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Dedicating Public Space for Recreation is Good for Cities. The Via RecreActiva Shows Us 3 Reasons Why.

Tue, 2019-03-26 18:35
Closing more than 60 kilometers of major streets to car traffic sounds like a logistical headache for a city of 4.8 million. But Guadalajara did it anyway ‒ and has done it every Sunday for the last 15 years. In ...

Bike Sharing Is Now a Viable Commuting Choice in São Paulo and Porto Alegre

Fri, 2019-03-15 13:13
New mobility is changing the way we move around cities. It’s also shifting our perception of how we do so. While bicycles may seem more aligned with “old” rather than “new” mobility, bike-sharing systems are transforming the way we see ...

How Beijing Is Redefining Public Space with the Temple of Heaven

Mon, 2019-03-11 13:13
If you visit the Temple of Heaven in the heart of Beijing, you’ll discover a vast network of palaces, pavilions, altars, stages and walking paths scattered over 600 acres of parkland. Recognized as a World Heritage Site for its exceptional ...

5 Challenges and Solutions to Building Bike-Friendly Cities in Turkey

Wed, 2019-02-06 14:13
The diverse economic, social and physical benefits of bicycling are no secret, yet many cities are hesitant to better accommodate growing numbers of bicycles on their streets. In October, WRI Turkey Sustainable Cities organized a workshop with representatives from 16 ...

Live from Transforming Transportation 2019: The Convergence of Old and New Mobility

Sat, 2019-01-19 05:40
Why is Transforming Transportation (TT) 2019 focused on new mobility? Tech-driven disruptions in transport are already having huge impacts on our cities, said Ani Dasgupta, global director of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. “What do we need to do ...

3 Ways Cities Can Harness the Benefits of the Bike-Share Revolution

Wed, 2019-01-16 23:27
Introduced in a basic form in the 1960s, bike-sharing services are now seemingly ubiquitous in many major cities. The propagation of “dockless” systems, shared bicycles that can be parked nearly anywhere, has led to unprecedented growth, increasing the number of ...

8 Ways to Reduce Road Fatalities Using the ‘Safe System’ Approach

Mon, 2019-01-14 14:13
Despite more than 1.35 million lives lost on the roads each year, traffic-related fatalities aren’t given the same media or political attention as plane, train or boat disasters. Indeed, some view these tragedies as commonplace or unavoidable – but they ...

China Elevates Bike Lanes to a New Level

Mon, 2019-01-07 20:18
Today’s streets are contested spaces. There seems to be an ongoing, intensifying competition between cars, bikes and pedestrians, trying to get from point A to B as quickly as possible. How do they all share the limited space available in ...

Sergio Avelleda on How São Paulo Is Incorporating New Mobility into Its Transport Network

Thu, 2018-12-27 14:13

What city has more Uber riders than any other in the world? It’s not New York or Mexico City but São Paulo. Recent research found ride-hailing was the most frequent mode of transport for 5 percent of the metropolitan population of more than 12 million. In a city where the daily average commute time is two hours anything that helps people move around is a boon.

However, ride-hailing services have not been universally positive for cities. Some research on the entry of these “new mobility” companies into U.S. cities shows that they are increasing the number of cars on the street and moving more people from active and public modes of transport to private modes. This has raised alarm in the public sector about the long-term impact of these services on efforts to reduce congestion and increase sustainability and public health.

In 2016, São Paulo became the first city in Brazil to regulate ride-hailing, and the city enacted several unique measures to help shape the impact of these services.

“We authorized these companies to operate in São Paulo under some rules,” says Sergio Avelleda, who was Secretary of Mobility and Transport for the city from 2017 to 2018 and now heads WRI Ross Center’s mobility work.

First, the city instituted a progressive tax on ride-hailing services. Companies pay 0.10 BRL (about $0.03) per kilometer driven as a base rate for the use of public space. But, in order to discourage simply flooding the streets with as many drivers as possible, this rate increases if companies account for more than 36,000 kilometers driven in any hour of the day.

“At the same time we created some discounts to [encourage] these companies to reach some public goals,” says Avelleda. Incentives include discounts for women drivers, discounts for trips starting outside downtown, discounts for trips outside peak hours, and discounts for electric or hybrid cars.

São Paulo’s regulations also include requirements for vehicles, drivers and the service itself. All cars used for ride-hailing should be less than eight years old, drivers must pass through a 16-hour training course, and apps must include mechanisms for driver feedback and electronic payment. Since ride-hailing generates a huge volume of data, all operating companies are required to share data on trips with the municipality so it can be used in planning.

All requirements from the São Paulo regulation can be found in the New Mobility Regulatory Database, developed by WRI Ross Center. This is the first database of its kind that focuses on mapping and analyzing how cities from the global south are regulating these services, and all policies – by federal, state and city level – from Brazil, China, India and Mexico are included. The database counts more than 90 mapped regulations categorized by 21 different indicators.

Francisco Minella Pasqual is an Urban Mobility Intern at WRI Brasil with a focus on new sustainable mobility and its regulations

D.C. Just Released the First Evaluation of Its Dockless Bike and Scooter Experiment

Sat, 2018-12-22 02:24

Electric scooters took Washington, DC’s streets by storm in 2018. Photo by Elvert Barnes/Flickr

Washington, DC, has been one of the foremost laboratories for tech-driven innovations in the transport sector. The city implemented North America’s first bike-share system, and most recently it welcomed companies to experiment with the latest transport trend: “micro mobility,” or small vehicles, such as shared dockless bicycles and scooters, that are often battery powered.

In September 2017, DC launched a 11-month dockless demonstration program, with the participation of six private companies: Bird, Jump, Lime, Lyft, Skip and Spin. Although initially focused almost entirely on regular pedal bikes, most of these companies switched to e-bikes and e-scooters over the last year. Others left the city entirely, arguing the pilot program’s cap of 400 vehicles per operator was crippling their business.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has now released its first evaluation of the program, showing how many people have used the system, how it’s affected the city’s docked bike-share system and how many crashes have been reported.

The Good

There are many more people biking and scooting in DC! During the period of evaluation, there were 625,000 trips reported by 233,700 unique users. Although we don’t know from what transport mode users came from, the introduction of dockless bikes doesn’t seem to have significantly affected usage of the city’s docked system, Capital Bikeshare. Overall this is an indication of more people using shared and active modes of transport.

Scooters quickly overtook dockless bikes after their introduction in March 2018. Graphic by DDOT

The idea that Capital Bikeshare has been largely unaffected by the wave of dockless bicycle and e-scooters is reinforced by time usage patterns. Regular Capital Bikeshare users seem to follow a predictable commuting pattern, but the usage of dockless modes (especially scooters) is more spaced out throughout the day, with less dramatic peaks and valleys.

Dockless bikes and scooters have flatter usage curves than docked bicycles, indicating less reliance on commuters. Graphic by DDOT

Overall, the report indicates there is strong support for continuation of the pilot program. Indeed, people reported wanting more vehicles available and additional infrastructure to support them.

The Bad

One of the promises of dockless bikes and scooters is that they can go anywhere, improving access to mobility for communities that are currently underserved by docked systems. But the data for DC shows little difference in terms of where the systems are used.

DDOT’s heat maps show similar start and end locations for both docked and dockless systems, meaning that underserved communities are not using dockless systems any more than docked systems.

In terms of where trips are taking place, there has been little discernible difference between docked and dockless bikes. Graphic by DDOT

And as the pilot ramped up over the last year, so did the number of crashes and injuries. There have been 30 reported crashes and injuries and one death in DC involving dockless bicycles and scooters.

There have been 30 reported injuries and one death during the dockless demonstration program so far. Graphic by DDOT

Many cities have expressed concern over the road safety implications of new dockless systems. Austin, Texas, will even launch an epidemiological study with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to analyze the effect of these modes.

Considering that in Capital Bikeshare’s first 10 years of operation there were just 95 reported crashes with no deaths and there have been far fewer trips and vehicles in the dockless demonstration program, the report suggests safety is a very real cause for concern. Cities and companies need to do more to understand how to improve the safety of riders, pedestrians and other vehicles as micro-mobility services hit the streets. Small infrastructure changes can go a long way.

The Ugly

A large criticism of micro-mobility is that it clutters city streets and sidewalks and is a nuisance.

Despite first-hand encounters and vocal concerns, DDOT visual inspections showed that only 10 percent of dockless vehicles were parked in undesirable locations, of which only 3 percent was blocking pedestrian access.

DDOT and some of the city’s business improvement districts have also increased the number of bicycle racks in the city, adding more than 400 racks in 2018.

Although there doesn’t seem to be an indication of significant changes in Capital Bikeshare rides and revenue, the report mentions 126 Capital Bikeshare bikes were lost during the period, perhaps due to confusion by users who didn’t understand the difference between docked and dockless systems.

What Can Other Cities Learn From DC?

In the age of “new mobility,” cities are constantly being challenged by the arrival of new and unexpected vehicles on their roads. Although 2018’s mode du jour was e-scooters – in just a six month period during DC’s pilot, more than 90 percent of the city’s dockless pedal bikes were removed by their operating companies and replaced by electric assist models and scooters – there is no guessing what will come next.

With the release of this report, DC joins others, such as Charlotte and Portland, in sharing data with the public to help paint a clearer picture of the good, bad and ugly of micro-mobility. Los Angeles is working to create reporting standards too.

But it’s still a relatively small sample size. Generating data and making it accessible to everyone will help community members, companies and decision-makers understand what these new modes can (and cannot) do, informing better decisions down the line.

Mayor Muriel Bowser notes DC’s dockless demonstration program will continue in 2019, when a surge in vehicles is reportedly due, alongside efforts to analyze and evaluate results. “As we move forward, the input received from Washingtonians is essential to understanding how these services can improve navigating around town,” she says in the report, “where improvements are needed, and how dockless bikes and scooters fit into our broader goals to build a healthier, more sustainable city with more choices for all.”

Sebastian Castellanos is an Energy and Climate Associate at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

TheCityFix’s Top 10 Blogs from 2018

Thu, 2018-12-13 14:13
In 2018, we watched cities around the world grapple with the new mobility transition. Shared, electric and autonomous transportation, at the touch of the button, is redefining how people get around. At the same time, the ultimate effect of these ...

3 Reasons Raahgiri Has Become India’s Urban Movement

Wed, 2018-11-21 22:38
In too many cities today we see a stark dichotomy. On one side we have enclaves for the rich and powerful, full of luxuries and amenities, and access to the bounties of a globalized world. On the other, there are ...

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.

Cities Have Metabolisms Too: İzmir and Rotterdam Work to Streamline Resource Use at a Civic Level

Wed, 2018-10-17 13:13
From space, cities can look like microscopic living organisms, with bright nodes of industrial and civic activity connected by circulating routes of traffic and transport. Some cities are taking this analogy to a new level with an “urban metabolic” approach ...

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.

4 Questions on the Future of Dockless Bike Sharing From Its Birthplace

Mon, 2018-09-17 13:13
Just three years ago, dockless bike sharing was operating at a small, university-scale in China. By the end of 2017, there were more than 20 million dockless bikes in the country, generating more than $3 billion in investment. Xinhua, the ...

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.

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