she pointed out, technologies need to be integrated to ensure that they work in a way that creates public good. When it comes to mobility, disruptive technologies like automation, electrification and on-demand ride-sharing need to be integrated in order to mitigate the individual technologies’ potential downsides, like greater congestion and traffic fatalities.

As Sam Parker, Director of Shell Foundation, noted, there are barriers to making new mobility technologies achieve social good. For many low-income populations, ride-sourcing apps like Uber and Lyft are prohibitively expensive given their scale. “We’re going to need to think about how we reach this population so that innovation works for them. Don’t assume the technology will do everything—success depends on the business model.” Emily Castor added to this by pointing out that personal vehicle ownership is currently cheaper than shared mobility, which will need to reach a viable price point in order to create benefits for all.

Getting to this point is going to require smart regulations and public policies. This is a huge challenge given that decision makers will need to balance a legitimate concern for safer and public good while also providing the private sector with the right enabling environment for investment and entrepreneurship. One of the biggest challenges here is the status quo—the lack of collaboration thus far between the private and public sectors to improve urban mobility for all.

 Heaven or Hell? Weighing Opportunities and Challenges in New Mobility

Are shared, autonomous, electric vehicles the silver bullet to a sustainable future? Referencing Robin Chase’s notion of “Heaven or Hell,” the following panel highlighted the opportunities and challenges of these mobility revolutions. While advances in mobility pose many benefits to the future of urban transport, they also call much into question. “There could be many efficiencies gained by autonomous mode shares,” said STEPS Director at UC Davis Lewis Fulton, “but we could also end up with single or zero occupant vehicles, leading to increased congestion and sprawl.” Furthermore, “automation is going to lead to lower per-trip costs,” he explained, but “if the cost comes down a lot, the appeal for sharing might drop as well.”

Peter Jones, Professor of Transport and Sustainable Development at Imperial College, additionally discusses the notion of “Heaven and Hell,” as he describes many of the challenges associated with autonomous vehicles. “Many cities are concerned that this development in technology will swamp the city unless people start thinking now,” cautioned Jones. These problems can been mitigated with early and comprehensive planning initiatives. These are political issues and that need to be discussed now: “If we think ahead,” concludes Jones, “there can be many real benefits.”

Will the mobility transformation have an impact on traditional transportation? Toni Lindau, Director of WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities, seems to think it will. Lindau believes that autonomous vehicles will pose a great challenge the current transit market: conventional buses, bus rapid transit routes and other feeder systems will be at risk.

How Will 2017 Shape the Transport Agenda?

Moderator Melinda Crane opened the final plenary session of Transforming Transportation 2017 with a look at the year ahead. 2016 was the year of global agreements and shaping the agenda on climate, urban development and sustainable development. 2017, on the other hand, will be the year for joint action. According to Daniel Günther: “2017 needs to be about starting action on the ground, scaling up and implementing these agendas… Let’s start some transformative action.” Portugal’s Secretary of State Jose Mendez believes that “in 2017, we will get to know how strong the Paris agreement will be.” Like the global protocol, transforming transportation requires a global approach: “When you transform a sector,” said Mendes, “it isn’t a task for a country or a city. It is a task for many stakeholders.”

While global coordination may be difficult, Secretary General of SLoCaT Cornie Huizenga draws our attention to areas of progress on global coordination, proving that it is possible. “If we want to get the focus that our topic requires, to get the political attention and make the changes we need,” he said, “we will have to speak with one voice.”

In their closing remarks, EMBARQ Director Holger Dalkmann and Director of Transport and ICT at the World Bank Jose Luis Irigoyen emphasized the need for joint action as we enter the year of implementation. “The various goals have to be seen as one,” said Irigoyen, “you cannot have sustainable mobility unless you champion climate resilience, access, efficiency and safety and for all.”

Live from Transforming Transportation 2017: Leadership and Private Finance Drive a Safe Mobility Shift

Fri, 2017-01-13 05:08

Andrew Steer, CEO and President of World Resources Institute, and Laura Tuck, Vice President for Sustainable Development at the World Bank, opened Day 1 of Transforming Transportation 2017 with moderator Melinda Crane. Photo by Luca Lo Re / WRI.

Transforming Transportation (#TTDC17) is the annual conference co-organized by the World Bank and the EMBARQ mobility initiative of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. This year’s conference is themed Beyond Commitments: Sustainable Mobility for All, and takes place on January 12 and 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. Join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #TTDC17, by following @WRIcities and @WBG_Transport on Twitter, and tune in live for video streaming of select sessions.

Why do some issues rise to the top of the global agenda while others struggle to become part of the mainstream? Look at climate change, which has taken center stage through the COP process and played a role in local and national elections throughout 2016. What did the climate community get right?

As Andrew Steer, President and CEO of World Resources Institute, explained, a lot of this has to do with the clarity of the narrative and the extent to which its messengers have pushed its message to the public and onto the international agenda. We can learn from the successes of climate negotiations, but so far transport hasn’t been able to rally around a common, compelling narrative. The evidence is there—1.25 million people die from traffic crashes per year, 23 percent of all GHG emissions come from transport—and the commitments have been made—the Paris Agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and more—but we need to be politically and psychologically smarter. Only a radical shift in the discourse will get us to a tipping point for transformative change.

Key Leadership in Changing Transport Trends  

The first plenary session highlighted the importance of leadership in catalyzing transformation within the transport sector. “This is a moment of unique responsibility for political leaders,” said Jose Viegas, Secretary-General at ITF, “countries have the right to say what they want to do on transport.” Through each country’s Nationally Determined Contributions, national governments have the great opportunity to dictate how to shape their national agendas. In addition to national leadership, “local governments are more in power than ever, for transport,” said Secretary General of UITP Alain Flausch. Due to heightened technological advancements, city authorities have access to real-time, robust datasets on mobility. Through analyzing this data, local governments can take action through regulation, engaging governments on all levels.

While the opportunity for strong governmental action resonated throughout the panel, Mayor of Santiago Carolina Toha also directed attention to everyday citizens. “It is a priority to view transportation through the eyes and hearts of the people,” she said. After all, residents have the power to drive change in the transport sector; people elect how they move about their cities. Mayor Toha emphasized the need to get the minds people on board to achieve city goals. Similarly, Patrick Oliva, Senior VP of Michelin Group, turns to the people for results: “If you want to achieve something, you need to know where you’re going, and then you have to unleash the creativity of the people to meet the objectives.” By syncing the transport agenda with the needs of its residents, cities can build efficient, connected and sustainable cities. “If we have serious politicians and goodwill, we have a chance,“ said Alain Flausch, “we need goodwill.”

Cities Must Leverage Private Funds to Have a Voice

Financing is one of the greatest challenges for urban mobility worldwide. The problem, however, does not result from the lack money, bur rather from the proper investment and application of those funds A business as usual model creates significant economic costs that could be applied to other sectors. Research from the New Climate Economy indicates that investment in public transit can save $11 trillion in energy savings by 2050.

Liberating the transit sector from the status quo requires action. “Transit solutions will never pay for themselves through the fare box,” said Chief Economist and Senior Vice President at the World Bank Paul Romer. What must be prioritized, described Laura Tuck in her opening statement, is increased private funding, which requires immense changes in the financial sector and mobilizing private finance at scale. But how do cities leverage private funding? According to Carlos Mier Y Teran, Director of Ports, Airports and Gas Pipelines with Banobras-Mexico, if a project is well planned, there is lower technical, environmental, economic and social risk, and therefore, banks will feel more comfortable providing funding. This financial shift is imperative for cities to transform their transportation sectors. For now, however, “if they don’t have access to finances, cities won’t have a voice,” said Mayor Toha.

Moving the Narrative Forward on Road Safety

What needs to happen to move the narrative forward for road safety, a health crisis taking the lives of 1.2 million people a year? David Ward, CEO of Towards Zero Foundation, put it directly, “we need to stop blaming the victim. This isn’t about human error—this is about a failure of the system.”

The safe systems approach to road safety is all about flipping this line of logic and making road safety a shared responsibility. The safe systems approach emphasizes designing roads to be safer in the first place rather than relying on behavioral measures like education and enforcement. But as Soames Job, Director of Global Road Safety Facility at the Work Bank, explained, “road safety advocates have not done a good job of communicating this approach to non-road safety advocates.” The next step in updating the narrative will be about mainstreaming this message.

So how can low- and middle-income countries—where 92 percent of fatalities are concentrated—leapfrog the problems experienced by developed countries? Too often the true social costs of the road deaths are not factored into the financial costs of road projects, noted Walid Abdelwahab, Director of Infrastructure Department at the Islamic Development Bank. This leads to investors and decision makers choosing the road that’s cheaper in the short term, but costly in the long term in terms of fatalities and social costs. Updating the global road safety narrative means also mainstreaming an approach to cost accounting that takes into consideration the full costs.

Lastly, panelists discussed the need to move people into safer modes of transport like mass transit instead of onto roads. Motorcycles, which move at high speeds in congested conditions, are on the road in many cities around the world. A comprehensive, safe systems approach to road safety needs to address this trend and push for a fundamental paradigm shift. As multiple speakers concluded, we can’t settle for reducing or even halving fatalities—zero is the only acceptable number.


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