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IPCC 1.5 Report: Cities Are the Best Chance to Get Climate Right

Wed, 2018-10-31 20:30

To keep warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius, cities have a major role to play. Photo by Nicolas Mirguet/Flickr

Amid the barrage of news about climate-related natural disasters and climate change summits, it’s important to recognize real inflection points—when there is truly cause to sit up and take note. The IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC, released last month, is a genuine wake up call.

We are already at one degree Celsius warming beyond pre-industrial averages. Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit)—beyond which scientists expect more significant damage to global ecosystems—requires “rapid and far-reaching transitions” in energy systems, land use, industry and urban infrastructure, concludes the special report.

In short, we need to live and build differently.

Those of us focused on cities know this is true. The trajectory for major trends needs to change significantly in urban areas to reach the targets agreed to by the world’s governments in the Paris Agreement, Sustainable Development Goals and New Urban Agenda. We need not just nudges and tweaks, but transformation on a massive scale, starting now.

The IPCC special report, a synthesis of the latest climate research collected by 91 authors, reinforces this message comprehensively. From reducing emissions to expanding economic opportunities for all, cities are key to a sustainable future.

Building Differently

Big changes to the built environment are needed to stay under 1.5 degrees. We must build smarter and retrofit faster. Emissions from buildings must be reduced 80-90 percent by mid-century, and all new construction must be “fossil-free and near-zero energy” in just two years.

These changes need to happen everywhere. In the developed world, we need to see optimization and decarbonization of existing services. In the developing world, we need to provide new services—including roads, water, sanitation and electricity—to the underserved, and cities need to build these services differently from those of the past. New solutions need to be adopted quickly since the infrastructure being constructed today will last decades. This is a challenge, but also a significant opportunity to reshape cities—some 75 percent of the infrastructure expected to be in place by 2050 has yet to be built.

Reaching the 1.5 degree target will require a 40 percent reduction in final energy use in transportation by mid-century, according to the report. Individual choices can make a dent here, but better urban planning can go even further. The authors note that “effective urban planning can reduce GHG emissions from urban transport between 20 percent and 50 percent.”

Cities Under Siege

At two degrees of warming by 2040, more than 70 percent of coastlines will see sea level rise greater than 0.2 meters (8 inches). Among the places hardest hit by flooding will be dense urban areas, including at least 136 “megacities” (defined as “port cities with a population greater than one million in 2005”). That doesn’t include new cities that will enter this category due to population growth in the next few decades.

Heat is already a major concern for many cities, and the report notes that the challenge will be much greater if nothing is done. “At 1.5°C, twice as many megacities (such as Lagos, Nigeria and Shanghai, China) could become heat-stressed, exposing more than 350 million more people to deadly heat by 2050 under mid-range population growth.”

At two degrees, without changes to the built environment like cooler roofs and greener urban design, cities like Karachi and Kolkata can expect deadly heatwaves like the ones in 2015 that killed thousands.

Living Differently

It’s not just the physical changes of a warming world that are alarming; it’s the social and economic implications. Climate change is a “poverty-multiplier that makes poor people poorer and increases the poverty head count,” the report says.

“Unmitigated warming could reshape the global economy later in the century by reducing average global incomes and widening global income inequality,” it says. “Most severe impacts are projected for urban areas and some rural regions in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.”

Cities are especially vulnerable to these trends in part because the number of people living in “informal” settlements—areas often beyond the scope of basic services and municipal assistance—is expected to triple to 3 billion by 2050. The risk for cities already struggling with the effects of inequality is that reaching these populations becomes even more difficult, not only putting millions of people at risk of destitution and literal drowning but dragging down urban and national economies writ large.

A much larger emphasis on governance, equity and “broad participation” will need to be considered to reduce urban risks. Even well-intentioned adaptation efforts can backfire if they end up further marginalizing or displacing poor citizens.

Our World Resources Report, “Towards a More Equal City,” suggests ways to build cities for all by outlining equity challenges sector by sector as well as exploring practical approaches that are already working in cities around the world.

Cities for All

The IPCC report is a call for transformation on a massive scale—not just in energy or climate policy but how we live and build generally. Though it’s easy to focus on the potential costs of such a change, the benefits could be significant, too.

The authors note urban “green economies” are emerging from the informal sector, helping to meet demand for clean water, for example, and improve recycling. And cities in Africa and Asia have the potential to leapfrog traditional ways of generating electricity, bringing cleaner energy to more citizens and improving adaptive capacity at the same time (here, the report cites WRI’s own work on powering cities in the global south).

Estimates of the net value of low-carbon investments in cities are as high as $16.6 trillion by 2050, according to the Coalition for Urban Transitions.

The furious pace of urbanization gives us an opportunity to make rapid changes. A window for transformation is opening, and it’s up to us to seize it. Cities are the best chance we have to get this right.

This blog originally appeared on WRI’s Insights.

Ani Dasgupta is Global Director of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities

Catlyne Haddaoui contributed to this article.

Unlocking Climate Action: When Nations, States and Cities Reinforce Each Other, Everybody Wins

Wed, 2018-10-10 13:13

Biking in Copenhagen. Flickr/Mikael Colville Andersen

As the recent Global Climate Action Summit underscored, we’re seeing a steady rise in the number of commitments by cities, states and provinces to address climate change, with over 17,500 actions registered on the NAZCA Climate Action Portal. Not only are these efforts curbing greenhouse gas emissions within their jurisdictions, they can also have far-reaching impacts at the national level.

We know that national commitments are not enough to stabilize the climate, and the efforts of cities and local governments, while crucial, can only go so far toward achieving the Paris Agreement goals. To pick up the pace, we need to strengthen the mutually reinforcing relationship between national and subnational climate actions to support and unlock greater ambition. Subnational innovations can inspire national policy change, which in turn can spread these ideas and actions throughout countries that adopt them.

When this relationship goes awry, it can have significant consequences, especially for cities, which are the economic powerhouses of their economies, representing over 70 percent of GDP. Even in progressive places like California, the challenges can be great. In San Francisco, which just hosted the Global Climate Action Summit, building owners are not able to electrify their buildings, even though that would be a good way to meet the city’s decarbonization goals, because the state Public Utilities Commission does not allow utilities to grant permits for fuel switching which can save money and carbon emissions.

Here are some examples of unlocking action.

Transport Sector, Denmark:nationwide air quality benefits and opportunity for more ambitious local policies.

In 2011, the Danish government’s energy efficiency standards for heavy-duty vehicles improved urban air quality and gave cities permission to introduce low-emission zones. This boost of authority empowered local governments to pursue complementary and potentially more aggressive policies.

Water Sector, China: reduced GHG emissions through nationwide wastewater treatment standards.

Inspired by sludge-to-energy pilot projects in the city of Xiangyang, China drove the adoption of national and state-level wastewater treatment minimum standards and demonstrated the potential environmental and economic benefitsfor other cities in China.

Forest Sector, Brazila national restoration commitment that builds upon state-level pledges.

In 2015, Espírito Santo, São Paulo and Mato Grosso made state-level restoration pledges to restore a collective 3.28 million hectares (more than 8 million acres) of degraded forest. Expanding on state-level pledges, the federal government followed suit just one year later, pledging to bring 12 million hectares of land (nearly 30 million acres) into restoration by 2030 under the Bonn Challenge and 20×20 Initiative.

Financial Sector, CanadaNationwide carbon pricing based on a successful provincial policy.

British Columbia made history in 2008 when it implemented North America’s first broad-based carbon tax. Eight years later, in 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a pan-Canadian price on carbon, basing its design and scope on British Columbia’s effective province-level carbon tax.

Real Estate Sector, Colombia : Cities nationwide have building energy standards that are easier to implement.

Reducing building energy use is central to meeting Colombia’s international climate commitments but the capital city Bogotá struggled to implement building codes passed in 2015. With support from domestic and international partners, Bogotá was able to develop a protocol that made the legislation more realistic and easier to implement.

These examples show that national governments have a unique role in sending clear policy signals, creating incentives, supporting subnational climate success and reducing barriers to subnational ambition. Subnational governments are essential to putting climate policies in action and driving constituents’ support for national climate policies, and they need to be actively engaged in supporting the transition for communities deeply rooted in fossil fuel industry. They are also crucial for building resilience and ensuring adaptation to climate impacts (such as coastal infrastructure, zoning and development). Different levels of government are interdependent and their fates are linked. However, national and subnational actors are frequently out of step, stifling one another’s ambition and abilities.

That dysfunction needs to end. The path needs to be cleared so subnational actors and national governments can play the self-reinforcing roles that can keep global warming below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) or 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees) to ward off the worst impacts of a changing climate.

Over the next six months, look for a series of blogs highlighting in more detail specific cases of this virtuous interdependency.

This blog originally appeared on WRI’s Insights.

Cynthia Elliott is an Associate for the Global Climate Program at World Resources Institute.

Emma Stewart is the Urban Efficiency & Climate Director at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

Eliza Northrop is an Associate in the International Climate Action Initiative at World Resources Institute.

Andrew Wu is the Research Analyst for the New Restoration Economy at World Resources Institute.

Caroline Gagné is a Research Analyst for the Global Restoration Initiative at World Resources Institute.

Need New Ideas to Advance Public Transport? Look to Vienna

Mon, 2018-09-24 13:13

Vienna’s U-Bahn metro system saw a 10 percent increase in ridership between 1993 and 2012. Photo by Vivien/Flickr

European cities by and large have a sterling reputation when it comes to walkability and public transportation. Recent data compiled by Ralph Buheler, John Pucher and Alan Althauser in the International Journal of Sustainable Transportation show that between 1989 and 2015, across 10 Western European cities, bicycling increased by 4.5 percent and walking by 3 percent, while car usage declined 7.5 percent.

But perhaps contrary to popular belief, public transport did not fare nearly as well. At a time when the 10 European cities surveyed grew 18 percent, the percent of people using buses, metro, trams, rail and other public transit options increased just 0.6 percent on average. Some cities, like Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Amsterdam and Copenhagen even saw small declines in public transport use, between 4 and 1 percent.

Only in Vienna did public transport use improve markedly, increasing by 10 points between 1993 and 2012. Why?

Strong Planning

Buehler et al. conclude that Vienna’s outlier status is largely the result of a remarkable continuity of politics, policies and transport planning.

Social democrats governed the city in coalition with other parties from 1945 to 2010, with a tradition of strong support for labor, social housing and public transport. In 2010, the Green Party took over, but with similar commitments to environmental protection, bicycling, public transport and walking.

Important breakthroughs during this period included beginning construction of the underground metro in 1968 and cancellation of plans to build downtown expressways in the 1970s after community opposition.

Master plans were approved by Vienna´s parliament in 1980, 1993, 2003 and 2014. Buheler, Pucher and Althauser write that “the 1980 plan’s main stated goals were to expand and speed up public transport, to limit roadway expansion, to restrict on-street parking, to move through traffic out of residential neighborhoods, to improve walking and cycling facilities, and to expand both car-free zones in commercial areas and traffic-calmed zones in residential neighborhoods. The 1993, 2003, and 2014 transport plans established specific percentage targets for successively reducing the car share of trips over time. Each encouraged further expansion of the U-Bahn and parking management, improvements in walking and cycling conditions, and better regional coordination of public transport, including suburban rail lines into Lower Austria.”

And Follow Through

What’s more, Vienna’s master plans were implemented.

From 1990 to 2015, the U-Bahn metro system was doubled to 80 kilometers of track and wait times were reduced to between two and three minutes during peak hours. At the same time, the supply of the tram network, the backbone of the city’s public transport system, expanded by 50 percent in terms of seat-kilometers. There are now 28 tram lines and 423 kilometers of tracks, serving more than 1,000 stops. This is complemented by 43 daytime bus routes, 23 nighttime bus routes, and 10 regional rail lines, with 181 stations.

These modes are integrated at various levels, including through common fares, operation, branding and a single data network that provides real-time information on all services.

User fare revenues (€480 million per year, or about $560 million) cover about 55 percent of transit operating costs. The remaining 45 percent comes from a public transport tax on large employers, similar to the France’s Versement (about €100 per employee per year, €70 million) and fees from on-street parking and city-owned parking garages (around €100 million per year). These fees can only be used for public transport, park and ride, parking garages, and bicycling.

Public transport in Vienna also receives strong financial support from the federal level: 50 percent of the capital expenditures for the U-Bahn, 100 percent for regional investments, and 100 percent for the administrative and planning costs of the regional coordination authority.

The city also receives general revenue sharing funds from the federal government to the tune of twice as much revenue sharing per capita compared to the average for Austria. The special treatment is justified by the multiple federal, economic and cultural functions provided by the capital.

Buoyed by this support, the city is able to keep fares very affordable. In 2012 the yearly pass cost was reduced by 20 percent and the monthly pass by 10 percent. There are also senior and student discounts. The authors report that fare cuts resulted in increased ridership, with transit ridership increasing from 36 to 39 percent following fare cuts.

On top of improved supply of public transport, integration and low fares, Vienna has a strong parking management system. Since 1993, the city introduced parking management in its central district, controlling the supply of parking spaces, charging strong parking fees and strictly enforcing violations. There was strong opposition at first, but the benefits of reduced congestion and making it easier to find a parking spot (for residents and those willing to pay), resulted in widespread support. By 2016, 16 of the city’s 23 districts had parking management.

Consistency Is King

Like other European cities, Vienna has taken steps to curb car usage and improve the experience for pedestrians and cyclists. But unlike other European cities, Vienna has also had remarkable political continuity and federal support for public transport.

It has taken more than 60 years, but consistent leadership has allowed the city to develop a comprehensive suite of sustainable transport options that is encouraging more compact, coordinated and connected development while enjoying widespread support from residents and multiple political parties.

Dario Hidalgo is Director of Integrated Transport at WRI Ross Center For Sustainable Cities.

Need New Ideas to Advance Public Transport? Look to Vienna

Mon, 2018-09-24 13:13

Vienna’s U-Bahn metro system saw a 10 percent increase in ridership between 1993 and 2012. Photo by Vivien/Flickr

European cities by and large have a sterling reputation when it comes to walkability and public transportation. Recent data compiled by Ralph Buheler, John Pucher and Alan Althauser in the International Journal of Sustainable Transportation show that between 1989 and 2015, across 10 Western European cities, bicycling increased by 4.5 percent and walking by 3 percent, while car usage declined 7.5 percent.

But perhaps contrary to popular belief, public transport did not fare nearly as well. At a time when the 10 European cities surveyed grew 18 percent, the percent of people using buses, metro, trams, rail and other public transit options increased just 0.6 percent on average. Some cities, like Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Amsterdam and Copenhagen even saw small declines in public transport use, between 4 and 1 percent.

Only in Vienna did public transport use improve markedly, increasing by 10 points between 1993 and 2012. Why?

Strong Planning

Buehler et al. conclude that Vienna’s outlier status is largely the result of a remarkable continuity of politics, policies and transport planning.

Social democrats governed the city in coalition with other parties from 1945 to 2010, with a tradition of strong support for labor, social housing and public transport. In 2010, the Green Party took over, but with similar commitments to environmental protection, bicycling, public transport and walking.

Important breakthroughs during this period included beginning construction of the underground metro in 1968 and cancellation of plans to build downtown expressways in the 1970s after community opposition.

Master plans were approved by Vienna´s parliament in 1980, 1993, 2003 and 2014. Buheler, Pucher and Althauser write that “the 1980 plan’s main stated goals were to expand and speed up public transport, to limit roadway expansion, to restrict on-street parking, to move through traffic out of residential neighborhoods, to improve walking and cycling facilities, and to expand both car-free zones in commercial areas and traffic-calmed zones in residential neighborhoods. The 1993, 2003, and 2014 transport plans established specific percentage targets for successively reducing the car share of trips over time. Each encouraged further expansion of the U-Bahn and parking management, improvements in walking and cycling conditions, and better regional coordination of public transport, including suburban rail lines into Lower Austria.”

And Follow Through

What’s more, Vienna’s master plans were implemented.

From 1990 to 2015, the U-Bahn metro system was doubled to 80 kilometers of track and wait times were reduced to between two and three minutes during peak hours. At the same time, the supply of the tram network, the backbone of the city’s public transport system, expanded by 50 percent in terms of seat-kilometers. There are now 28 tram lines and 423 kilometers of tracks, serving more than 1,000 stops. This is complemented by 43 daytime bus routes, 23 nighttime bus routes, and 10 regional rail lines, with 181 stations.

These modes are integrated at various levels, including through common fares, operation, branding and a single data network that provides real-time information on all services.

User fare revenues (€480 million per year, or about $560 million) cover about 55 percent of transit operating costs. The remaining 45 percent comes from a public transport tax on large employers, similar to the France’s Versement (about €100 per employee per year, €70 million) and fees from on-street parking and city-owned parking garages (around €100 million per year). These fees can only be used for public transport, park and ride, parking garages, and bicycling.

Public transport in Vienna also receives strong financial support from the federal level: 50 percent of the capital expenditures for the U-Bahn, 100 percent for regional investments, and 100 percent for the administrative and planning costs of the regional coordination authority.

The city also receives general revenue sharing funds from the federal government to the tune of twice as much revenue sharing per capita compared to the average for Austria. The special treatment is justified by the multiple federal, economic and cultural functions provided by the capital.

Buoyed by this support, the city is able to keep fares very affordable. In 2012 the yearly pass cost was reduced by 20 percent and the monthly pass by 10 percent. There are also senior and student discounts. The authors report that fare cuts resulted in increased ridership, with transit ridership increasing from 36 to 39 percent following fare cuts.

On top of improved supply of public transport, integration and low fares, Vienna has a strong parking management system. Since 1993, the city introduced parking management in its central district, controlling the supply of parking spaces, charging strong parking fees and strictly enforcing violations. There was strong opposition at first, but the benefits of reduced congestion and making it easier to find a parking spot (for residents and those willing to pay), resulted in widespread support. By 2016, 16 of the city’s 23 districts had parking management.

Consistency Is King

Like other European cities, Vienna has taken steps to curb car usage and improve the experience for pedestrians and cyclists. But unlike other European cities, Vienna has also had remarkable political continuity and federal support for public transport.

It has taken more than 60 years, but consistent leadership has allowed the city to develop a comprehensive suite of sustainable transport options that is encouraging more compact, coordinated and connected development while enjoying widespread support from residents and multiple political parties.

Dario Hidalgo is Director of Integrated Transport at WRI Ross Center For Sustainable Cities.

With Transportation Data, These Cities Became More Sustainable and Socially Inclusive

Mon, 2018-08-13 19:30

Buses in Quito, Ecuador, are using data to mitigate safety concerns. Photo by Malcolm K./Flickr

Cities across the world have pledged to take action on climate change, including planning for more sustainable forms of transportation. Many cities, however, lack the data and information necessary to track and monitor their progress. This data provides valuable examples of transportation patterns and needs, allowing cities to plan mitigation actions that decrease their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – an important step to meeting goals set in the Paris Agreement.

A number of cities have demonstrated additional and unexpected benefits from tracking such information. They have used the data not only to take action on climate change, but also to make their services more socially inclusive. They’re making public transportation more responsive to community members’ needs and seeking to increase access to low-carbon mobility options, such as public transit, bicycling and walking, for everyone.

Here’s how four urban areas analyzed the effectiveness of their public transport options and used that knowledge to achieve improvements for residents.

Semarang City, Indonesia

Since the 2009 installation of the Trans Semarang, a Bus Rapid Transit system in Semarang City, Indonesia, the city’s GHG emissions have been reduced by more than 14,000 tons of CO2e. The Trans Semarang, which was part of an emissions reduction strategy to encourage a shift from private vehicle use and smaller public transport, was so successful that an expansion has already been planned; it includes the addition of a feeder line and six more corridors to augment the current two.

The city also used data on travel use and access by men and women to make the Trans Semarang more gender-responsive. It installed better lighting at stops, added more seating and improved access for women, the elderly and disabled persons, which encouraged more people to shift from private vehicle use to public transportation. The city is still collecting data; it has partnered with IGES to continue analyzing the co-benefits of Trans Semarang, including the decreases in GHG emissions due to modal shifts to public transit.

Semarang City’s efforts demonstrate how a city can use data on transportation and gender to develop a more sustainable and accessible city.

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria, has a long history of collecting mobility-related data sets and analyzing them with gender and diversity in mind. According to the city’s Urban Mobility Plan, it intends to further expand its data collection by 2025 to include a data sharing system in a decentralized database “with aspects of diversity and gender mainstreaming in mind, so analysis by characteristics such as age, level of education and sex is possible.” The data currently collected has already helped the city improve pedestrian mobility, such as by installing street lighting to address security concerns and building ramps in stairs to facilitate access for women, the elderly, disabled persons and people with children.

A barrier-free staircase in Vienna provides increased pedestrian access. Photo by Josef Lex/Flickr

Quito, Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador, has also used data to shape the city’s urban planning and better respond to the needs of all of its citizens. In a 2011 study, the city found that 68 percent of women had experienced sexual violence in public spaces. In line with the city’s new gender approach to transportation, Quito remodeled almost all trolley stops to address new safety criteria and security concerns. Today, 43 of 44 stops have glass doors that provide secure transfer and waiting areas. Transportation changes like this were only possible with better data collection and analysis.

São Paulo, Brazil

Because most cities were designed with private vehicle use in mind, road safety for cyclists and pedestrians is a serious issue that prevents many people (especially women, children, elderly and disabled persons) from engaging in such forms of active transport. A 2016 survey in São Paulo showed that 76 percent of women who did not cycle pointed to road safety as the reason why. Among women who did cycle, 60 percent found it safe or very safe only when cycling in dedicated infrastructure. Between 2014 and 2015, the city constructed 238km of new bike lanes, and saw a dramatic increase in women cyclists and the total number of cyclists. Increased use of active transport is helping cities like São Paulo reduce their net greenhouse gas emissions.

Different Patterns of Mobility

Research from both developing and developed countries shows that men and women have different patterns of mobility. Men tend to drive private vehicles more often and for longer distances than women. Men are more likely to commute for employment, whereas women tend to engage in trip-chaining, or linking multiple trips for a wider range of activities, such as caregiving and household responsibilities. In general, women walk and take public transportation more than men. Due to security concerns, women also tend to travel more during off-peak hours than men as a way to cope with and avoid harassment and violence. Moreover, women usually spend additional time and money travelling as they are more likely than men to travel with dependents (children and elderly).

Although cities rarely collect data on gender and transport, those that have are demonstrating that good data is a key component for change. As the examples above show, cities that consider the different needs and use patterns of their residents can improve the design of their transit systems, increase ridership and help to create a more sustainable, low-emissions future for their countries.

This article was originally published on WRI’s Insights. 

Ginette Walls is the Climate Action and Data Outreach Intern at WRI United States.

Cassandra Etter-Wenzel is the Outreach Coordinator for Climate Action & Data at WRI United States.

With Transportation Data, These Cities Became More Sustainable and Socially Inclusive

Mon, 2018-08-13 19:30

Buses in Quito, Ecuador, are using data to mitigate safety concerns. Photo by Malcolm K./Flickr

Cities across the world have pledged to take action on climate change, including planning for more sustainable forms of transportation. Many cities, however, lack the data and information necessary to track and monitor their progress. This data provides valuable examples of transportation patterns and needs, allowing cities to plan mitigation actions that decrease their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – an important step to meeting goals set in the Paris Agreement.

A number of cities have demonstrated additional and unexpected benefits from tracking such information. They have used the data not only to take action on climate change, but also to make their services more socially inclusive. They’re making public transportation more responsive to community members’ needs and seeking to increase access to low-carbon mobility options, such as public transit, bicycling and walking, for everyone.

Here’s how four urban areas analyzed the effectiveness of their public transport options and used that knowledge to achieve improvements for residents.

Semarang City, Indonesia

Since the 2009 installation of the Trans Semarang, a Bus Rapid Transit system in Semarang City, Indonesia, the city’s GHG emissions have been reduced by more than 14,000 tons of CO2e. The Trans Semarang, which was part of an emissions reduction strategy to encourage a shift from private vehicle use and smaller public transport, was so successful that an expansion has already been planned; it includes the addition of a feeder line and six more corridors to augment the current two.

The city also used data on travel use and access by men and women to make the Trans Semarang more gender-responsive. It installed better lighting at stops, added more seating and improved access for women, the elderly and disabled persons, which encouraged more people to shift from private vehicle use to public transportation. The city is still collecting data; it has partnered with IGES to continue analyzing the co-benefits of Trans Semarang, including the decreases in GHG emissions due to modal shifts to public transit.

Semarang City’s efforts demonstrate how a city can use data on transportation and gender to develop a more sustainable and accessible city.

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria, has a long history of collecting mobility-related data sets and analyzing them with gender and diversity in mind. According to the city’s Urban Mobility Plan, it intends to further expand its data collection by 2025 to include a data sharing system in a decentralized database “with aspects of diversity and gender mainstreaming in mind, so analysis by characteristics such as age, level of education and sex is possible.” The data currently collected has already helped the city improve pedestrian mobility, such as by installing street lighting to address security concerns and building ramps in stairs to facilitate access for women, the elderly, disabled persons and people with children.

A barrier-free staircase in Vienna provides increased pedestrian access. Photo by Josef Lex/Flickr

Quito, Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador, has also used data to shape the city’s urban planning and better respond to the needs of all of its citizens. In a 2011 study, the city found that 68 percent of women had experienced sexual violence in public spaces. In line with the city’s new gender approach to transportation, Quito remodeled almost all trolley stops to address new safety criteria and security concerns. Today, 43 of 44 stops have glass doors that provide secure transfer and waiting areas. Transportation changes like this were only possible with better data collection and analysis.

São Paulo, Brazil

Because most cities were designed with private vehicle use in mind, road safety for cyclists and pedestrians is a serious issue that prevents many people (especially women, children, elderly and disabled persons) from engaging in such forms of active transport. A 2016 survey in São Paulo showed that 76 percent of women who did not cycle pointed to road safety as the reason why. Among women who did cycle, 60 percent found it safe or very safe only when cycling in dedicated infrastructure. Between 2014 and 2015, the city constructed 238km of new bike lanes, and saw a dramatic increase in women cyclists and the total number of cyclists. Increased use of active transport is helping cities like São Paulo reduce their net greenhouse gas emissions.

Different Patterns of Mobility

Research from both developing and developed countries shows that men and women have different patterns of mobility. Men tend to drive private vehicles more often and for longer distances than women. Men are more likely to commute for employment, whereas women tend to engage in trip-chaining, or linking multiple trips for a wider range of activities, such as caregiving and household responsibilities. In general, women walk and take public transportation more than men. Due to security concerns, women also tend to travel more during off-peak hours than men as a way to cope with and avoid harassment and violence. Moreover, women usually spend additional time and money travelling as they are more likely than men to travel with dependents (children and elderly).

Although cities rarely collect data on gender and transport, those that have are demonstrating that good data is a key component for change. As the examples above show, cities that consider the different needs and use patterns of their residents can improve the design of their transit systems, increase ridership and help to create a more sustainable, low-emissions future for their countries.

This blog was originally published on WRI’s Insights. 

Ginette Walls is the Climate Action and Data Outreach Intern at WRI United States.

Cassandra Etter-Wenzel is the Outreach Coordinator for Climate Action & Data at WRI United States.

Raahgiri 2.0: Re-Engineering Car-Free Days for Smaller Cities in India

Mon, 2018-06-18 13:13

Raahgiri Day in Jhajjar not only celebrates road safety, but also includes social messages, encouraging women and girls of all ages to participate. Photo by Deputy Commissioners Office, Jhajjar, India

If you drive out of New Delhi west along National Highway 48, you will find yourself reaching a small district in Haryana state named Jhajjar. Just 50 miles from the national capital, its demographic contrast is unmistakable. The bustle and density of New Delhi fades, replaced by agriculture and scattered industry. The population of the district is just 1 million. Jhajjar city has about 50,000 residents.

Jhajjar also has one of the lowest sex ratios in India – 825 females for every 1,000 males, according to the 2015 census. So when Raahgiri Day came to Jhajjar earlier this year in a first attempt to adapt the car-free day concept to a smaller urban area, the question of who participated was just as important as what they did.

On January 14, about 7,000 people took part in Jhajjar’s Raahgiri Day in a re-engineered event backed by Chief Minister of Haryana Manohar Lal Khattar. Thirty percent of participants were below the age of 18 and 50 percent were women or girls.

We saw Raahgiri transform into a new phenomenon, where citizens not only saw it as a car-free initiative but also took it as an opportunity for community participation.

Streets for All

Inspired by Ciclovía in Bogotá and beginning in Gurgaon in November 2013, Raahgiri is India’s first sustained car-free initiative. Once a week or month, roads where pedestrians and cyclists normally face dangerous and time-consuming congestion are opened to all. Street performances and marathons take the place of cars. On peak days, more than 20,000 people have come on to the streets to celebrate Raahgiri Day in Gurgaon.

Since its launch, the phenomenon has spread to other Indian cities, including Delhi, and evolved into different iterations – “open streets,” “happy streets,” and “equal streets for all.”

The organizing team for Jhajjar, which included the deputy commissioner’s office, Jhajjar police and WRI India, decided to redesign Raahgiri to suit the town’s smaller size and special characteristics. The event was about clearing Jhajjar’s streets for a day, yes, but also imagining how public space could be different – more open to all people.

As you enter Jhajjar, you are met with narrow roads busy with local traffic. These lead to even narrower, sometimes-unpaved lanes bustling with hawkers and village pedestrians. Here the highways are meant for heavy vehicles and urban roads belong to men – who drive, ride, loiter and own the streets.

For a community that never observed or encouraged open participation from girls and women, Raahgiri was designed to provide a refresh. The event was labeled a gender safe space and organizers invited young girls, mothers and older women to come forward and participate.

To promote gender equality, women and girls participated in different sporting events, including hockey. Photo by Deputy Commissioners Office, Jhajjar, India

A team “Pinkathon” – a national movement built around marathons and empowering women – was specially organized for the city. Messages from Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, a national effort to prevent gender-biased sex selection and ensure young girls are protected from discrimination, were promoted. Swach Bharat, an effort to improve waste and sanitation, was also highlighted.

Groups of children and youth participated in races, gymnastics, cycling, aerobics and yoga. Varsha Upadhye and Himanshi, 15- and 19-year-old national-level gymnasts from Jhajjar, tumbled down the streets. They said Raahgiri provides them a safe environment in which they feel proud to showcase their talent.

A Platform for Awareness

Leaders in Jhajjar envisioned combining socially progressive elements with the road safety messages of Raahgiri to create a unique event, and it worked. The district administration cited Raahgiri as a particularly significant occasion for raising awareness and educating people about various social habits and issues. In the end, the women and girls of Jhajjar represented half the total participation on the day.

When we spoke with 70-year-old Janki Devi she said she had forgotten singing and dancing. “Raahgiri brought it back to me after 40 years,” she said.

Janki Devi has been a constant feature in each of the monthly Raahgiri Days in Jhajjar since its debut. She not only participates in every event but encourages her daughter and daughter-in-law to as well.

Many have taken advantage of Raahgiri to become part of a larger group, to open up their lives to the community, and to confidently take to the streets and claim their space. Chief Minister Khattar has committed to celebrate Raahgiri in every district of Haryana for one year, so we should expect to see more re-engineering in the future.

Sonal Goel is the Deputy Commissioner for Jhajjar, Haryana, for the Indian Administrative Services.

Sarika Panda Bhatt is the Head of Integrated Transport and Road Safety at WRI India Ross Center.

Raahgiri 2.0: Re-Engineering Car-Free Days for Smaller Cities in India

Mon, 2018-06-18 13:13

Raahgiri Day in Jhajjar not only celebrates road safety, but also includes social messages, encouraging women and girls of all ages to participate. Photo by Deputy Commissioners Office, Jhajjar, India

If you drive out of New Delhi west along National Highway 48, you will find yourself reaching a small district in Haryana state named Jhajjar. Just 50 miles from the national capital, its demographic contrast is unmistakable. The bustle and density of New Delhi fades, replaced by agriculture and scattered industry. The population of the district is just 1 million. Jhajjar city has about 50,000 residents.

Jhajjar also has one of the lowest sex ratios in India – 825 females for every 1,000 males, according to the 2015 census. So when Raahgiri Day came to Jhajjar earlier this year in a first attempt to adapt the car-free day concept to a smaller urban area, the question of who participated was just as important as what they did.

On January 14, about 7,000 people took part in Jhajjar’s Raahgiri Day in a re-engineered event backed by Chief Minister of Haryana Manohar Lal Khattar. Thirty percent of participants were below the age of 18 and 50 percent were women or girls.

We saw Raahgiri transform into a new phenomenon, where citizens not only saw it as a car-free initiative but also took it as an opportunity for community participation.

Streets for All

Inspired by Ciclovía in Bogotá and beginning in Gurgaon in November 2013, Raahgiri is India’s first sustained car-free initiative. Once a week or month, roads where pedestrians and cyclists normally face dangerous and time-consuming congestion are opened to all. Street performances and marathons take the place of cars. On peak days, more than 20,000 people have come on to the streets to celebrate Raahgiri Day in Gurgaon.

Since its launch, the phenomenon has spread to other Indian cities, including Delhi, and evolved into different iterations – “open streets,” “happy streets,” and “equal streets for all.”

The organizing team for Jhajjar, which included the deputy commissioner’s office, Jhajjar police and WRI India, decided to redesign Raahgiri to suit the town’s smaller size and special characteristics. The event was about clearing Jhajjar’s streets for a day, yes, but also imagining how public space could be different – more open to all people.

As you enter Jhajjar, you are met with narrow roads busy with local traffic. These lead to even narrower, sometimes-unpaved lanes bustling with hawkers and village pedestrians. Here the highways are meant for heavy vehicles and urban roads belong to men – who drive, ride, loiter and own the streets.

For a community that never observed or encouraged open participation from girls and women, Raahgiri was designed to provide a refresh. The event was labeled a gender safe space and organizers invited young girls, mothers and older women to come forward and participate.

To promote gender equality, women and girls participated in different sporting events, including hockey. Photo by Deputy Commissioners Office, Jhajjar, India

A team “Pinkathon” – a national movement built around marathons and empowering women – was specially organized for the city. Messages from Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, a national effort to prevent gender-biased sex selection and ensure young girls are protected from discrimination, were promoted. Swach Bharat, an effort to improve waste and sanitation, was also highlighted.

Groups of children and youth participated in races, gymnastics, cycling, aerobics and yoga. Varsha Upadhye and Himanshi, 15- and 19-year-old national-level gymnasts from Jhajjar, tumbled down the streets. They said Raahgiri provides them a safe environment in which they feel proud to showcase their talent.

A Platform for Awareness

Leaders in Jhajjar envisioned combining socially progressive elements with the road safety messages of Raahgiri to create a unique event, and it worked. The district administration cited Raahgiri as a particularly significant occasion for raising awareness and educating people about various social habits and issues. In the end, the women and girls of Jhajjar represented half the total participation on the day.

When we spoke with 70-year-old Janki Devi she said she had forgotten singing and dancing. “Raahgiri brought it back to me after 40 years,” she said.

Janki Devi has been a constant feature in each of the monthly Raahgiri Days in Jhajjar since its debut. She not only participates in every event but encourages her daughter and daughter-in-law to as well.

Many have taken advantage of Raahgiri to become part of a larger group, to open up their lives to the community, and to confidently take to the streets and claim their space. Chief Minister Khattar has committed to celebrate Raahgiri in every district of Haryana for one year, so we should expect to see more re-engineering in the future.

Sonal Goel is the Deputy Commissioner for Jhajjar, Haryana, for the Indian Administrative Services.

Sarika Panda Bhatt is the Head of Integrated Transport and Road Safety at WRI India Ross Center.

Cyclists and Walkers Lead Mexico City on the Road to Sustainability

Thu, 2018-05-10 13:13

Mexico City has worked diligently to make its transport systems more active by adding support for walking and cycling. Photo by Enrique Abe/SEDEMA

This series, supported by the Volvo Research and Educational Foundations, discusses walking and cycling in cities with a special focus on low- and middle-income countries.

Sara Vélez got an ultimatum from her boss one day: either find a way to arrive on time or look for another job. She lives in Cuautitlán Izcalli in the State of Mexico, more than 30 kilometers away from her job as a musician in Mexico City. Like thousands of others, she used her car to commute, some days reaching work in less than an hour, other days taking up to four hours, thanks to the unpredictability of the city’s notorious traffic.

Today after a series of projects by Mexico City, Sara has more options, more predictability and has kept her job.

Mexico City’s cycling policies and infrastructure are models for their financial and design decisions and impact on urban sustainability and health. Sara’s case and many others demonstrate the social, health and environmental benefits of investing in active mobility.

A More Active City

From 2008 to 2016, Mexico City introduced a host of new policies and projects. A bike-share system, ECOBICI, brought segregated bike lanes and massive bike hubs. In eight years of operation, ECOBICI has accumulated over 265,000 registered users with over 35,000 daily trips. Bicycle trips in the city have increased 500 percent.

Open street programs, like “Muévete en Bici,” have encouraged people to think about how they could replace car trips with walking or cycling. Madero Street, a main avenue that runs a kilometer through the city’s historic center, was permanently closed to cars in 2010. Today, around 200,000 people traverse Madero each day, increasing the strip’s commercial activity by at least 30 percent and reducing criminal activity by 96 percent. It is currently one of the safest, most accessible and most valuable avenues in the country.

In October 2017, Mexico City received the Global Model of Urban Renovation Award for creating mass bicycle parking in public transport terminals. The city has implemented three bicycle stations, benefiting the 190,000 registered users. One of the most attractive features of bike-sharing system is the ease of drop-off at the destination. This infrastructure similarly has proven vital for those that own their own bikes – quick, accessible and easy drop-off – making ownership more attractive and convenient.

One of three large bicycle parking terminals in Mexico City, which have 190,000 registered users. Photo by Enrique Abe/SEDEMA

These active mobility changes benefit more than just Mexico City residents. In fact, half of ECOBICI users live outside of the area of operation and 15 percent live outside of the capital. Many residents now use cycling to get to public transport stations, what’s called “last-mile” connectivity. Ninety percent of users combine ECOBICI with other transport systems such as metro, bus rapid transit or suburban trains. Connecting these elements of the city’s transport system increases the reach of mass transit, decreases street traffic, improves local economic productivity, and provides public health benefits.

For Sara, these changes have given her access to a whole new commute. She now rides a foldable bike to a suburban train station, takes it with her and rides it again to get to work downtown. Her travel time is much more regular and she’s been able to consistently show up to work on time.

Sara Vélez uses her folding bike to get to the train, which connects Mexico City’s outskirts with the city center. Photo by Ari Santillan/WRI Mexico

Remarkable Gains

In 2009, Mexico established a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2050. In 2012, the National Development Plan for 2013-2018 included, for the first time, the promotion of dense, compact and connected cities, as well as the development of public and non-motorized transport projects. Mexico City’s active mobility investments are achieving remarkable progress towards these objectives and more.

The city has seen public health and economic benefits in the last seven years amounting to an estimated $109 million. More than 170 kilometers of bike lanes constructed in this period have a summed potential benefit of more than $65 million, a return on investment of almost six times compared to the cost of construction. During its first seven years, ECOBICI monetized benefits of $26 million in health, replacing close to 24,000 kilometers in automobile travel.

Additionally, 16 percent of ECOBICI users swapped their automobiles for public bicycles, representing a reduction of up to 3,900 tons of carbon dioxide over the last eight years, equivalent to planting 9,000 trees. Finally, thanks to the ECOBICI open data platform, we know that the average use of these bicycles represents between 31 and 55 percent of the weekly recommended amount of exercise by the World Health Organization.

For Little Cost

Globally, there are many more cycling projects waiting to be implemented, but financial and political support is often lacking. What’s perhaps most remarkable about Mexico City is that investment in active mobility is still relatively minor compared to the public funds devoted to car infrastructure.

The vast majority of trips in metropolitan areas consist of public transport, walking or cycling, with costs averaging close to 30 percent of the typical monthly salary. However, more than 80 percent of public infrastructure investment goes toward car infrastructure.

The challenge of financing active mobility improvements is not exclusive to Mexico City. In Latin America, 60 percent of mobility investments are concentrated in projects for private vehicles. In some places, civil society is starting to reverse this dynamic – Sara was part of a campaign to collect signatures urging the city to expand ECOBICI to the south of the city, for example.

We need to see more investment in active mobility to “bend the curve” in cities and achieve global goals for the environment and poverty reduction. Mexico City’s gains to date are impressive, but some 200,000 cars are being added to its streets every year, compounding congestion, air pollution, climate change and connectivity issues.

Improving the experience of walking and cycling is an essential element of making the streets safer in fast-growing cities and improving quality of life and sustainability. As Mexico City shows, they are good investments too.

Iván de la Lanza is Manager of Active Mobility in the Cities Program at WRI México.

Cyclists and Walkers Lead Mexico City on the Road to Sustainability

Thu, 2018-05-10 13:13

Mexico City has worked diligently to make its transport systems more active by adding support for walking and cycling. Photo by Enrique Abe/SEDEMA

This series, supported by the Volvo Research and Educational Foundations, discusses walking and cycling in cities with a special focus on low- and middle-income countries.

Sara Vélez got an ultimatum from her boss one day: either find a way to arrive on time or look for another job. She lives in Cuautitlán Izcalli in the State of Mexico, more than 30 kilometers away from her job as a musician in Mexico City. Like thousands of others, she used her car to commute, some days reaching work in less than an hour, other days taking up to four hours, thanks to the unpredictability of the city’s notorious traffic.

Today after a series of projects by Mexico City, Sara has more options, more predictability and has kept her job.

Mexico City’s cycling policies and infrastructure are models for their financial and design decisions and impact on urban sustainability and health. Sara’s case and many others demonstrate the social, health and environmental benefits of investing in active mobility.

A More Active City

From 2008 to 2016, Mexico City introduced a host of new policies and projects. A bike-share system, ECOBICI, brought segregated bike lanes and massive bike hubs. In eight years of operation, ECOBICI has accumulated over 265,000 registered users with over 35,000 daily trips. Bicycle trips in the city have increased 500 percent.

Open street programs, like “Muévete en Bici,” have encouraged people to think about how they could replace car trips with walking or cycling. Madero Street, a main avenue that runs a kilometer through the city’s historic center, was permanently closed to cars in 2010. Today, around 200,000 people traverse Madero each day, increasing the strip’s commercial activity by at least 30 percent and reducing criminal activity by 96 percent. It is currently one of the safest, most accessible and most valuable avenues in the country.

In October 2017, Mexico City received the Global Model of Urban Renovation Award for creating mass bicycle parking in public transport terminals. The city has implemented three bicycle stations, benefiting the 190,000 registered users. One of the most attractive features of bike-sharing system is the ease of drop-off at the destination. This infrastructure similarly has proven vital for those that own their own bikes – quick, accessible and easy drop-off – making ownership more attractive and convenient.

One of three large bicycle parking terminals in Mexico City, which have 190,000 registered users. Photo by Enrique Abe/SEDEMA

These active mobility changes benefit more than just Mexico City residents. In fact, half of ECOBICI users live outside of the area of operation and 15 percent live outside of the capital. Many residents now use cycling to get to public transport stations, what’s called “last-mile” connectivity. Ninety percent of users combine ECOBICI with other transport systems such as metro, bus rapid transit or suburban trains. Connecting these elements of the city’s transport system increases the reach of mass transit, decreases street traffic, improves local economic productivity, and provides public health benefits.

For Sara, these changes have given her access to a whole new commute. She now rides a foldable bike to a suburban train station, takes it with her and rides it again to get to work downtown. Her travel time is much more regular and she’s been able to consistently show up to work on time.

Sara Vélez uses her folding bike to get to the train, which connects Mexico City’s outskirts with the city center. Photo by Ari Santillan/WRI Mexico

Remarkable Gains

In 2009, Mexico established a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2050. In 2012, the National Development Plan for 2013-2018 included, for the first time, the promotion of dense, compact and connected cities, as well as the development of public and non-motorized transport projects. Mexico City’s active mobility investments are achieving remarkable progress towards these objectives and more.

The city has seen public health and economic benefits in the last seven years amounting to an estimated $109 million. More than 170 kilometers of bike lanes constructed in this period have a summed potential benefit of more than $65 million, a return on investment of almost six times compared to the cost of construction. During its first seven years, ECOBICI monetized benefits of $26 million in health, replacing close to 24,000 kilometers in automobile travel.

Additionally, 16 percent of ECOBICI users swapped their automobiles for public bicycles, representing a reduction of up to 3,900 tons of carbon dioxide over the last eight years, equivalent to planting 9,000 trees. Finally, thanks to the ECOBICI open data platform, we know that the average use of these bicycles represents between 31 and 55 percent of the weekly recommended amount of exercise by the World Health Organization.

For Little Cost

Globally, there are many more cycling projects waiting to be implemented, but financial and political support is often lacking. What’s perhaps most remarkable about Mexico City is that investment in active mobility is still relatively minor compared to the public funds devoted to car infrastructure.

The vast majority of trips in metropolitan areas consist of public transport, walking or cycling, with costs averaging close to 30 percent of the typical monthly salary. However, more than 80 percent of public infrastructure investment goes toward car infrastructure.

The challenge of financing active mobility improvements is not exclusive to Mexico City. In Latin America, 60 percent of mobility investments are concentrated in projects for private vehicles. In some places, civil society is starting to reverse this dynamic – Sara was part of a campaign to collect signatures urging the city to expand ECOBICI to the south of the city, for example.

We need to see more investment in active mobility to “bend the curve” in cities and achieve global goals for the environment and poverty reduction. Mexico City’s gains to date are impressive, but some 200,000 cars are being added to its streets every year, compounding congestion, air pollution, climate change and connectivity issues.

Improving the experience of walking and cycling is an essential element of making the streets safer in fast-growing cities and improving quality of life and sustainability. As Mexico City shows, they are good investments too.

Iván de la Lanza is Manager of Active Mobility in the Cities Program at WRI México.

Mobilizing Leadership for Climate Action in the Transport Sector

Thu, 2017-11-09 14:13

COP23 in Bonn, Germany presents a tremendous opportunity for cities and national governments to come together on transport. Photo by: Mariana Gil/WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities

A steady drumbeat of events has set the stage – and thrust into the spotlight – the importance of sustainable urban mobility at this year’s climate conference, COP23. The Climate Action in Transport Conference in Berlin, part of the annual European Mobility Week and the first Transport and Climate Change Week, demonstrated the large and growing interest in the transport sector’s potential to deliver significant emissions reductions earlier this fall.

As the world increasingly looks to subnational actors for climate leadership, major global agenda-setting gatherings, like this year’s COP and the World Urban Forum in February, have wide ramifications for urban transport. Transport contributes 23 percent of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, and cities account for more than 60 percent of all kilometers travelled globally.

The most urgent question for transport now is how to increase the ambitions of national governments to decarbonize the sector and ensure implementation comes through at the local level.

Moving Toward a 1.5-Degree World

Global climate discussions are focused on the integration of national and local policymaking in an effort keep warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius beyond pre-industrial averages. Transport policy similarly needs to be adjusted at multiple levels.

Transport is currently included in 75 percent of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the voluntary commitments made as part of the Paris Agreement (see Figure 1). But most – 79 percent – do not include any specific, transport-related targets. Subnational actors can and should play important roles in creating appropriate targets.

In the next round of NDCs, which will begin with the Facilitative Dialogue in 2018 and result in new “enhanced” NDCs by 2020, experts are also looking for countries and cities to identify specific actions in the transport sector in order to prioritize those with the highest mitigation and development impacts. Previous analysis of transport-related NDCs has shown that global initiatives are missing outstanding opportunities for effective local climate action.

NDCs that currently include action for the transport sector disproportionately concentrate on technological measures, like electric vehicles. For example, reducing energy use and changing how and when people travel can be more effective, since electric vehicles have little effect on climate change as long as the power sector remains profoundly reliant on carbon-heavy fuels.

A more comprehensive implementation strategy specifically designed for the transport sector is “Avoid-Shift-Improve,” which simultaneously encourages higher system, trip and vehicle efficiency. “Avoid” refers to minimizing motorized trips through changes in land use or policies like congestion pricing. “Shift” refers to tilting the modal split toward more public transport and non-motorized travel. “Improve” focuses on technological advances to reduce emissions, such as improving fuel quality and vehicle electrification.

Few jurisdictions have provided explicit targets for their transport sectors so far. Aside from improving fuel efficiency, much of the climate mitigation potential of the urban transport sector remains untapped.
Source: GIZ 2017, Sectoral implementation of nationally determined contributions (NDCs), page 5

Transport Priorities at COP23

Urban transport is an area where cities and states can act as policy architects and showcase their huge potential to reduce carbon emissions and improve quality of life. Indeed, at COP23, there is more focus on subnational actors than ever before.

While negotiators meet in Bonn, a series of transport side events are scheduled throughout the conference, including on the thematic transport day, November 10, and during high-level focus on SDG 11 on November 13. The Paris Process on Mobility and Climate and Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport are also hosting a daily talk show on transport and climate change at 6:00pm CET from November 7-16.

Cities can create better outcomes through infrastructure for electric vehicles, bus rapid transit systems and innovative bike-sharing schemes, to name a few transport interventions with potentially large impacts on climate emissions. Such changes could be replicated quickly and bring other benefits, including safer streets, more economic productivity and reduced pollution.

But change does not happen by itself; cities and national governments need to step up to the challenge. These actions make most sense in close coordination with regional and national planning. And in some cases, cities need assistance with technical capacity and funding. National leaders should recognize and support mayors and other subnational climate champions as partners on the road to 2020. Recognizing the potential of actors at all levels is crucial for tracking and raising climate ambition across the board.

For more on COP23, read our full coverage.

Angela Enriquez is a researcher and program coordinator for the Energy and Climate Team at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

Linus Platzer is a climate and energy intern at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

Mobilizing Leadership for Climate Action in the Transport Sector

Thu, 2017-11-09 14:13

COP23 in Bonn, Germany presents a tremendous opportunity for cities and national governments to come together on transport. Photo by: Mariana Gil/WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities

A steady drumbeat of events has set the stage – and thrust into the spotlight – the importance of sustainable urban mobility at this year’s climate conference, COP23. The Climate Action in Transport Conference in Berlin, part of the annual European Mobility Week and the first Transport and Climate Change Week, demonstrated the large and growing interest in the transport sector’s potential to deliver significant emissions reductions earlier this fall.

As the world increasingly looks to subnational actors for climate leadership, major global agenda-setting gatherings, like this year’s COP and the World Urban Forum in February, have wide ramifications for urban transport. Transport contributes 23 percent of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, and cities account for more than 60 percent of all kilometers travelled globally.

The most urgent question for transport now is how to increase the ambitions of national governments to decarbonize the sector and ensure implementation comes through at the local level.

Moving Toward a 1.5-Degree World

Global climate discussions are focused on the integration of national and local policymaking in an effort keep warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius beyond pre-industrial averages. Transport policy similarly needs to be adjusted at multiple levels.

Transport is currently included in 75 percent of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the voluntary commitments made as part of the Paris Agreement (see Figure 1). But most – 79 percent – do not include any specific, transport-related targets. Subnational actors can and should play important roles in creating appropriate targets.

In the next round of NDCs, which will begin with the Facilitative Dialogue in 2018 and result in new “enhanced” NDCs by 2020, experts are also looking for countries and cities to identify specific actions in the transport sector in order to prioritize those with the highest mitigation and development impacts. Previous analysis of transport-related NDCs has shown that global initiatives are missing outstanding opportunities for effective local climate action.

NDCs that currently include action for the transport sector disproportionately concentrate on technological measures, like electric vehicles. For example, reducing energy use and changing how and when people travel can be more effective, since electric vehicles have little effect on climate change as long as the power sector remains profoundly reliant on carbon-heavy fuels.

A more comprehensive implementation strategy specifically designed for the transport sector is “Avoid-Shift-Improve,” which simultaneously encourages higher system, trip and vehicle efficiency. “Avoid” refers to minimizing motorized trips through changes in land use or policies like congestion pricing. “Shift” refers to tilting the modal split toward more public transport and non-motorized travel. “Improve” focuses on technological advances to reduce emissions, such as improving fuel quality and vehicle electrification.

Few jurisdictions have provided explicit targets for their transport sectors so far. Aside from improving fuel efficiency, much of the climate mitigation potential of the urban transport sector remains untapped.
Source: GIZ 2017, Sectoral implementation of nationally determined contributions (NDCs), page 5

Transport Priorities at COP23

Urban transport is an area where cities and states can act as policy architects and showcase their huge potential to reduce carbon emissions and improve quality of life. Indeed, at COP23, there is more focus on subnational actors than ever before.

While negotiators meet in Bonn, a series of transport side events are scheduled throughout the conference, including on the thematic transport day, November 10, and during high-level focus on SDG 11 on November 13. The Paris Process on Mobility and Climate and Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport are also hosting a daily talk show on transport and climate change at 6:00pm CET from November 7-16.

Cities can create better outcomes through infrastructure for electric vehicles, bus rapid transit systems and innovative bike-sharing schemes, to name a few transport interventions with potentially large impacts on climate emissions. Such changes could be replicated quickly and bring other benefits, including safer streets, more economic productivity and reduced pollution.

But change does not happen by itself; cities and national governments need to step up to the challenge. These actions make most sense in close coordination with regional and national planning. And in some cases, cities need assistance with technical capacity and funding. National leaders should recognize and support mayors and other subnational climate champions as partners on the road to 2020. Recognizing the potential of actors at all levels is crucial for tracking and raising climate ambition across the board.

Angela Enriquez is a researcher and program coordinator for the Energy and Climate Team at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

Linus Platzer is a climate and energy intern at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

Friday Fun: How Art and Culture Contribute to Your Unique Metro Experience

Fri, 2016-10-28 22:15

CTA Holiday Train in Chicago spreads holiday cheer each year. Photo by cta web / Flickr

Have you ever been intrigued by the artistic design of a metro station? Have you stopped to watch a street dancer perform on a metro platform? A metro station can be more than a place where you impatiently wait for the next train to arrive. It has the potential to be more aesthetically pleasing, more interactive; an experience. Incorporating various art forms into the design and operation of metro systems gives each station unique character. Around the world, metro stations are transforming into art expositions, concert halls and museums to improve passengers’ experience and connect them to the city above ground, turning their mundane commutes into anything but ordinary.

Designing Metro Stations to Connect Culture and Transit

Cities around the world are exposing metro passengers to creativity and culture, transforming stations into microcosms of the city. Some stations create artistic scenes, while others embed city culture and history in station design. Famous for Ancient Chinese gardening, Suzhou, China created a number of garden scenes in its metro stations. These displays not only expose visitors to the city’s profound cultural heritage, but they also emanate a tranquil atmosphere in the busy metro station.

Similarly, metro stations in Athens, Greece, strive to connect passengers to the city’s deep, historical culture by housing archaeological treasures. The Akropoli Station, which opened in 2000, has replicas of Parthenon friezes to greet passengers as they enter. Similarly, in the Syntagma Station, impressive archaeological displays turn the upper concourse into a museum.

Syntagma Station in Athens displays artifacts from ancient times. Photo by Dario Sušanj / Flickr

Interactive Railcar Art Exhibitions Engage the Public

Stations are not the only aspect of metro systems where art and culture transcend museum and canvass. Railcar exhibitions encourage local artists to unleash their talents and creativity. The well-known School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) launched a project in 2008 that transformed railcars into portable galleries. One of their projects turned a railcar into a “mobile garden,” with sod floors, hanging vines and various plants. While simply traveling in the car provides a unique experience, the artists intended to create a more interactive metro ride; passengers were encouraged to pick hot peppers from the plants and take them home. Decorated railcars are not only a unique outlet for artists, but they also stimulate future and increased ridership. In September 2013, the mobile garden attracted over 2,000 riders in a five-hour period.

Additionally, each December, a six car, Chicago Transit Authority train transforms for the holiday season. Complete with thousands of twinkling lights and sleigh bells, the train attracts visitors from near and far. While Santa and his slay guide the train, elves wander the corridors, passing out candy canes and holiday cheer. Throughout the month, the holiday train makes its way up and down each rail line, providing families from all over Chicago with the opportunity to ride and share in the holiday spirit.

CTA Holiday Train in Chicago spreads holiday cheer each year. Photo by cta web / Flickr

Street Art Performances Create Vibrant Public Spaces

Transforming metro stations does not exclusively fall on the shoulders of architects and interior designers. As public places, metro stations also provide platforms for street artists to showcase their talents. Paris metro stations are known to attract street artists to exhibit their work. Singers, instrumentalists, dancers and graffiti artists can all find a place in metro life and interact with a broad range of audiences. The video below shows how musicians and dancers collaborate with each other and perform for passengers.

Although the quality, price and convenience of transport services are important considerations for choosing mode of transit, the arts play a complementary role in enhancing passenger experience. Diversified forms of art make metro stations and railcars attractive and culturally-enriching places. The next time you take the metro, you may step into a work of art.

Friday Fun: How Art and Culture Contribute to Your Unique Metro Experience

Fri, 2016-10-28 22:15

CTA Holiday Train in Chicago spreads holiday cheer each year. Photo by cta web / Flickr

Have you ever been intrigued by the artistic design of a metro station? Have you stopped to watch a street dancer perform on a metro platform? A metro station can be more than a place where you impatiently wait for the next train to arrive. It has the potential to be more aesthetically pleasing, more interactive; an experience. Incorporating various art forms into the design and operation of metro systems gives each station unique character. Around the world, metro stations are transforming into art expositions, concert halls and museums to improve passengers’ experience and connect them to the city above ground, turning their mundane commutes into anything but ordinary.

Designing Metro Stations to Connect Culture and Transit

Cities around the world are exposing metro passengers to creativity and culture, transforming stations into microcosms of the city. Some stations create artistic scenes, while others embed city culture and history in station design. Famous for Ancient Chinese gardening, Suzhou, China created a number of garden scenes in its metro stations. These displays not only expose visitors to the city’s profound cultural heritage, but they also emanate a tranquil atmosphere in the busy metro station.

Similarly, metro stations in Athens, Greece, strive to connect passengers to the city’s deep, historical culture by housing archaeological treasures. The Akropoli Station, which opened in 2000, has replicas of Parthenon friezes to greet passengers as they enter. Similarly, in the Syntagma Station, impressive archaeological displays turn the upper concourse into a museum.

Syntagma Station in Athens displays artifacts from ancient times. Photo by Dario Sušanj / Flickr

Interactive Railcar Art Exhibitions Engage the Public

Stations are not the only aspect of metro systems where art and culture transcend museum and canvass. Railcar exhibitions encourage local artists to unleash their talents and creativity. The well-known School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) launched a project in 2008 that transformed railcars into portable galleries. One of their projects turned a railcar into a “mobile garden,” with sod floors, hanging vines and various plants. While simply traveling in the car provides a unique experience, the artists intended to create a more interactive metro ride; passengers were encouraged to pick hot peppers from the plants and take them home. Decorated railcars are not only a unique outlet for artists, but they also stimulate future and increased ridership. In September 2013, the mobile garden attracted over 2,000 riders in a five-hour period.

Additionally, each December, a six car, Chicago Transit Authority train transforms for the holiday season. Complete with thousands of twinkling lights and sleigh bells, the train attracts visitors from near and far. While Santa and his slay guide the train, elves wander the corridors, passing out candy canes and holiday cheer. Throughout the month, the holiday train makes its way up and down each rail line, providing families from all over Chicago with the opportunity to ride and share in the holiday spirit.

CTA Holiday Train in Chicago spreads holiday cheer each year. Photo by cta web / Flickr

Street Art Performances Create Vibrant Public Spaces

Transforming metro stations does not exclusively fall on the shoulders of architects and interior designers. As public places, metro stations also provide platforms for street artists to showcase their talents. Paris metro stations are known to attract street artists to exhibit their work. Singers, instrumentalists, dancers and graffiti artists can all find a place in metro life and interact with a broad range of audiences. The video below shows how musicians and dancers collaborate with each other and perform for passengers.

Although the quality, price and convenience of transport services are important considerations for choosing mode of transit, the arts play a complementary role in enhancing passenger experience. Diversified forms of art make metro stations and railcars attractive and culturally-enriching places. The next time you take the metro, you may step into a work of art.

Five Lessons for Making Bike Share a Success in India

Thu, 2015-07-30 19:34

To combat rising rates of private vehicle ownership and ensure a healthy, sustainable future for their citizens, Indian cities—like Jodhpur—need to focus on making bike share work for the local context. (Photo: Tomas Belcik / Flickr)

Public Bicycle Sharing (PBS), or bike share, as it is more popularly known, was first introduced in Amsterdam in 1965. While the concept spread to various European cities, it remained largely experimental in nature and small in scale. It wasn’t until the late 1990s and early 2000s—with the incorporation of advanced smartcards and progress in Information and Communication Technology (ICT)—that bike share came to be viewed as an innovation with significant potential to promote cycling and sustainable urban mobility.

Since then, bike share has witnessed tremendous growth and widespread adoption. As of 2013, there were 639 bike share systems across 53 countries, with a combined fleet of nearly 650,000 bicycles.

Studies have shown that bike share increases modal share for cycling, creates safer roads, improves health, and reduces gender disparities. Bike share also wields benefits for traditional modes of transport, as it has the potential to reduce stress on congested systems in dense urban areas and increase access to public transport in less dense regions by acting as a last mile connector.  Around the world, bike share has come to be seen as an effective instrument in the sustainable urban mobility arsenal.

India, however, remains behind the curve in bike share. Several small scale pilots have been attempted in cities like Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi, and Mumbai. Unfortunately, these attempts have failed to scale-up into large city-wide systems, and are no longer active. While they were primarily led by well-intentioned individuals, the lack of significant government support prevented the expansion of these initiatives beyond the pilot stage.

In the future, it is essential that the planning of these systems incorporates both the lessons learned from Indian pilot initiatives and the best practices from successful systems around the world.

The 5 key lessons for Indian cities looking to implement bike share systems are:

 1.  Go Big

The utility of a bike share system increases exponentially with its scale and coverage. If a system is too small – with too few locations or too few cycles – it is unlikely to serve as a convenient mobility option for most people. Small bike share pilots are largely unsuccessful precisely because they are small, rather than due to any inherent problem with the concept.  Therefore, a serious implementation of a city-wide bike share system must commit to a sufficiently large scale.

 2.  Invest in Quality

Bike share systems are among the cheapest public transport systems to deploy; however, excessively focusing on cost minimization can be counter-productive. Skimping on the quality of hardware and software impacts both operational efficiency as well as the image of the system.  Bike share systems with high-quality components, comprehensive ICT capabilities as well as cohesive communications and branding strategies are most likely to be successful.

 3.  Get the Business Model Right

There are a wide variety of business models and contractual arrangements for procuring and operating bike share systems. While cities must choose the model that works best for them, it is critical that the motives of the operator align with the interests and goals of the city. In many cases, poorly structured contracts have led to situations of moral hazard, where the financial outcomes for the operator are not strictly tied to the quality and performance of the bike share system.

 4.  Adapt to the Indian Context

As with any new concept, unique aspects of the Indian urban context which may impact the utility and performance of bike share systems need to be identified and addressed. Some of these include, for example, the lack of familiarity with automated systems, a predominantly cash-based economy, and the wide range of socio-economic backgrounds of potential system users. Local governments will have to closely evaluate the social and economic landscape in their city and adapt system features to ensure maximum inclusivity and access.

 5.  Build Interest

Modal shares of cycling have been falling across Indian cities over the last decade. For a bike share system to be successful, it is necessary that people be willing to consider cycling as a viable mode of transport. Thus, it is vital that any city striving for a successful bike share system undertake awareness, interest, and incentive building exercises of various forms. These exercises should encourage people to initially try the system and later work to convert casual users into regular users.

While slow to start, many Indian cities are now expressing a strong desire to implement large, city-wide bike share systems, with Delhi, Mysore, Gandhinagar, and Bhopal at the forefront of this movement.  These cities would do well to follow these principles, as the success of this ‘first wave’ of city-scale bike share systems in India will be critical for widespread adoption across the country.

Five Lessons for Making Bike Share a Success in India

Thu, 2015-07-30 19:34

To combat rising rates of private vehicle ownership and ensure a healthy, sustainable future for their citizens, Indian cities—like Jodhpur—need to focus on making bike share work for the local context. (Photo: Tomas Belcik / Flickr)

Public Bicycle Sharing (PBS), or bike share, as it is more popularly known, was first introduced in Amsterdam in 1965. While the concept spread to various European cities, it remained largely experimental in nature and small in scale. It wasn’t until the late 1990s and early 2000s—with the incorporation of advanced smartcards and progress in Information and Communication Technology (ICT)—that bike share came to be viewed as an innovation with significant potential to promote cycling and sustainable urban mobility.

Since then, bike share has witnessed tremendous growth and widespread adoption. As of 2013, there were 639 bike share systems across 53 countries, with a combined fleet of nearly 650,000 bicycles.

Studies have shown that bike share increases modal share for cycling, creates safer roads, improves health, and reduces gender disparities. Bike share also wields benefits for traditional modes of transport, as it has the potential to reduce stress on congested systems in dense urban areas and increase access to public transport in less dense regions by acting as a last mile connector.  Around the world, bike share has come to be seen as an effective instrument in the sustainable urban mobility arsenal.

India, however, remains behind the curve in bike share. Several small scale pilots have been attempted in cities like Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi, and Mumbai. Unfortunately, these attempts have failed to scale-up into large city-wide systems, and are no longer active. While they were primarily led by well-intentioned individuals, the lack of significant government support prevented the expansion of these initiatives beyond the pilot stage.

In the future, it is essential that the planning of these systems incorporates both the lessons learned from Indian pilot initiatives and the best practices from successful systems around the world.

The 5 key lessons for Indian cities looking to implement bike share systems are:

 1.  Go Big

The utility of a bike share system increases exponentially with its scale and coverage. If a system is too small – with too few locations or too few cycles – it is unlikely to serve as a convenient mobility option for most people. Small bike share pilots are largely unsuccessful precisely because they are small, rather than due to any inherent problem with the concept.  Therefore, a serious implementation of a city-wide bike share system must commit to a sufficiently large scale.

 2.  Invest in Quality

Bike share systems are among the cheapest public transport systems to deploy; however, excessively focusing on cost minimization can be counter-productive. Skimping on the quality of hardware and software impacts both operational efficiency as well as the image of the system.  Bike share systems with high-quality components, comprehensive ICT capabilities as well as cohesive communications and branding strategies are most likely to be successful.

 3.  Get the Business Model Right

There are a wide variety of business models and contractual arrangements for procuring and operating bike share systems. While cities must choose the model that works best for them, it is critical that the motives of the operator align with the interests and goals of the city. In many cases, poorly structured contracts have led to situations of moral hazard, where the financial outcomes for the operator are not strictly tied to the quality and performance of the bike share system.

 4.  Adapt to the Indian Context

As with any new concept, unique aspects of the Indian urban context which may impact the utility and performance of bike share systems need to be identified and addressed. Some of these include, for example, the lack of familiarity with automated systems, a predominantly cash-based economy, and the wide range of socio-economic backgrounds of potential system users. Local governments will have to closely evaluate the social and economic landscape in their city and adapt system features to ensure maximum inclusivity and access.

 5.  Build Interest

Modal shares of cycling have been falling across Indian cities over the last decade. For a bike share system to be successful, it is necessary that people be willing to consider cycling as a viable mode of transport. Thus, it is vital that any city striving for a successful bike share system undertake awareness, interest, and incentive building exercises of various forms. These exercises should encourage people to initially try the system and later work to convert casual users into regular users.

While slow to start, many Indian cities are now expressing a strong desire to implement large, city-wide bike share systems, with Delhi, Mysore, Gandhinagar, and Bhopal at the forefront of this movement.  These cities would do well to follow these principles, as the success of this ‘first wave’ of city-scale bike share systems in India will be critical for widespread adoption across the country.

7 Principles for Transit-Oriented Development

Wed, 2015-06-17 21:26

By managing growth that is compact, coordinated, and connected, transit-oriented development (TOD) prioritizes people over cars. Photo by Fred Inklaar.

Nossa Cidade (“Our City”), from TheCityFix Brasil, explores critical questions for building more sustainable cities. Every month features a new theme. Leaning on the expertise of researchers and specialists in WRI’s sustainable urban mobility team in Brazil, the series will feature in depth articles on urban planning, sustainable mobility, gender, resilience, and other key themes for sparking more sustainable development in our cities.

Poorly planned urban expansion is increasingly distancing people from jobs, services and the opportunities that enable them to live a high quality life in cities. There are currently 170 million Brazilians in urban areas living with the consequences of decades of car-driven development. To reverse this trend and ensure a more sustainable future for all, integrating land use policy and transport planning is essential.

Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world in terms of population and land area, but its pattern of urbanization has been sprawled, uncoordinated, and disconnected. The present situation not only demands motorized trips, but also causes congestion and harmful environmental impacts, and burdens citizens, especially those with lower incomes who spend significant time using transport.

Fortunately, we know how to bring cities onto a more sustainable path with transit-oriented development (TOD). This model of urban planning focuses on dense, compact, mixed-use neighborhoods with vibrant streets and safe public spaces for social interaction.

TOD is the key to more efficient, sustainable, and equitable communities because it prioritizes the “3Cs”: compact, coordinated and connected. By following a TOD approach, decision makers and urban planners can strengthen their communities.

Cities can ensure TOD by focusing on the following seven principles :

1. Quality Public Transit

Photo by Mariana Gil / WRI Brazil | EMBARQ Brazil.

Public transit is strongly linked to urban development. High quality, convenient transport depends on dense and connected neighborhoods. The goal of a transport system is to connect a high number of riders with the city in a comfortable, efficient, and affordable way.

2. Active Transport

Photo by Mariana Gil / WRI Brazil | EMBARQ Brazil.

The interests of pedestrians and cyclists should be at the heart of urban planning. Decision making should shift residents—particularly car users—to active transport. Many commuters already take two non-motorized trips on a daily basis by walking to and from transit hubs to their homes or cars. It is important to build on this and encourage non-motorized transport holistically.

3. Car Use Management

Photo by Mariana Gil / WRI Brazil | EMBARQ Brazil.

Car use and parking policies play an important role in creating a safe, human-oriented urban environment. Since the 1980s, cars have dominated Brazilian cities. Despite individual car trips accounting for 27.4 percent of all urban trips (or 36 percent in cities with over one million residents), car infrastructure is supported with four times the amount of investment that public transit receives.

4. Mixed-Use Neighborhoods with Efficient Buildings

Photo by Paul Krueger / Flickr.

A mixture of land uses enhances the local economy by densifying and diversifying the design of the community. Mixed-use neighborhoods favor short trips by foot or bike. Similarly, buildings should minimize how much energy and water they consume and require for building and maintenance.

5. Neighborhood Centers and Vibrant Ground Floors

Photo by City Clock Magazine/Flickr.

A built environment with adequate public space promotes social interaction between residents. Sustainable urban communities must be sufficiently dense and contain a variety of uses that are complementary to residential life. Public spaces should be connected to the urban transport network and serve as vibrant, human-centered places of activity.

6. Public Spaces

Photo by Marta Heinemann Bixby/Flickr.

The purpose of public space is not only to enhance public life and social interaction, but also to provide a safe environment for pedestrians and cyclists. Public space is the place of encounter, exchange, and circulation within a community. All individuals have the right to access public spaces, regardless of personal, social, or economic condition.

7. Community Participation and Collective Identity

Photo by Fabio Goiveia/Flickr.

Community participation is essential to building a vibrant, inclusive neighborhood that is safe and equitable. Stimulating community participation creates a more equitable, harmonious relationship between varying social groups living in the same area. Respecting the unique identity of local communities results in a higher share of residents engaging in civic, cultural, and economic activities, generating a sense of belonging and ownership of the city.

Making TOD a Reality in Brazilian Cities

WRI Brazil | Brazil EMBARQ recently developed a report called “DOTS Cidades” (Portuguese for TOD)—a guide for policy makers and urban planners for creating cities based on these seven principles. The guide outlines concepts, design strategies, and best practices in public management, planning and urban design, and the transport sector, as well as information about accessibility and environmental requirements.

To read and down the publication (in Portuguese), click here.

This article was originally published in Portuguese on TheCityFix Brasil.

7 Principles for Transit-Oriented Development

Wed, 2015-06-17 21:26

By managing growth that is compact, coordinated, and connected, transit-oriented development (TOD) prioritizes people over cars. Photo by Fred Inklaar.

Nossa Cidade (“Our City”), from TheCityFix Brasil, explores critical questions for building more sustainable cities. Every month features a new theme. Leaning on the expertise of researchers and specialists in WRI’s sustainable urban mobility team in Brazil, the series will feature in depth articles on urban planning, sustainable mobility, gender, resilience, and other key themes for sparking more sustainable development in our cities.

Poorly planned urban expansion is increasingly distancing people from jobs, services and the opportunities that enable them to live a high quality life in cities. There are currently 170 million Brazilians in urban areas living with the consequences of decades of car-driven development. To reverse this trend and ensure a more sustainable future for all, integrating land use policy and transport planning is essential.

Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world in terms of population and land area, but its pattern of urbanization has been sprawled, uncoordinated, and disconnected. The present situation not only demands motorized trips, but also causes congestion and harmful environmental impacts, and burdens citizens, especially those with lower incomes who spend significant time using transport.

Fortunately, we know how to bring cities onto a more sustainable path with transit-oriented development (TOD). This model of urban planning focuses on dense, compact, mixed-use neighborhoods with vibrant streets and safe public spaces for social interaction.

TOD is the key to more efficient, sustainable, and equitable communities because it prioritizes the “3Cs”: compact, coordinated and connected. By following a TOD approach, decision makers and urban planners can strengthen their communities.

Cities can ensure TOD by focusing on the following seven principles :

1. Quality Public Transit

Photo by Mariana Gil / WRI Brazil | EMBARQ Brazil.

Public transit is strongly linked to urban development. High quality, convenient transport depends on dense and connected neighborhoods. The goal of a transport system is to connect a high number of riders with the city in a comfortable, efficient, and affordable way.

2. Active Transport

Photo by Mariana Gil / WRI Brazil | EMBARQ Brazil.

The interests of pedestrians and cyclists should be at the heart of urban planning. Decision making should shift residents—particularly car users—to active transport. Many commuters already take two non-motorized trips on a daily basis by walking to and from transit hubs to their homes or cars. It is important to build on this and encourage non-motorized transport holistically.

3. Car Use Management

Photo by Mariana Gil / WRI Brazil | EMBARQ Brazil.

Car use and parking policies play an important role in creating a safe, human-oriented urban environment. Since the 1980s, cars have dominated Brazilian cities. Despite individual car trips accounting for 27.4 percent of all urban trips (or 36 percent in cities with over one million residents), car infrastructure is supported with four times the amount of investment that public transit receives.

4. Mixed-Use Neighborhoods with Efficient Buildings

Photo by Paul Krueger / Flickr.

A mixture of land uses enhances the local economy by densifying and diversifying the design of the community. Mixed-use neighborhoods favor short trips by foot or bike. Similarly, buildings should minimize how much energy and water they consume and require for building and maintenance.

5. Neighborhood Centers and Vibrant Ground Floors

Photo by City Clock Magazine/Flickr.

A built environment with adequate public space promotes social interaction between residents. Sustainable urban communities must be sufficiently dense and contain a variety of uses that are complementary to residential life. Public spaces should be connected to the urban transport network and serve as vibrant, human-centered places of activity.

6. Public Spaces

Photo by Marta Heinemann Bixby/Flickr.

The purpose of public space is not only to enhance public life and social interaction, but also to provide a safe environment for pedestrians and cyclists. Public space is the place of encounter, exchange, and circulation within a community. All individuals have the right to access public spaces, regardless of personal, social, or economic condition.

7. Community Participation and Collective Identity

Photo by Fabio Goiveia/Flickr.

Community participation is essential to building a vibrant, inclusive neighborhood that is safe and equitable. Stimulating community participation creates a more equitable, harmonious relationship between varying social groups living in the same area. Respecting the unique identity of local communities results in a higher share of residents engaging in civic, cultural, and economic activities, generating a sense of belonging and ownership of the city.

Making TOD a Reality in Brazilian Cities

WRI Brazil | Brazil EMBARQ recently developed a report called “DOTS Cidades” (Portuguese for TOD)—a guide for policy makers and urban planners for creating cities based on these seven principles. The guide outlines concepts, design strategies, and best practices in public management, planning and urban design, and the transport sector, as well as information about accessibility and environmental requirements.

To read and down the publication (in Portuguese), click here.

This article was originally published in Portuguese on TheCityFix Brasil.

Live the City 2015 Shows How 5 Cities Are Prioritizing People Over Cars

Wed, 2015-05-27 00:00

Barcelona’s urban mobility plan prioritizes people over cars, outlining clear steps for improving pedestrian infrastructure between 2013 and 2018. Photo by Dylan Passmore/Flickr.

In cities around the world, urban residents want to live well, with access to jobs, education, healthcare and public space. However, because many of our current practices are inflicting burdensome social and economic costs on our cities, we need to increase our focus on efficient solutions and sustainable urban development.

Cities play the role of laboratories, experimenting with innovative solutions to mobility challenges that have arisen due to widespread car reliance. METROPOLIS—a global association of major metropolises—hosted its annual conference, Live the City, this year in Buenos Aires from May 18-21. In a session on sustainable urban mobility, public transit representatives from Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Seoul, Johannesburg, and Barcelona presented stories of how their cities are experimenting with sustainable transport solutions.

Here are five stories of cities making steps toward a people-oriented future, committing to moving people more efficiently and equitably.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Preparing to host the Olympics in 2016, Rio has been developing low-carbon solutions to urban mobility challenges and is looking to become a globally recognized leader in the field. A multi-modal system of transport is constantly expanding to serve the city’s 6.3 million residents—including quality bike infrastructure, a cable car system, and a bus rapid transit (BRT) network. The BRT system alone serves nine million people and saves people 7.7 million hours in travel time every month, replacing an average of 126 cars and reducing carbon emissions by 38 percent in some corridors. This year, Rio also won the Sustainable Transport Award for its work in sustainable mobility.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Winner of the Sustainable Transport Award in 2014, Argentina’s capital has developed a sustainable urban mobility plan that prioritizes active transport and road safety. One of the measures, for example, targets 36 city intersections to reduce the risk of accidents. The city has also developed an urban design manual, the Street Design Guide for Buenos Aires, which outlines methodologies for planning pedestrian-friendly streets and implementing traffic calming interventions.

Seoul, South Korea

The Cheonggye River in Seoul, South Korea is a great example of how cities can use public spaces to revitalize the local economy and improve quality of life for residents. Photo by Kimmo Räisänen/Flickr.

An iconic park lies in the heart of South Korea’s capital. The Cheonggye Stream Park provides the city with valuable public space that was once the site of an urban highway. Returning the city back to citizens and revitalizing the local community, the park was developed because the highway was costing the city economically and socially.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona’s urban mobility plan—which includes a series of reforms between 2013 and 2018—prioritizes pedestrians. Some of the plan’s measures include expanding sidewalk access and comfort, improving pedestrian infrastructure near school areas, and targeting public perception of active transport with outreach initiatives and communications campaigns. In addition to the pedestrian, the city is focusing on cyclists and public transport. Barcelona’s plan also includes air pollution targets below those set by the European Union and 20-30 percent reduction targets for traffic fatalities and injuries.

Johannesburg, South Africa

The South African city will make history this year by hosting the second-ever EcoMobility World Festival. For an entire month, one of Johannesburg’s districts will go car-free. The first Festival took places in Suwon, South Kore in 2013, and now the South African city of 1.4 million residents is about to spur transformation at a local level. The initiative demonstrates courage and determination on behalf of the city to further the movement toward low-carbon mobility and better quality of life.

This article was originally published in Portuguese on TheCityFix Brasil

Live the City 2015 Shows How 5 Cities Are Prioritizing People Over Cars

Wed, 2015-05-27 00:00

Barcelona’s urban mobility plan prioritizes people over cars, outlining clear steps for improving pedestrian infrastructure between 2013 and 2018. Photo by Dylan Passmore/Flickr.

In cities around the world, urban residents want to live well, with access to jobs, education, healthcare and public space. However, because many of our current practices are inflicting burdensome social and economic costs on our cities, we need to increase our focus on efficient solutions and sustainable urban development.

Cities play the role of laboratories, experimenting with innovative solutions to mobility challenges that have arisen due to widespread car reliance. METROPOLIS—a global association of major metropolises—hosted its annual conference, Live the City, this year in Buenos Aires from May 18-21. In a session on sustainable urban mobility, public transit representatives from Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Seoul, Johannesburg, and Barcelona presented stories of how their cities are experimenting with sustainable transport solutions.

Here are five stories of cities making steps toward a people-oriented future, committing to moving people more efficiently and equitably.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Preparing to host the Olympics in 2016, Rio has been developing low-carbon solutions to urban mobility challenges and is looking to become a globally recognized leader in the field. A multi-modal system of transport is constantly expanding to serve the city’s 6.3 million residents—including quality bike infrastructure, a cable car system, and a bus rapid transit (BRT) network. The BRT system alone serves nine million people and saves people 7.7 million hours in travel time every month, replacing an average of 126 cars and reducing carbon emissions by 38 percent in some corridors. This year, Rio also won the Sustainable Transport Award for its work in sustainable mobility.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Winner of the Sustainable Transport Award in 2014, Argentina’s capital has developed a sustainable urban mobility plan that prioritizes active transport and road safety. One of the measures, for example, targets 36 city intersections to reduce the risk of accidents. The city has also developed an urban design manual, the Street Design Guide for Buenos Aires, which outlines methodologies for planning pedestrian-friendly streets and implementing traffic calming interventions.

Seoul, South Korea

The Cheonggye River in Seoul, South Korea is a great example of how cities can use public spaces to revitalize the local economy and improve quality of life for residents. Photo by Kimmo Räisänen/Flickr.

An iconic park lies in the heart of South Korea’s capital. The Cheonggye Stream Park provides the city with valuable public space that was once the site of an urban highway. Returning the city back to citizens and revitalizing the local community, the park was developed because the highway was costing the city economically and socially.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona’s urban mobility plan—which includes a series of reforms between 2013 and 2018—prioritizes pedestrians. Some of the plan’s measures include expanding sidewalk access and comfort, improving pedestrian infrastructure near school areas, and targeting public perception of active transport with outreach initiatives and communications campaigns. In addition to the pedestrian, the city is focusing on cyclists and public transport. Barcelona’s plan also includes air pollution targets below those set by the European Union and 20-30 percent reduction targets for traffic fatalities and injuries.

Johannesburg, South Africa

The South African city will make history this year by hosting the second-ever EcoMobility World Festival. For an entire month, one of Johannesburg’s districts will go car-free. The first Festival took places in Suwon, South Kore in 2013, and now the South African city of 1.4 million residents is about to spur transformation at a local level. The initiative demonstrates courage and determination on behalf of the city to further the movement toward low-carbon mobility and better quality of life.

This article was originally published in Portuguese on TheCityFix Brasil

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