Friday Fun: Six mayors who bike, and why this is a good thing

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 9:00am

From São Paulo to Jakarta, mayors are leading their citizens into the streets and onto their bicycles. Pictured (from top left): Joko Widodo (Jakarta, Indonesia) and Boris Johnson (London, United Kingdom), Fernando Haddad (São Paulo, Brazil), Marcelo Ebrard (Mexico City, Mexico), and Ana Botella (Madrid, Spain).

Here at TheCityFix, we believe in recognizing profound leadership in urban sustainability. After all, it takes a combination of citizen support and top-down vision to create meaningful change in a city. While public focus is usually on what city leaders can achieve from behind their desks, it’s often what they do in the street that makes an even stronger statement.

With more cities than ever before implementing bike-share systems and expanding cycling infrastructure, we had to ask ourselves: are our leaders practicing what they preach on sustainable urban mobility?

As it turns out, many of them are. In honor of those leaders who are walking the talk, we now present five mayors (and former mayors) who bike and what they’ve done to make their cities more bike-friendly.

Fernando Haddad: São Paulo, Brazil

Mayor Fernando Haddad joins a ride with bike advocates in downtown São Paulo. Photo by Associação Ciclocidade/Flickr.

São Paulo mayor Fernando Haddad took office in 2013 riding a campaign promise to reduce traffic congestion and help paulistas move better around their city. This is vital, as time and productivity lost due to congestion take a major toll on both quality of life and the local economy in São Paulo. In his first year as mayor, Haddad has come good on his promise, setting the lofty goal to add 400 km (259 miles) of bike lanes by the end of 2015 and embedding people-oriented mobility in the city’s new master plan. These efforts even helped São Paulo win the 2015 Sustainable Transport Award and the 2014 City/State MobiPrize in recognition of its innovation and vision in sustainable urban mobility.

But Haddad doesn’t just use sustainable mobility as political rhetoric; he lives it. He’s been regularly photographed around town riding in the very bike lanes he championed. In October 2014, he even took Gary Fisher – credited as the inventor of the modern mountain bike – for a jaunt around São Paulo’s downtown.

David Miller: Toronto, Canada

Former Toronto Mayor David Miller is no stranger to helping cities become more sustainable. Miller not only expanded Toronto’s network of bike lanes and supported the establishment of the Toronto Cyclists’ Union, he did so while chairing the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. In this role, he helped cities worldwide implement a range of measures to cut greenhouse emissions, including expanding sustainable mobility measures.

While Miller left office and his role as C40 Chair in 2010 (he’s seen in the video above at the 2009 UN Climate Summit), he’s continued to advocate for sustainable urban communities. In the last year, he’s written in support of the People’s Climate March, on the role of cities in the New Climate Economy, and on pressing urban water issues.

Marcelo Ebrard: Mexico City, Mexico

Marcelo Ebrard served as mayor of Mexico City from 2006 to 2012. Here, he hops on an ECOBICI public bike-share bike for a ride through the city’s Condesa neighborhood. Photo by Noticias de tu Ciudad/Flickr.

Mexico City has one of the longest running weekly car-free events – Muévete en bici – and one of the most vibrant public bike-share systems – ECOBICI – in all of Latin America. Much of this is thanks to former mayor Marcelo Ebrard, who held office from 2006 to 2012 and oversaw a major expansion of the ECOBICI program as well as the cycling infrastructure supporting it. Picking up where Ebrard left off, current mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera also enacted a new mobility law in 2014 prioritizing pedestrians and cyclists over private vehicles.

In the photo above, Ebrard joins a regular organized ride through the heart of Mexico City – on ECOBICI bikes, of course – designed to increase visibility for cycling culture in Mexico.

Ana Botella: Madrid, Spain

Mayor Ana Botella helped introduce public bike-share to Madrid. Here she participates in the system’s inaugural ride. Photo by Madrid City Hall.

In many cities, women are underrepresented in urban cycling, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at Madrid mayor Ana Botella. Last year, Botella helped her city implement a public bike-share system, the first in the world that uses a fleet of e-bikes to help riders navigate Madrid’s hilly terrain. When skeptics called into question the safety of the e-bikes, which use small electric motors to give cyclists an extra boost, Botella hopped on a bike herself and rode around the city.

Earlier this year, Botella took her sustainable mobility efforts one step further, announcing plans to ban cars from central Madrid in efforts to curb traffic congestion and improve air quality.

Boris Johnson: London, United Kingdom and Joko Widodo: Jakarta, Indonesia

Former Jakarta mayor and current president of Indonesia Joko Widodo (left) and London mayor Boris Johnson (right) take a bike ride through central Jakarta in October 2014. Photo by Greater London Authority/Flickr.

What could possibly be better than one cycling mayor? Two cycling mayors! The photo above shows London’s Boris Johnson and Jakarta’s Joko Widodo – now president of Indonesia – on a ride through central Jakarta last year.

While Johnson’s reputation as a bike advocate is perhaps more established, Widodo’s track record is equally impressive. After identifying traffic congestion as one of the key issues facing Jakarta, he led by example, making every Friday his own personal bike-to-work day. The ritual has become closely watched by press and everyday onlookers, something Widodo has said he hopes will bring visibility to cycling in Jakarta and encourage commuters to leave their cars at home.

Did we miss anyone? What would it take to get your mayor biking around town? Let us know in the comments!

Categories: Europe

People-oriented streets and the built environment: Lee Schipper Memorial Scholars present at Transforming Transportation 2015

Embarq The City Fix - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 8:36am

Erik Vergel-Tovar (left) of Colombia and Madeline Brozen (right) of the United States—recipients of the 2014 Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship—presented their research findings at Transforming Transportation 2015. Photos by Zhou Jia/WRI.

Last week’s Transforming Transportation conference put forth multiple innovative ideas for how cities can transform mobility to become more socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable. Speakers included former heads of state like Mexico’s Felipe Calderón, road safety champions like former New York City DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, and entrepreneurs like Zipcar founder Robin Chase. In addition to these heavy hitters, two names you may not have heard of (yet) also contributed their bright ideas for the future of sustainable urban mobility: Erik Vergel-Tovar and Madeline Brozen.

Vergel-Tovar and Brozen were selected last year as recipients of the 2014 Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship for Sustainable Transport and Energy Efficiency. As scholars, they’ve spent the last six months conducting in-depth research on different aspects of sustainable transport, and shared their findings for the first time at Transforming Transportation 2015. Read on to learn about what their research revealed.

Bus rapid transit and the built environment: Findings from Latin America

Vergel-Tovar, a PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, presented first. He explored the implications of how built environment attributes beyond density – such as the mixture of land uses, proximity to transit hubs and facilities, presence of high-rise developments, and pedestrian infrastructure – influence the ridership levels of bus rapid transit (BRT) systems in Latin America. Notably for planners and policymakers, his analysis shows that associations between population density and BRT ridership in Curitiba, Brazil – the birthplace of BRT – are similar or even higher than those found on rail-based systems in North America and Asia. His analysis also shows that some built environment attributes commonly considered as part of transit-oriented development (TOD) features are positively associated with BRT ridership. To achieve this TOD ridership association, however, requires the right enablers:

“We need an appropriate combination of transit-oriented development features,” he said. “This includes high rise multifamily and commercial developments, an even distribution of commercial, residential and institutional land uses, land developments of five or more stories in close proximity to stations, presence of facilities facing the BRT right of way and a network of non-motorized transport infrastructure articulated and connected to BRT stations.”

What does this mean for urban planning? As Vergel-Tovar told TheCityFix earlier this year, it means we can’t rely on density alone to create viable, efficient transport systems. Rather, the relationship between transport and urban development is far more nuanced, and planners need to consider a broader range of built environment attributes when designing transport corridors.

View Vergel-Tovar’s presentation below, and stay tuned for the release of his research findings later this year.

Examining the Relationship between Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and the Built Environment in Latin America – Erik Vergel-Tovar – UNC Chapel Hill – Lee Schipper Memorial Scholar – Transforming Transportation 2015 from EMBARQ Moving beyond streets for cars

Brozen, assistant director and complete streets initiative manager for the University of California, Los Angeles’ Institute of Transportation Studies, took a different approach. She examined how current methods of planning and designing urban streets contribute to car-centric urban development. She focused on the need to move away from complex equations that measure street performance and move towards meaningful, human-centered data that can better inform policy decisions. Drawing from the examples of people-friendly metropolises New York City and Copenhagen, she found that the first step towards creating people-oriented streets was using more comprehensive and holistic data points. This approach can help build neighborhoods more supportive of active transport modes like bicycling and walking.

Despite this focus on non-motorized transport, Brozen’s research isn’t about how to create the car-free city. As she stated in an earlier interview with TheCityFix:

“Too often we hear, ‘you bike people just want everyone to get out of their cars.’ Getting away from that us versus them mentality, we can start to think about what a holistic transportation system looks like. That’s what we mean when we talk about complete streets. On a complete street, it’s pleasant, safe, and attractive to get to your destination however you want to do so.”

View Brozen’s presentation below, and stay tuned for the release of her research findings later this year.

Moving Beyond Streets for Cars – Madeline Brozen – UCLA – Lee Schipper Memorial Scholar- Transforming Transportation 2015 from EMBARQ

We hope you are as inspired as we are by the insight and vision of this year’s Lee Schipper Memorial Scholars! To learn more about the Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship, visit the scholarship website. Applications for the 2015 scholarship period are now closed, but check back throughout the year for updates on 2016. Donations to the scholarship fund are welcome at

Categories: Europe

Urban design for safer roads: Insights from EMBARQ Turkey’s RSLab

Embarq The City Fix - Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:57pm

Turkey has one of the highest traffic fatality rates in the world. Better road infrastructure design and sustainable mobility can change that, reducing crashes and saving lives. Photo by Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr. 

More than 1.2 million people worldwide are killed in road traffic crashes every year, and an additional 20 to 50 million are injured. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), if urgent action is not taken, these figures will increase by about 65% over the next 20 years, making road traffic crashes the fifth-leading cause of death by 2030. Half of these road fatalities occur just in ten countries, and Turkey has the dubious honor of being among those ten. The Turkish Statistical Institute indicates that in 2013, an average of ten people died and approximately 750 people were injured every day due to traffic crashes in Turkey.

EMBARQ Turkey recently concluded its Road Safety Lab (RSLab), a two-year long project that aims to assess the state of road safety in key Turkish cities and offer transport planning and urban design solutions. The project offers insight for cities worldwide: while human error is a factor in road safety, road design is also a critical determinant of traffic fatalities. An outsized portion of crashes in these cities occured in just a few particularly dangerous locations. Identifying and improving the design of these “blackspots” is a powerful strategy for saving lives on urban roads.

The role of engineering and design for safer roads

At RSLab’s closing meeting, Beste Gülgün of the WHO pointed out that road fatalities are not merely the result of “accidents.” Deaths caused by road traffic crashes are structural and can be avoided through comprehensive and cost-effective precautions. This is why the United Nations and the WHO have launched the Decade of Action for Road Safety for 2011-2020 to mobilize more than 100 countries and prevent a total of five million deaths from traffic crashes by 2020. 

Speed management, drinking and driving, and helmet or seatbelt use are widely acknowledged risk factors in road safety management. However, road safety challenges cannot be attributed solely to human error, as drivers and other road users adapt their behavior to many external factors. Therefore, road infrastructure design plays a crucial role in reducing fatalities and injuries. According to the Handbook for Road Safety Measures, simply lighting previously unlit roads can reduce fatalities from traffic crashes by 60%, for example.

Where can cities start when improving road design?

In most cases, a few traffic safety hot spots account for a high proportion of crashes. According to RSLab presenter Andre Münche from PTV Group, 50% of avoidable accidents occur only on 10% of the road network. One powerful method to improve road safety – called blackspot management – involves identifying particular locations that are highly problematic and resolving site-specific problems that might be causing human error.

With the support of Bloomberg Philantropies and 3M, the RSLab team has identified 25 critical blackspots for road traffic crashes across five Turkish cities and made a number of reccomendations to improve each blackspot. These range from traffic signalization and pedestrianization designs to improved lighthing. EMBARQ Turkey estimates that these measures could prevent more than 500 crashes and approximately 70 injuries annually. According to RSLab Project Lead Tolga Imamoğlu, a road safety inspection is also a cost-effective measure to include when building new roads. Road safety inspections reduce traffic crashes on average by 30%, with a 1:10 cost-benefit ratio.

Identifying the right blackspots, however, can be challenging; it requires quality data and road design expertise. Imamoğlu mentioned that data accuracy can be hampered by a range of factors such as incorrect GPS information or lack of tracking on the status of injuries after crashes. RSLab Project Analyst Kiarash Ghasemlou emphasized that a well-organized, comprehensive, and accessible data collection system is crucial to correctly identifying blackspots.

Turkey’s speed management problem

Beyond blackspot management, speeding also plays a significant role in crashes and resulting fatalities in Turkey. According to Mustafa Ilıcalı of Bahçeşehir University, 43% of fatalities and injuries from traffic crashes in Turkey are due to speeding. Ilıcalı pointed out, however, that this trend in Turkey is not surprising, given the lack of attention paid to speeding offences. Ilıcalı’s statistics showed that only 18 out of 1,000 drivers receive tickets for speeding in Turkey, compared to 456 of 1,000 in Australia and 558 of 1,000 in the Netherlands. Given the staggering number of road fatalities in Turkey and lack of comperehensive enforcement, speed management has become a focus of numerous organizations and agencies like the WHO and the Turkish Road Association.

One issue brought up by many participants at the RSLab closing meeting was the tension between current transport policies that emphasize making cities safe for pedestrians and those prioritizing the mobility of cars. Although many stakeholders, especially in Turkey, voice similar concerns, conceiving urban mobility more broadly as the safe movement of people through sustainable transport policy and planning is a way of resolving this tension. Road safety as a public health problem is not an isolated issue. Rather, it is closely linked with behaviors and trends in other areas such as access to public transport or level of vehicle emissions. As one aspect of sustainable transport policy, better road design through methods can make roads safer for all users, whether on foot, on bikes, or in cars.

View photos from the closing meeting of RSLab on Flickr

Categories: Europe

Transport plays a key role in urban air quality

Embarq The City Fix - Tue, 01/20/2015 - 10:29am

Transport plays a growing role in both the global climate and public health in cities like Londrina, Brazil (pictured). Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil.

The city is like an organism, and the swift movement of people and goods is the oxygen that sustains its well-being. When this circulation is inhibited, it significantly compromises the quality of urban life. For example, private cars account for less than one-third of trips in cities worldwide, but are responsible for 73% of urban air pollutants. Per capita, private cars generate three times more greenhouse gas emissions than public transport systems like buses. In the last year, the transport sector accounted for 46.9% of Brazil’s energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

Rapid global urbanization comes with the potential to accelerate current climate change trends, and transport emissions may even triple by 2050. In addition to the severe consequences for the global climate, rising greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles also have a direct impact on human health. Air pollution contributed to 3.7 million deaths worldwide in 2012. It’s also estimated that urban air pollution contributes to 7,000 premature deaths per year in metropolitan São Paulo and reduces life expectancy by 1.5 years on average.

These challenges require urgent action to reduce the negative public health and environmental impacts of urban transport. One of the main paths for achieving this is through better urban planning and design. The most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlights the importance of building denser cities with mixed land uses to reduce sprawl. To do this, we need to shift to a “3C” model of urban growth: connected, compact, and coordinated. These are the key proposals of transit-oriented development (TOD) strategies, which focus on adapting urban spaces to the scale of pedestrians and cyclists, providing quality, efficient public transport, and designing safe, connected spaces around transit hubs to improve connectivity and accessibility.

Designing efficient, low-carbon cities and transport systems can improve health and the climate. A 2013 EMBARQ study shows that 11 new bus rapid transit (BRT) projects in Mexico, Colombia, China, India, and South Africa have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 31.4 million tons over the next 20 years. This amount is equivalent to the annual emissions of more than 6.5 million cars.

As defined in its National Plan on Climate Change (NPCC), Brazil aims to reduce carbon emissions by between 36.1% and 38.9% by 2020. To achieve this, the country has an important ally: investment in urban transport infrastructure provided by the Growth Acceleration Program (PAC). More than 80 Brazilian cities now have the opportunity to use federal funding to enhance transport corridors, implement TOD strategies, and in the process improve public health and air quality. It is expected that these investments will prioritize active transport and mass transport systems and help to reverse the country’s trend towards car ownership and motorcycle use.

A study by the Climate Observatory indicates that Brazil could be on track to meet the voluntary emissions reduction commitments outlined in the NPCC, but also signals a worrying increase in energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, mainly due to fossil fuel consumption from transport. While we still face many challenges to shifting planning and investment to a low-carbon path, there are potential solutions at hand. Current negotiations over funding sources that would subsidize the costs of public transport, such as from taxing fossil fuels, can help build cleaner fleets and make sustainable transport more viable in Brazilian cities.

These is the pathway we need to breathe better in our cities.

This article was originally published in Portuguese in the Revista NTU Urbano.

Categories: Europe

Who needs cars? Smart mobility can make cities sustainable

Embarq The City Fix - Mon, 01/19/2015 - 11:43am

Metrobús, Mexico City’s bus rapid transit (BRT) system, began operations in 2005 and now serves 855,000 passengers every day. Line 4 (pictured) was launched in 2012 and currently serves 50,000 passengers daily. Photo by Taís Policanti/EMBARQ Mexico.

This article was originally published on January 15, 2015 by the Thomson Reuters Foundation

Last year marked an important tipping point: for the first time, half of the global population lives in cities. Cities currently add 1.4 million people each week and this population growth comes with new buildings, roads and transport systems.

In fact, 75 percent of the infrastructure that will be in place by 2050 does not exist today. With cities poised to invest now in infrastructure that will last for decades, huge opportunities lie ahead. But without major shifts now in how we manage established as well as rapidly growing cities, we risk losing out on the potential of urbanisation to create more inclusive and prosperous societies.

2015 offers a big chance for the international community to help put cities on a more sustainable path. We at the World Bank and the World Resources Institute (WRI) believe that we must seize this opportunity, because cities and urban mobility are key to a sustainable future.

Business-as-usual urbanisation patterns come at a hefty price. Cities already produce 70 percent of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions and traffic crashes claim 1.2 million lives per year, with developing cities carrying the greatest burden.

Traffic congestion cost Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo a combined $43 billion in 2013 alone, equivalent to 8 percent of each city’s GDP. In Beijing, the costs of congestion and air pollution are estimated at 7-15 percent of GDP. Urban sprawl costs the United States alone $400 billion per year.

This is not the future we want for our cities.

Leapfrogging cars

We can either continue to build car-oriented cities that lock in these unsustainable patterns, or we can scale up existing models for creating more inclusive, accessible and connected cities. Pursuing smarter urban mobility options can help growing cities leapfrog car-centric development and adopt strategies that boost inclusive economic growth and improve quality of life.

Today there is much talk about what makes cities and their transport systems smart, but little consensus. While the concept has come to be synonymous with innovative technological solutions, we argue that it goes beyond this.

Technology and infrastructure are key, but they only go so far without coordinated planning and vision. Truly smart urban mobility systems leverage technology to improve quality of life and inform decision-making. Above all, these systems are socially, environmentally, and financially sustainable.

This type of smart urban mobility has multiple benefits. For one, it helps reduce congestion and improve traffic safety in cities worldwide. Efficient transport systems like bus rapid transit (BRT) save commuters time, reap economic benefits, and reduce the risk of traffic crashes. For example, Mexico City is poised to save $141 million in regained economic productivity from just one of six lines of its Metrobús BRT system.

Second, it can significantly reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Transport accounts for 23 percent of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, and urban car use is the single largest contributor to transport emissions. Beijing, in an effort to curb car use, is planning a low emission zone that will cut carbon emissions and contribute to its target of reducing air pollution by 40 percent.

Finally, smart urban mobility helps low-income residents. Efficient, integrated transport systems can link urbanites to jobs and education and expand access to opportunity. For instance, Medellín’s Metrocable system has transformed what was once a day-long journey from the city’s mountainous slums to its urban core into a 30-minute affair, increasing access to daily needs and empowering the city’s most disadvantaged communities.

Innovation and knowledge needed

This transition to smart, sustainable mobility requires both local innovation and global knowledge exchange to find the right solutions. While action for a more sustainable urban future begins at the city level, the global community can foster the ambition of city leaders by building consensus on the path forward for sustainable cities and urban mobility.

2015 provides three big opportunities for progress on this front. First, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – set to be finalised in September – are slated to include an explicit focus on reducing global poverty and inequality through cities, with a specific emphasis on urban mobility.

Second, climate negotiations in December may produce the first binding international agreement on combating climate change, opening up the pathway for low-carbon cities. Third, 2015 marks the halfway point in the United Nations Decade of Action on Road Safety, an important drive to make cities safer through sustainable mobility.

Opportunities to transform urban mobility and make cities more sustainable, inclusive and safe are also the focus of Transforming Transportation 2015, an annual gathering in Washington, DC organised by the World Resources Institute and the World Bank. This year’s event, “Smart Cities for Shared Prosperity,” will explore how smart urban mobility solutions can improve quality of life in cities.

We must seize these opportunities. This is a critical year for building global momentum and commitment towards cities that are safe, sustainable and prosperous for all.

Categories: Europe

Live from Transforming Transportation: The actions we need for the sustainable urban future we want

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 01/16/2015 - 6:31pm

At the final session of Transforming Transportation 2015, speakers discussed why 2015 presents unprecedented opportunities to embed sustainable transport in the global development agenda. Photo by Benoit Colin/EMBARQ.

Transforming Transportation (#TTDC15) is the annual conference co-organized by EMBARQ, the sustainable urban transport arm of the World Resources Institute’s (WRIWRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, and the World Bank. This year’s conference focuses on Smart Cities for Shared Prosperity, and takes place on January 15 and 16, 2015 in Washington, DC.

Over the past two days, we have heard from over 100 speakers from countries worldwide during the annual Transforming Transportation 2015 conference. Their messages will help shape the global urban transport agenda, and have shifted the conversation on smart cities towards people-oriented, connected cities. Mexico City Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera illustrated the importance of designing mobility laws that prioritize cycling, pedestrians, and public transport without fear of disrupting the status quo. Kevin Austin, Vincent Kobesen, and many more discussed the need to integrate land use and transport planning for more accessible cities. Janette Sadik-Khan showed how better urban design can save lives on city streets. Arvind Singhatiya explained how businesses can benefit from connected city infrastructure while also filling gaps in public services. Rosário Macario demonstrated how building public support for new policies can revolutionize urban mobility. These and other words of wisdom will resonate throughout the year as we continue efforts to scale up sustainable urban mobility.

These are only a fraction of the ideas shared at Transforming Transportation. In the final panel, global leaders in sustainable transport highlighted some of their takeaways for the present and future of urban mobility. These were their parting messages:

Cities are where the action is

A consistent theme of the conference was the need to respond to rapid global urbanization. While emerging cities face a range of transport challenges, they are also forums for incubating solutions. For example, cities are making bold, tangible commitments to reduce climate impacts, leveraging by new global tools to measure progress. Ani Dasgupta, global director, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, referenced the importance of the UN Climate Summit in New York City last September. There, 228 cities signed on to the Compact of Mayors and committed to measuring, reporting, and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

While national change occurs slowly, cities are comparatively nimble and innovative. Jorge Kogan, senior transport specialist for CAF Development Bank of Latin America, argued that “we have a conflict. Energetic cities have to deal with lazy national governments.” Dasgupta described that “though agreements are global, pretty much all action is local.” In this vein, Holger Dalkmann, director of EMBARQ, World Resources Institute, emphasized that global processes like the UN Decade of Action on Road Safety are slow to deliver change on the ground, while city leaders have more capacity to take swift action.

Photo by Zhou Jia/WRI.

Capitalizing on 2015 with a new urban model

“2015 is a year that we can unleash our passion for sustainable transport at an unprecedented scale,” said Cornie Huizenga, secretary general of the Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport – SloCaT. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and COP21 climate talks in Paris create a unique opportunity to position cities and transport at the forefront of the global agenda and to create an equitable, low-carbon future. To support the SDGs, José Luis Irigoyen, director of the Transport and ICT Global Practice for the World Bank, called on the transport community to put forward “a robust framework for transport that is measurable and credible. We have a limited timeframe. This is the year.”

Speakers emphasized that the urban transport community needs to have a strong, unified voice. Urgent problems like climate change and global poverty require urgent responses. “Over the years, we have been practicing our arguments. We need to come forward with them now,” Huizenga said. 

Photo by Zhou Jia/WRI.

Felipe Calderón began Transforming Transportation with the message that climate action can go hand in hand with economic growth. This idea resonated throughout the conference, as speakers emphasized that sustainable transport has a number of co-benefits – one being economic growth.

“We need to show how public transport is part of creating growth and jobs,” said Alain Flausch, secretary general for the International Association of Public Transport – UITP. “When you build a transport corridor, you have the capacity to create wealth… and when you have the means for creating wealth, you become relevant to decision makers.”

There has never been a more exciting time to guide cities towards sustainable development. The 12th annual Transforming Transportation conference serves as a call to action, and a jumping-off point for what will be a crucial year for the future of our cities.

Thank you for joining TheCityFix’s live coverage of Transforming Transportation 2015. For photos, videos, and presentations from the conference, please visit

Categories: Europe

Live from Transforming Transportation: Making sustainable urban mobility a policy reality

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 01/16/2015 - 3:15pm

On the second day of Transforming Transportation, panelists discussed the challenges and opportunities for implementing sustainable mobility plans. Photo by marcusrg/Flickr.

Transforming Transportation (#TTDC15) is the annual conference co-organized by EMBARQ, the sustainable urban transport arm of the World Resources Institute’s (WRIWRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, and the World Bank. This year’s conference focuses on Smart Cities for Shared Prosperity, and takes place on January 15 and 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. Join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #TTDC15, by following @EMBARQNetwork and @WBG_Transport on Twitter, and tune in to for video streaming of select sessions.

“Radical change is needed for us to address the challenges of urbanization.” This call to action came from Sherielysse R. Bonifacio, assistant secretary for the Philippines Department of Transportation and Communications, during the second day of the Transforming Transportation conference in Washington, DC. Bonifacio outlined how Manila’s car-oriented policies have had disastrous impacts on quality of life in the city. According to her, there are 6.1 million trips by private vehicles in Metro Manila every day. Manila is not alone in its history of car-oriented development. To ensure that cities are livable, sustainable, and equitable, speakers at Transforming Transportation have advocated for a new growth model that prioritizes non-motorized and public transport.

So how do cities get there?

A panel of experts at Transforming Transportation discussed the process for creating sustainable urban mobility policies in Brazil, India, the Philippines, Mexico City, and Copenhagen. Recent mobility law’s in Mexico City and Brazil show how prioritizing sustainable transport can transform cities. However, the panel described how identifying the right policy intervention can be the easiest part of the process. Beyond this, successful sustainable mobility policy changes involve a holistic, integrated approach to mobility, institutional strength with clearly deviated responsibilities, and public engagement to generate widespread support.

An integrated approach to mobility services

According to Rosário Macario, professor at Lisbon Technical University, “The focus of a mobility law should not be mobility but accessibility.” Accessibility is not only a consequence of transport infrastructure, it is also the result of land-use planning. Wagner Colombini, consultant at Logit, described that Brazil’s 2012 mobility law encourages cities to integrate land-use and mobility planning to improve accessibility.

For cities to be accessible, their transport systems must also be connected with each other. Gisela Méndez, capacity building and networks manager for EMBARQ Mexico, described that Mexico City has implemented a number of transport improvements in recent years, from bus rapid transit (BRT), to bike-sharing, to metro rail, and more. Still, she argues that these systems need to be better integrated – a priority of Mexico City’s new mobility law.

Photo by Zhou Jia/WRI.

Implementing mobility policies require strong institutions

Sherielysse Bonifacio and Nupur Gupta, senior transport specialist of the South Asia Energy and Infrastructure Unit at the World Bank, described how weak institutional structures have constrained progress on mobility policies. In Manila, Bonifacio argued that private bus operators have too much control over the city’s transport department, which is not proactive enough in developing a rational mass transport system. “We currently have 300 bus operators [running] on one corridor. You can’t integrate and manage this system.”

In India, Gupta argued that the biggest challenge to sustainable mobility policies are the fragmentation of institutional power. India’s constitution gives states control over urban development. “The elephant in the room is the institutional side… We have a situation where there is huge fragmentation of responsibilities…[and] there is no entity at the local level responsible for urban transport.” This results in constant delays to transport projects, and a lack of integration between city infrastructure.

Involving the public for people-oriented mobility policies

Creating effective mobility policies requires a deep understanding of citizens’ needs. In Copenhagen, Niels Tørsløv, deputy director “City in Use” at City of Copenhagen, explained how the city is using technology to monitor cycling use after sporting events in order to better plan biking infrastructure.

Generating the political will to advance sustainable mobility often requires strong public support. Macario described how Brazil’s mobility law – which prioritizes pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport – was shaped by bringing together diverse stakeholders. It then underwent five years of in-depth discussion among the public. During this period, she described that “the discussion of mobility in Brazil changed completely. People started thinking about mobility differently. That was the cornerstone of the policy.” By “embedding society in the change process,” public support helped push the policy through and is helping create more sustainable cities across Brazil.

Stay tuned for continued coverage of Transforming Transportation later today on TheCityFix! In the meantime, join the conversation online using hashtag #TTDC15 and by following @EMBARQNetwork and @WBG_Transport on Twitter.

Categories: Europe

Live from Transforming Transportation: How connected cities are good for people and business

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 01/16/2015 - 12:20pm

Day two of Transforming Transportation kicked off with an exploration of how connected cities present opportunities for businesses to better meet citizens’ needs. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil.

Transforming Transportation (#TTDC15) is the annual conference co-organized by EMBARQ, the sustainable urban transport arm of the World Resources Institute’s (WRIWRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, and the World Bank. This year’s conference focuses on Smart Cities for Shared Prosperity, and takes place on January 15 and 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. Join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #TTDC15, by following @EMBARQNetwork and @WBG_Transport on Twitter, and tune in to for video streaming of select sessions.

The world’s cities are growing at unprecedented rates. Urban areas are expected to add 1.4 billion people between 2011 and 2030 and house 60% of the global population by 2030.

Experts often discuss the idea of creating “connected” cities – compact urban areas featuring public transit, bike paths and walkways – as a way of curbing climate change, improving safety and boosting citizens’ quality of life. As a panel of experts highlighted at today’s Transforming Transportation conference, connected cities also present multiple opportunities and benefits for businesses.

So what is a “connected” city?

“I see a city as connected when citizens have peace of mind regarding mobility – making transportation available so that every citizen in a country can be present in the right place at the right time,” said Arvind Singhatiya, vice president of corporate affairs for OLA, an Indian car service similar to Uber.

Two big factors are converging to influence a city’s connectivity. For one, the rise of technology. “The electronic fabric in cities around the world is, for the first time, providing a level of connectivity that allows other things to happen,” said Michael Dixon, general manager of IBM’s Global Smarter Cities Business program. “We’re seeing people able to share information and make decisions in ways that weren’t possible in the past.”

The other factor is collaboration – allowing all stakeholders, from local government officials to urban planners to citizens themselves, to share knowledge and ideas. “This bottom-up connectivity is very important,” said Marisella Montoliu Muñoz, director of Urban and Disaster Risk Management with the World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice.

Opportunities for business to generate impact

We’re now seeing several opportunities for businesses to contribute to better connected, integrated cities like never before. It’s a relationship that benefits businesses as well as the world’s city dwellers. For example:

Rise of the “on-demand economy”

Services like Uber and OLA allow any citizen with an internet connection to access reliable transportation whenever and wherever they need it. It’s a fundamental change in capitalism that presents unprecedented business opportunity. “For businesses, the real opportunity is to work out what are the business models where we can improve service and reduce costs by applying technology?” said Dixon.

A robust job force

Connectivity gives citizens better access to goods and services throughout a city, including jobs. It’s a design that benefits both residents and businesses. “That ability to reach in an affordable way the places where they live to the places where the jobs are has to do with the attractiveness of a city to business,” said Montoliu Muñoz.


Cities around the world face Herculean problems – from traffic congestion to air pollution and its associated health impacts to road accidents and fatalities. Collaboration between businesses, city leaders, urban planners and other stakeholders can foster innovation to solve these difficulties and improve the lives of city residents.

For example, many cities struggle with the problem of “last-mile connectivity.” The city provides public transit systems, but citizens live too far away to utilize them. Enter shuttle systems: “In many large urban cities, you have an arterial rail system,” said Dixon. “The idea of this connected car system where people can get from their homes to transit and back again is very attractive.”

OLA arose to help solve a similar problem in India. Delhi in particular boasts a large population with relatively poor city infrastructure – citizens face challenges in getting to where they need to be on time. OLA’s vehicle-response time is about 15 minutes, and every OLA car replaces the need for about six vehicles on the road, according to Singhatiya. 

Arvind Singhatiya discusses how OLA’s use of technology improves cities’ connectivity while reducing private vehicle use. Photo by Zhou Jia/EMBARQ.

Data for change

Thanks to sophisticated technologies and software systems, businesses and governments now have access to increasingly robust data sets. Sharing this data between the two groups can improve business and ensure good policy-making. For example, Uber recently agreed to share its transportation data with the city of Boston. OLA plans to do the same with some of the 60 Indian cities in which it operates. “We are using analytics to understand commuters’ behaviors and using technology to asses roads and traffic conditions,” said Singhatiya. “This will help authorities to identify where they need to have flyovers, and which places have more traffic during specific days.”

Planning for the long-term sustainability of cities

Of course, these are just a few opportunities for businesses to impact connectivity. The space is continually evolving and innovating.

Perhaps the main lesson to keep in mind from today’s session is that investing in connectivity is simply good strategy – for businesses, for cities, and for citizens. “When cities are connected, businesses grow because every transaction happens at the right time,” said Singhatiya. “And this leads to a growth in economy.”

Stay tuned for continued coverage of Transforming Transportation later today on TheCityFix! In the meantime, join the conversation online using hashtag #TTDC15 and by following @EMBARQNetwork and @WBG_Transport on Twitter.


Categories: Europe

Is Copenhagen Finally up To Speed on 30km/h Zones?

Copenhagenize - Fri, 01/16/2015 - 4:20am
If Copenhagen was Paris or Barcelona, they would be doing this. Based on population density, this is where 30 km/h should be standard.Yeah, so I woke up to some promising news this morning here in Copenhagen. For all the modern liveable city goodness in the Danish capital, we are in the Bronze Age regarding speed limits in cities.It's been lonely being one of the only people broadcasting the need for 30 km/h zones in Danish cities. Discovering that modernisation may be on the way is fantastic. The first 30 km/h zone was implemented in 1983 in Buxtehude, Germany. Over 150 cities in Europe have made 30 km/h the default speed in urban areas.It is shocking that most of densely-populated Copenhagen isn't already a 30 km/h zone.Buxtehude, Germany. 1983.In Denmark, the Ministry of Justice published a document back in 1985 with the sexy name Justitsministeriets cirkulære nr. 72 af 5. juli 1985 making it possible for municipalities to adjust local speed limits. If "speed is a major cause of accident or risk on the stretch in question".While that sounds like a good thing, they stated that it had to be proven that a reduction in speed would make dangerous stretches safer. Proving it has been a difficult task and the proof had to be in the form of complicated mathematical calculations. Weird to require calculations in order to save human lives, reduce injuries and make cities nicer. The next challenge was convincing the police to allow it. As we've written about before, the Danish police have bizarre powers and veto rights regarding traffic and they are not obliged to provide proof to support their veto.The police in Copenhagen wouldn't even agree to 40 km/h zones, let alone the European Union standard of 30.Today, however, the Ministry of Justice has announced that they are working on making it easier for municipalities to reduce speed limits. Let's hope they don't overcomplicate it and that they complete ignore the police on the subject. Until it's time to enforce the new speed limits. THEN they can move in and do their job.We have written at length about 30 km/h zones here on the blog and we started a little Facebook group called 30 kbh (kbh is the short form for København - Copenhagen in Danish).You can read 30 km/h Zones Work.We also made an analysis of the effectiveness of 30 km/h zones that is freely downloadable and sharable.  But here's the gist of it all:30 zones reduce injury and deathA study carried out in London concluded that there was a 42% reduction in injuries after the implementation of 30 km/h zones. Younger children were the group with the most significant reduction in KSI’s (Killed & Seriously Injured). A 27% reduction was measured in Barcelona, which led to the city rolling out massive 30 km/h zones across the urban landscape.The numbers are pretty clear here. If you get hit by a car doing 30 km/h your chance of dying is only 5%. At 50 km/h it is 50%.As your speed increases in a car, your peripheral vision decreases drastically.There is no cheaper or more effective way to save lives and reduce injury in cities. Period.30 zones improve congestionWith slower speeds, the amount of stop-starts is reduced – if not eliminated – which improves flow and helps easy congestion.30 zones are inexpensiveChanging speed limit signs is inexpensive while building out sidewalks and narrowing lane widths is more expensive. Nevertheless, it is cost efficient. In Switzerland, the annual savings on health costs due to 30 zones is €120 - €130 million.30 zones reduce noise pollutionBy reducing the speed by 10 km/h, a noise reduction of 2-3 dB is achieved. That is far cheaper than noise reducing asphalt. Read more in the article Noisy Danish Speed Demons.Also, the noise of five cars at 50 km/h is the same as ten cars at 30 km/h. The noise of one large truck equals as much noise as 15 cars.30 zones improve air qualityIn an overall analysis of pollutants, 30 km/h zones reduce CO2 emissions by 15%, NOX emissions by 40% and CO emissions by 45%. Only hydrocarbons will increase, by 4%. 30 zones improve fuel efficiencySince they improve flow, motorists will save on fuel and reduce C02 emissions.30 zones improve local businessThe traffic calming effect that 30 km/h zones have on neighbourhoods is remarkable. Pedestrians and cyclists increase and, since pedestrians and cyclists spend more money in shops, local business benefits. A study in the UK showed that people who walked to town centres spent an average of £91 (around €115) per week, while motorists would spent £64 (around €80) per week. Cyclists, too, are proven to spend more money in shops than motorists.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Europe

Live from Transforming Transportation: “Speeding up” global action on road safety

Embarq The City Fix - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 6:06pm

Well-designed bus rapid transit is one way for cities to improve traffic safety. This was one of many strategies described by panelists at Transforming Transportation for how cities can accelerate efforts to improve road safety in the face of rising motorization. Photo by Jamie Manely/Flickr.

Transforming Transportation (#TTDC15) is the annual conference co-organized by EMBARQ, the sustainable urban transport arm of the World Resources Institute’s (WRIWRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, and the World Bank. This year’s conference focuses on Smart Cities for Shared Prosperity, and takes place on January 15 and 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. Join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #TTDC15, by following @EMBARQNetwork and @WBG_Transport on Twitter, and tune in to for video streaming of select sessions.

Improving traffic safety can help make cities more sustainable, economically viable, and healthy. But more than 1.2 million people die in traffic crashes worldwide, and car ownership is rising around the world. Responding to this challenge, the UN General Assembly declared 2011-2020 as the Decade of Action for Road Safety, and resolved to reduce global traffic fatalities by 2020.

So how are we doing at the mid-point of the Road Safety Decade?

Janette Sadik-Khan, the former commissioner of New York City’s Department of Transportation, said the city now has some of the lowest traffic fatality rates in the United States. “It’s not just because New Yorkers are terribly nice or good drivers… but because of a lot of hard work,” she said in a panel discussion at the Transformation Transportation conference at the World Bank on January 15.

“You can’t wish people onto a bus that is slow and dirty and ugly,” Sadik-Khan said. ”You have to create a beautiful system… These strategies – safe streets and mobility choices – they’re not just nice things to have. They are economic development strategies.”

Photo by Aaron Minnick/WRI.

Following Sadik-Khan’s presentation, Melinda Crane, chief political correspondent for Deutsche Welle-TV, moderated a panel that consisted of international experts in road safety:

  • Janette Sadik-Khan, Transportation Principal, Bloomberg Associates
  • Claudia Adriazola; Director of Health and Road Safety; WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, WRI
  • Saul Billingsley, Director General, FIA Foundation
  • Mark Stevenson, Director of the Accident Research Centre, Monash University, Australia
  • Deborah Carvalho Malta, Director, Ministry of Health, Brazil
  • Nazir Alli, Chief Executive Officer, South African National Roads Agency
  • Anne-Valérie Troy, Director, Sustainable Development, TOTAL

Claudia Adriazola discussed new research that shows implementing bus priority systems can reduce severe and fatal crashes by 50%. Adriazola, along with other panelists, advocated for a Safe System approach that acknowledges humans are fallible. It focuses on improving planning and road design systems to save lives.

Graphic by EMBARQ.

Still, traffic safety remains a key challenging in low- and middle-income countries, and it is crucial to build stronger advocacy groups and present to policy makers the wide range of benefits that accompany improvements to traffic safety. EMBARQ, the producer of TheCityFix, has examined traffic safety challenges in cities worldwide, adapting to local context while drawing on global best practices:

Stemming traffic crashes in developing countries is often a matter of “Partnership, partnership, partnership,” according to Anne-Valérie Troy, director of Sustainable Development for TOTAL. Because many parts of Africa lack regulation and technology that would aid this effort, TOTAL has tightened its own standards for trucks operating there. Technology has also helped, she said: computers installed on trucks transporting TOTAL products in Africa monitor vehicle speed. “We can train them or sanction them if they do not respect the standards we impose on our transporters,” Troy said.

Stay tuned for continued coverage of Transforming Transportation tomorrow on TheCityFix! In the meantime, join the conversation online using hashtag #TTDC15 and by following @EMBARQNetwork and @WBG_Transport on Twitter. 

Categories: Europe

Live from Transforming Transportation: Advancing climate action through sustainable mobility

Embarq The City Fix - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 3:11pm

At the second panel of Transforming Transportation, panelists discussed the encouraging trends in sustainable transport and development that make mobility an important part of curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ.

Transforming Transportation (#TTDC15) is the annual conference co-organized by EMBARQ, the sustainable urban transport arm of the World Resources Institute’s (WRIWRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, and the World Bank. This year’s conference focuses on Smart Cities for Shared Prosperity, and takes place on January 15 and 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. Join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #TTDC15, by following @EMBARQNetwork and @WBG_Transport on Twitter, and tune in to for video streaming of select sessions.

“How exciting will it be to live in low-carbon cities?”

This is the question that needs to frame the debate around climate action, according to Rachel Kyte, Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change at the World Bank. Kyte took part in the second panel of Transforming Transportation 2015, in which speakers discussed how 2015 is a crucial year to embed sustainable urban mobility into the climate change agenda.

Transport is responsible for 22% of energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide, and its emissions are increasing at a faster rate than any other sector. With the potential for a legally binding international climate agreement at COP 21 in Paris this December, panelists urged cities to adopt evidence-based actions to curb emissions through sustainable transport.

In his keynote address, Felipe Calderón discussed how mitigating greenhouse gas emissions can go hand in hand with economic and social growth. Recent research from the Commission on Energy and Climate, which Calderón chairs, estimates that cities can save $3 trillion dollars by investing in low-carbon energy and prioritizing connected, compact, and coordinated development.

“The next 15 years are a window of opportunity, and probably the last opportunity we have to design a new economic model to produce economic growth and address climate change.” Calderón said. He argues that this new economic model can also promote equity, in contrast with current growth patterns.

“The next 15 years are a window of opportunity, and probably the last opportunity we have to design a new economic model to produce economic growth and address climate change.”

Later in the day, Melinda Crane, Chief Political Correspondent for Deutsche Welle-TV, moderated exploring the panel, “Advancing Climate Action Through Sustainable Mobility.” The panel consisted of:

  • Rachel Kyte, Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, World Bank
  • Kevin Austin, Director of Initiatives, Regions, and Events, C40
  • Holger Dalkmann, EMBARQ Director, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, WRI
  • Alain Flausch, Secretary General, International Association of Public Transport – UITP
  • Robin Chase; Founder; Zipcar, Buzzcar, and Veniam
  • Vincent Kobesen, Chief Executive Officer, PTV Group
  • Patrick Oliva, Senior Vice President, Strategic Foresight & Sustainable Development, Michelin Group
Planning cities around sustainable mobility

Kevin Ausin and Vincent Kobesen described how transport and land-use planning are interdependent. As Austin stated: “You can’t have one without the other.” They describe that city governments are beginning to take a more unified approach towards these sectors. Alain Flausch argued that beyond using transit-oriented development (TOD) strategies, “We need to design cities where people don’t have to move.” Flausch argues that cities should use mixed-use development to ensure that people live close to their destinations, minimizing the strain on a city’s transport services.

Cities must also shift their thinking from station-to-station transport to door-to-door transport, according to panelists Patrick Oliva and Robin Chase. Oliva believes that although the business models are still developing, “Last-mile connectivity is an area where there is a real opportunity for cities and also for private business.” Shared mobility services are one way to improve last-mile connectivity. Robin Chase, founder and former CEO of Zipcar, said “We need efficient use of every asset. The story of one-person one-car is gone. The future of transport has to be shared.”

One of the principle challenges of using transport to create connected, sustainable cities is securing finance. Holger Dalkmann described that too much of the money globally invested in transport currently goes to expanding and building highways.

Photo by Aaron Minnick/WRI.

Setting targets, measuring progress, and sharing knowledge for sustainable urbanism

There are encouraging trends occurring in sustainable transport that can help cities curb emissions. Cities are increasingly coming together to share knowledge and collaborate towards collective goals. Austin described that “cities can share in ways that nations can’t,” and Kyte agreed that “the most exciting trend for me is the real sharing of knowledge at scale among cities and among transport decision makers.” Austin remarks that bus rapid transit (BRT) used to take about 12 years to implement, but after learning lessons and sharing knowledge, cities can now do it in three or four years.

As cities increasingly collaborate, they are also establishing a stronger commitment to measuring and reporting on their progress towards curbing emissions. Dalkmann described how 228 cities have signed the Compact of Mayors, committing to measuring and reporting city-level greenhouse gas emissions and collectively saving 13 gigatons of emissions by 2050.

Stay tuned for continued coverage of Transforming Transportation later today on TheCityFix! In the meantime, join the conversation online using hashtag #TTDC15 and by following @EMBARQNetwork and @WBG_Transport on Twitter.

Categories: Europe

Live from Transforming Transportation: How can smart cities work with the sustainable development agenda?

Embarq The City Fix - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 1:48pm

As Transforming Transportation 2015 kicks off, panelists discuss the essential role of transport in the future of sustainable urban development. Photo by ruimcc77/Flickr.

Transforming Transportation (#TTDC15) is the annual conference co-organized by EMBARQ, the sustainable urban transport arm of the World Resources Institute’s (WRIWRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, and the World Bank. This year’s conference focuses on Smart Cities for Shared Prosperity, and takes place on January 15 and 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. Join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #TTDC15, by following @EMBARQNetwork and @WBG_Transport on Twitter, and tune in to for video streaming of select sessions. 

2015 is a crucial year for the global sustainable development agenda, and cities will play an integral role. A new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the United Nations is expected in September 2015, and a draft of the SDGs earlier this year put new emphasis on sustainable cities. At the first panel of this year’s Transformation Transportation conference, leaders from India, Mexico, the Netherlands, and the OECD discussed how urban transport can be integral to sustainable development.

The change may need to be sweeping, according to Felipe Calderón, former president of Mexico and current chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.

“The current sprawling urban model is promoting social exclusion,” Calderón said in the conference keynote address at the World Bank on January 15. “We need to change the way we organize cities, because the current model … is impossible to continue.”

Photo by Aaron Minnick/WRI.

Shankar Aggrawal, secretary of the India Ministry of Urban Development, noted that with nearly 31% of Indians living in cities, “The transportation sector needs to undergo a huge change. We have to go in for public transport … We need to create cities that are designed for citizens, not cars.”

In Mexico City, a new mobility law aims to eliminate thousands of the pollution-emitting, poorly maintained micro-buses now used for public transport. The city also built pedestrian-friendly thoroughfares and zero-emissions corridors, restricted car use, and is expanding metro lines, the Metrobús bus rapid transit (BRT) system, and bike-sharing.

“I’m convinced that mobility can improve quality of life in Mexico City,” said Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera through a translator.

Cities and transport also play a key role in the climate change agenda. Transport is responsible for 22% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, and these emissions are rising faster than those for any other sector. Cities contribute about 70% of energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, despite only accounting for 2% of global land.

There is often debate about what constitutes a sustainably smart city as far as transport is concerned. Jose Viegas, secretary general of the International Transport Forum for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said that beyond using new technologies, smart cities must have clear strategic objectives. Uniting different levels of government around a common set of objections can be difficult, he said.

Pex Langenberg, Vice Mayor of Rotterdam, noted it was important to involve the private sector in these big urban changes: “Never forget, don’t do it by yourself – ask the private sector to help and do their share.”

Stay tuned for continued coverage of Transforming Transportation later today on TheCityFix! In the meantime, join the conversation online using hashtag #TTDC15 and by following @EMBARQNetwork and @WBG_Transport on Twitter.

Categories: Europe

What will it take to create smart cities in India?

Embarq The City Fix - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 11:55pm

With the right priorities and development strategies, India’s smart cities initiative has the potential to make cities more sustainable, inclusive, and safe. Photo by rebel/Flickr.

In June 2014, the Government of India announced its ambitious plan to build smart cities across the country. This plan will be administered by the Ministry of Urban Development, and will focus on building new smart cities and redeveloping existing urban regions with populations of over 100,000 people. The government announced last July that it will invest US$1.2 billion in smart cities over the next year, which will be supplemented by funding from private investors and foreign players.

The program will include city-wide developments to improve methods for engaging citizens and addressing their needs, building capacity among city officials, and moving to e-governance through use of technology. Cities will also be asked to develop holistic city development plans with a vision for zero emissions and zero waste. They will then be provided funding to pursue strategic infrastructure projects as part of the city development plan. Cities will be asked to identify priority sectors and will receive viability gap funding from the central government. The private sector is expected to invest another INR 1000 – 1200 crore (US$1.6 – 1.9 billion) in these projects. Additionally, states will be asked to identify areas for large investments, either for retrofitting or redevelopment in existing cities or greenfield cities. The national government envisions investing 15% to 20% of necessary financing, with the rest of the funding coming from the private sector.

To make the most of this push for smarter cities, city and national leaders need to plan a comprehensive urbanization strategy, taking advantage of the latest developments in technology, creating employment opportunities, and supporting economic activities that will improve quality of life for citizens. By focusing on improved mobility and access, good urban design, equitable land management, and accessing the required financing, India’s cities can grow efficiently, sustainably, and inclusively, transforming urban life across the country.

Smarter mobility systems for more connected cities

As cities grow, the demand for transport grows, as well. Increased investment in public transport systems and a focus on transit-oriented development (TOD) are necessary to make cities more energy efficient, better connected, and less polluted.

Further, cities must focus on the financial sustainability of public transit projects through managing subsidies, pricing, and private investment in public transit, while also allowing for equitable access. Facilitating the use of disruptive new technologies and data for improved transport operations and safety can also encourage entrepreneurship and innovation in future investments. For example, EMBARQ India’s Bus Karo 2.0 – Case Studies from India report provides multiple examples of how cities can make conventional bus systems and bus rapid transit (BRT) more financially sustainable and efficient, reducing the need for private cars. Beyond buses, we’ve also seen how new reforms and regulations can help auto-rickshaws support public transport by improving last-mile connectivity.

Good urban design principles for more liveable cities  

At the neighborhood or community scale, smart city investments will be strongly influenced by building codes and development control regulations. When well thought out, these regulations help improve walkability, transit use, road safety, energy consumption, and carbon emissions. At the city scale, good governance involves a focus on the urban design strategies of TOD and mixed-use development. These strategies support housing development near transit and employment opportunities, short trips lengths, and safer walkability in all parts of the city. One Indian city pursuing this type of development is Naya Raipur. Together with EMBARQ India, the Naya Raipur Development Authority has prioritized bike and pedestrian networks, open public spaces, and mixed-use development to create a safer, more accessible, and more inclusive neighborhood design.

Supporting smart city investments while ensuring equity

Cities have a variety of land aggregation and management strategies to acquire land and make it available for development in a cost-effective and inclusive way. These tools allow cities and developers to make infrastructure investments while compensating existing residents in an equitable fashion. Eight different instruments have been used by different agencies in Indian cities with varying levels of success. These include bulk acquisition through the newly updated land acquisition act; the town planning scheme mechanism used mainly in Gujarat; the 12.5% reserve price mechanism used by the City Industrial Development Corporation in Navi Mumbai; land pooling mechanisms in Delhi; cluster redevelopment policy used in Mumbai; transfer of development rights used in Mumbai and other cities; and accommodation and reservation rules used in Mumbai. The lessons learned from these projects will be extremely useful for smart city investments.

Financing smart cities

A significant portion of the investment in smart cities is expected to come from the private sector or through public-private partnerships. To consistently access finance, monitor progress, and ensure accountability from city leaders, use of city-level performance metrics across economic, social, and environmental indicators is essential. This will also help attract private investment in cities.

Nearly 600 million people will call urban India home by 2030. We must take advantage of the government’s efforts to build smart cities to ensure these cities are sustainable, inclusive, and safe. Prioritizing sustainable mobility, urban design, land management, and finance, we can create smart and sustainable Indian cities and improve quality of life for millions.

Categories: Europe

Why cities are the solution to climate change: A Q&A with Ani Dasgupta

Embarq The City Fix - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 1:50pm

Though cities contribute a majority of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, they also provide forums for collaboration among diverse stakeholders to incubate climate change solutions. Photo by Wolfgang Staut/Flickr.

2015 is a year of utmost importance for the global sustainable development agenda, and cities will play a pivotal role. Landmark global decisions over the next 12 months provide opportunities to unlock the potential of cities and improve quality of life for billions worldwide.

TheCityFix sat down with Ani Dasgupta, Global Director of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities and speaker at the upcoming Transforming Transportation 2015 conference, to learn more about the unique solutions cities can offer to combat climate change, boost economic prosperity, and catalyze smart urbanization. 

As Global Director of the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, Ani Dasgupta is helping city leaders make sustainable development a reality. Photo by Bill Dugan/WRI.

1. Why are cities so crucial to action on global climate change and sustainable development?

We often talk about how much cities contribute to climate change, accounting for 70% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, for example. But this overshadows the fact that cities are also incubators for the solutions to climate change. Overwhelmingly, the most ambitious and innovative actions to reduce emissions and improve quality of life are happening at the city level. The Climate Action in Megacities 2.0 report from the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group provides multiple examples of these actions.

This is possible because cities are home to the institutions that give rise to productive collaboration. The tools for reducing greenhouse gas emissions are out there, but making these solutions a reality requires cooperation across sectors and stakeholders. Take bus rapid transit (BRT). It’s a relatively simple way to reduce emissions and create a number of other benefits for city residents, but it requires strong collaboration. There is the technical question of how to integrate the system with existing infrastructure, the financial question of how to raise capital, the economic question of how to engage with local businesses, and the behavioral challenge of changing deep-seated cultural preferences for car ownership. None of the solutions to climate change come from a single actor, and that is why cities are powerful forums for creating coalitions that address climate change.

2. What type of tools and resources do city leaders need to make sustainable urban development a reality?

The most important knowledge that city leaders need is not what to do; it’s how to do it. City leaders need to understand how to build support among citizens and decision-makers working together towards a common goal. Helping cities in this process needs to be a priority of organizations like WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. Our role is to create tools that provide clear evidence to help city leaders mobilize citizens and decision-makers.

Cities also need common metrics that help them measure progress and communicate results. The World Resources Institute – together with ICLEI and C40 – recently released the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventories (GPC), the first global standard for measuring emissions from cities. Common standards like the GPC – together with other tools to inform policymaking and good urban governance – can foster knowledge sharing and collaboration across cities. As a community, we still need to do more to develop tools that help city leaders connect technical policies with on-the-ground impact and human welfare.

3. The theme of Transforming Transportation 2015 is Smart Cities for Shared Prosperity. For you, what does a city have to do to be considered smart?

The ‘smart city’ has become quite a buzzword, but there’s still not enough clarity around what it means for a city to be truly smart. Too often, people think that being a smart city is just about technology. A smart city is not an automated city. Being a smart city is about having leaders, businesses, and citizens make smart, informed decisions.

Technology can be an important part of a smart city. It can provide insight into citizens’ needs, and help improve transport, energy use, urban design, and more. But technology is only useful to the degree that it gives cities confidence to make evidence-based decisions and gives citizens the resources to hold their leaders accountable. Without good governance and the right priorities, a city can’t be smart.

4. If you could ask participants at Transforming Transportation 2015 to do one thing to build better cities, what would it be?

There is a consensus building around the science of sustainable cities that are connected, compact, and coordinated. Connected cities rely on sustainable mobility and prioritize the needs of people, not cars. Compact urban growth means that cities don’t lock in sprawling, inefficient infrastructure development. Lastly, achieving connected, compact growth requires coordinated governance where city leaders collaborate and are held accountable to clear goals. Following this roadmap for sustainable development is the best way for leaders to find low-carbon solutions that shape more inclusive and prosperous cities.

While we know this to be true at the global level, adapting these solutions to best meet local needs remains a core challenge. No two cities are the same, and being connected, compact, and coordinated means something different in Beijing than it does in Bangalore. To strike the balance between global best practice and local context, we need to focus on how city leaders can make sustainable solutions a reality not just in a few cities, but worldwide. We need to help cities find the locally crafted solutions that can help them become connected, compact, and coordinated. This is the key challenge I hope to make progress on at Transforming Transportation this week.

Learn more about how smart urban development can unlock sustainable growth and catch Ani Dasgupta at Transforming Transportation 2015: Smart Cities for Shared Prosperity (#TTDC15). 

Categories: Europe

Want healthy, thriving cities? Tackle traffic safety first

Embarq The City Fix - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 7:55am

As vehicle ownership grows in cities worldwide, it becomes increasingly important for cities to implement well-designed bus systems that improve road safety for all users. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ.

Every year, more than 1.2 million people die in traffic crashes worldwide, equivalent to nearly five Boeing 747 plane crashes every day. As developing economies grow and private car ownership becomes more mainstream, the number of associated crashes and fatalities will continue to rise.

The challenge of traffic safety often flies under the radar in cities, where the social and economic challenges of accommodating growing populations take precedent. Without meaningful change, however, the World Health Organization (WHO) projects that traffic crashes could become the fifth leading cause of premature death worldwide by 2030. This takes a particular toll on cities, which are already home nearly half of global traffic fatalities. City leaders must prioritize traffic safety measures to ensure that their citizens have safe, healthy, and economically prosperous cities to call home.

With urban growth comes traffic safety challenges

While there are a number of factors that contribute to traffic crashes, two of the primary challenges are rising motorization trends in cities worldwide and the issue of road equity: the most vulnerable road users, including pedestrians and cyclists, are most impacted by traffic crashes. On top of that, these users, typically lower-income, don’t always have the power or capacity to create the necessary changes.

The number of privately owned cars on the road hit the one billion mark for the first time in 2010. If we continue business-as-usual, that number will reach an estimated 2.5 billion cars by 2050. All of these new cars will lead to an increase in traffic congestion in cities worldwide, increasing the probability of traffic crashes and resulting fatalities.

Despite these challenges, there is still time to adopt a different path for traffic safety by following the Avoid-Shift-Improve framework. We can avoid unnecessary trips to prevent traffic crashes and instead create compact, walkable communities with access to mass transport. We can shift trips out of cars and into high quality transit systems and active transport modes. And lastly, we can improve transport and urban design to maximize the safety of all trips by investing in people-oriented design strategies and sustainable transport infrastructure.

Making cities safer by design

One of the best ways cities can become safer for all is through sustainable transport systems like bus rapid transit (BRT), which now serves 31 million people in more than 180 cities every day. BRT can make mobility safer by providing accessible and efficient infrastructure for moving people, not cars. For example, in Guadalajara, Mexico, just one lane of the Macrobús BRT corridor traveling in one direction transports 5,000 passengers per hour. Normal traffic lanes in Guadalajara can accommodate only 3,194 passengers per hour, and saw 726 crashes in 2011. Macrobús saw only six accidents in the same year.

The growth in BRT and bus priority systems worldwide presents an opportunity to save lives and improve the health and safety of cities. A new report from the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities’ EMBARQ initiative and endorsed by the World Bank, Traffic Safety on Bus Priority Systems, shows that high quality public transport systems can improve traffic safety, reducing injuries and fatalities by as much 50%, seen in cities like Guadalajara and Ahmedabad. The report contains evidence-based planning and design recommendations that help cities make streets safer for all road users. Distributed and pilot-tested in major cities like Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, and Istanbul over two years, these recommendations address design strategies to make bus priority systems safer at intersections, transfer stations, pedestrian crossings, and more.

Social, economic and environmental benefits of safer streets

The benefits of safe, well-designed BRT and bus priority systems are multi-faceted. Not only can these systems improve traffic safety, but they can also improve the health of city residents by reducing air pollution and increasing rates of physical activity, which has been shown to greatly improve longevity and quality of life.

Creating safer, well-designed bus corridors can prevent pedestrian fatalities, more than half of which occur on bus corridors with limited pedestrian protections in place. Additionally, the typical Latin American BRT system has been shown to provide numerous economic benefits to cities, of which safety impacts account for between 10 and 16% through a reduced burden on the healthcare system.

With steadily growing daily ridership, BRT and bus priority systems provide a prime opportunity for improving the safety and sustainability of city street and transport design. The findings and recommendations included in this report will help transport planners, engineers, and urban designers develop the best solutions for their cities’ specific challenges and create safer, more accessible cities for all. Most importantly, they help city leaders around the world properly integrate traffic safety into transport policy, finance, planning, and design.

The Traffic Safety on Bus Priority Systems report is made possible by funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Categories: Europe

How cities can save lives: Build safer bus systems

Embarq The City Fix - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 7:00am

Bus priority systems have a track record of social and environmental benefits for cities. Now, research shows that bus priority systems – when accompanied with key road design features – can save lives in cities. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil.

Traffic safety has become an urgent issue for cities around the globe, with traffic deaths claiming over 1.2 million lives per year according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Without proper action, this unacceptable trend is expected to make road fatalities the fifth leading cause of death by 2030. Furthermore, low- and middle-income countries account for 90% of all traffic deaths worldwide, and developing countries are also experiencing rapid growth in vehicle ownership. About half of all fatalities from traffic crashes occur in urban areas.

To put it simply, traffic safety must be a priority if we want to build more sustainable and livable cities. One route for achieving this is to expand and enhance sustainable transport solutions like bus priority and bus rapid transit (BRT) systems. New research shows that – when accompanied by improved road design – implementing bus priority systems can reduce severe and fatal crashes by 50%.

Making bus systems safer for 31 million people every day

High quality BRT and bus priority systems are helping meet the increasing demand for urban mobility. BRT has become a popular solution due to its relatively low capital cost and short construction time compared to rail transit systems like metro. According to the database, 31 million passengers ride BRT or bus priority systems every day, and the number of cities with BRT systems is on the rise, reaching 189 in 2014 from just 20 in 2002. The growth of BRT systems – especially in developing world cities – can reduce reliance on cars and motorcycles, both of which are shown to amplify traffic safety challenges.

Despite the growth of BRT systems worldwide, their impact on traffic safety is not as well understood as their effects on other social, economic, and environmental impacts like greenhouse gas emissions and travel time. New research from WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities’ EMBARQ initiative fills this gap by examining the traffic safety aspects of bus priority systems. It draws on data analysis, road safety audits and inspections of over thirty bus systems around the world, and simulation models testing the impacts of safety measures. The new Traffic Safety of Bus Priority Systems report shows that bus priority systems have had significant positive impacts on traffic safety, reducing serious crashes by 50% on bus corridors in cities like Ahmedabad and Guadalajara.

The design of streets and intersections along a given transit corridor plays an important role in traffic safety. In order to achieve the safety benefits of bus priority systems, cities must incorporate key road design features. For example, wider streets with more lanes tend to be more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. Wider streets mean pedestrians have longer distances to cross, and these streets tend to have longer signal intervals that make pedestrians more likely to become impatient and cross on red. EMBARQ found that each additional meter of a pedestrian crossing increases the risk a pedestrian will be hit by 6%. When implementing a bus priority system, however, cities can break up wide roads on a transit corridor using central medians. A central median for pedestrians can reduce fatalities and injuries on a bus corridor by 35%.

EMBARQ also studied Mexico City’s implementation of Metrobús Line 4, which provides a prime example of how the design of a BRT corridor can improve traffic safety, even in a complex urban setting. Metrobús Line 4 is located in the city’s historic downtown, with narrow streets and large crowds of pedestrians. The presence of many pedestrians is common for BRT lines in many cities, and poses design challenges for bus corridors. The design of Metrobús Line 4 includes a number of significant safety provisions for pedestrians, including pedestrian signals, protected refuge islands, bollards to prevent cars from parking on sidewalks, and improvements to pavement and signage. Our research estimates that the overall design efforts on Line 4 alone could save 12 lives every year.

Adopting a Safe System approach

EMBARQ’s research on bus corridor safety is part of a larger effort to advance a Safe System approach to traffic safety. This approach recognizes that road users are fallible, and that their mistakes can be deadly – especially for vulnerable road users like children, the elderly, pedestrians, and cyclists. Beyond behavioral issues like drunk driving and seat belt and helmet use, traffic fatalities are the result of poor road design. The Safe System approach focuses on improving the planning and design of road systems to guard against human errors. With smarter design on bus corridors, cities can minimize road users’ risk and save lives worldwide.

Learn more about designing safer bus systems in the Traffic Safety of Bus Priority Systems report, made possible through funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies

Categories: Europe

Belo Horizonte, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro announced co-winners of the 2015 Sustainable Transport Award

Embarq The City Fix - Tue, 01/13/2015 - 8:12pm

The Brazilian cities of Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo were honored with the 2015 Sustainable Transport Award, recognizing profound vision and leadership in sustainable urban mobility.

The winners of the 2015 Sustainable Transport Award have been announced! Organized by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), the Sustainable Transportation Award (STA) recognizes outstanding vision and innovation in sustainable transport over the past year. Announced today at an awards ceremony in Washington, DC, three Brazilian cities are being jointly recognized for their achievements improving urban mobility: Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo.

ITDP awards the STA in partnership with other members of the sustainable transport steering committee, which includes EMBARQ, producer of TheCityFix. The award has been given annually since 2005, and has honored 12 cities for their work improving mobility for all citizens, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and improving safety and access for cyclists and pedestrians in public spaces.

Other 2015 finalists included Bhopal, India; Brasília, Brazil; Cape Town, South Africa; Gurgaon, India; Hensinki, Finland; Iloili City, Philippines; Milan, Italy; Surat, India; and Toluca, Mexico.

This year’s recipients mark an encouraging trend in sustainable transport across Brazil, and demonstrate best practices in urban mobility to inspire cities worldwide.

Learn more about how these three Brazilian cities transformed urban mobility in 2014:

Belo Horizonte

Belo Horizonte implemented a new urban mobility plan and bus rapid transit (BRT) system in 2014, helping it become a co-recipient of the 2015 Sustainable Transport Award. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. The photo above, taken in the center of this state capital, shows that with political will and serious work, cities can become more pleasant, safe, and people-oriented places. Ahead of its time, Belo Horizonte was the first Brazilian city to develop a mobility plan – the PlanMob-BH – that was aligned to the National Urban Mobility Policy. The plan outlines improvements for the next 20 years and encourages public participation through tools like the Centre for Mobility, a platform that allows citizens to voice their demands for urban mobility.

Private car ownership remains a major challenge in Belo Horizonte, the sixth-largest city in Brazil. Car ownership has risen 7.3% in seven years, while travel by public transport grew by only 3.2% in the same time. In response, the PlanMob-BH also outlines the future expansion of transport and sustainable urban development.

In March 2014, the city opened the first line of its bus rapid transit (BRT), the MOVE system. It was developed over four years using international best practices with technical support from EMBARQ Brasil. Today, it carries 480,000 passengers daily on two corridors, Cristiano Machado and Antônio Carlos. The system has reduced average travel time by 40%, and when completed, it will extend 23.1 km (14.4 miles) and carry more than 500,000 beneficiaries.

In addition to BRT, PlanMob-BH also calls for revitalized public space around transit stops based on the concept of transit-oriented development (TOD). In addition, Belo Horizonte is building a cycling network that will have 320 km (199 miles) of bike paths, of which 27 km (17 miles) have been completed. Through these changes, the city has come to life and the local economy has gained strength.

Rio de Janeiro

Rio has made great strides reducing traffic congestion, improving road safety, and implementing high quality public transit, garnering it recognition as a co-winner of the 205 Sustainable Transport Award. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil.

The iconic city overlooked by Christ the Redeemer now has a network of BRT corridors benefiting 400,000 people every day. Together, the TransOeste and the TransCarioca systems have 95 km (59 miles) of dedicated routes. Once completed, the BRT network will also feature the TransOlímpica and TransBrasil routes, which will carry about one million people. EMBARQ Brasil provided technical support for Rio’s BRT implementation, and performed simulations on three corridors that paved the way for Rio’s selection as the host of the 2016 Olympic Games by the International Olympic Committee.

Next year, the city aims to provide more than 60% of the population with access to a complete network of public transport, from BRT to rail systems. All systems will be integrated through a single electronic payment card. These steps will promote greater social equality by providing increased access to jobs, healthcare, education, and entertainment. In addition to public transport, an important asset for sustainable cities are bike networks and bike infrastructure. In this spirit, Rio is expected to complete 450 km (280 miles) of bike paths by next year.

Rio has also created the Municipal Council of Transportation, a body made up of government and civil society that will develop, propose, and supervise the implementation of mobility policies.

São Paulo

São Paulo, Brazil was selected as a co-recipient of the 2015 Sustainable Transport Award for its progress implementing dedicated bus lanes, building cycling culture, and expanding public spaces. Photo by Fabio Arante/City Hall.

A combination of huge investment in quality public transport, renewed focus on the urban environment, and a new open data policy puts São Paulo among the leading global cities taking innovative steps to increase efficiency and livability.

The city’s accomplishments in 2014 include the introduction of MobiLab, a platform for entrepreneurs and researchers to leverage open data for solutions, applications, and technologies to meet urban mobility needs. Complementing this, the city initiated Operação da liçença para o ônibus (“Make way for the bus”), resulting in the addition of 320 km (199 miles) of dedicated bus lanes helping to reduce travel time. These dedicated lanes are estimated to shorten time spent traveling by 40 minutes each day, giving people an additional 20 hours per month to live, not commute. This is especially important as the majority of São Paulo’s residents travel by public transport.

The city also released a new master plan prioritizing sustainable mobility and urban development. This new plan firmly embeds the city’s shift toward transit-oriented development (TOD), encouraging mixed land uses, better pedestrian infrastructure, and active ground floors. Finally, the city expanded its network of bike lanes, and has set the ambitious goal of completing 400 km (249 miles) of bike lanes by the end of 2015. In an exclusive interview with TheCityFix Brasil, the city’s Transportation Secretary claimed that the city has implemented 10 km of new bike paths per week.


To learn more about the Sustainable Transport Award, visit

This article was originally published in Portuguese on TheCityFix Brasil.

Categories: Europe

How poor design creates conflict: An inconvenient and dangerous junction in Assen.

Hembrow - Mon, 01/12/2015 - 3:55pm
Poor infrastructure design causes conflict wherever it exists. This is just as true in the Netherlands as in other countries. It should not be assumed that employment of Dutch architects is enough to produce good results for cycling. We can't even guarantee that in the Netherlands... Just over two years ago, a huge new cultural centre, De Nieuwe Kolk, opened in Assen to accommodate the library, David Hembrow
Categories: Europe

The rise of technology-enabled taxis in Indian cities: A Q&A with OLA’s Arvind Singhatiya

Embarq The City Fix - Mon, 01/12/2015 - 2:48pm

Technology-enabled taxis are helping fill a mobility service vacuum in Indian cities. Photo by

New mobile technologies are helping transform mobility services in cities worldwide, including across India. EMBARQ India interviewed Arvind Singhatiya, Vice President for Corporate Affairs at OLA (formerly OLA Cabs), to better understand how mobile technologies are helping to meet growing demand for urban mobility in India. Hear more from Arvind at the Transforming Transportation 2015 conference (#TTDC15), where he’ll speak on innovation and entrepreneurship in urban mobility for Indian cities. 

Why is a service like OLA important for Indian cities? How has OLA grown over the last few years?

Indian cities are the country’s growth engines. With the current growth rate, the need for reliable mobility services has become critical. There is a huge gap in supply and demand of public transport with decreased resources and increased commuters. The rise of private vehicles has added to the challenges of urbanization, including increased traffic and parking problems in Indian cities. However, the growth of smartphone use and mobile Internet has enhanced access among city dwellers.

The name “OLA” comes from the Spanish word “hola,” which means “hello.” A trademark of ANI Technologies, OLA first introduced the concept of booking a cab through an online mobile platform in India in 2011. In the short span of three and a half years, the mobile app has become country’s most downloaded and used app. The number of vehicles using OLA software grew from 100 to 60,000 in this time, and total commuters grew from a few hundred to more than 100,000 every day in 54 cities across the country.

OLA has helped citizens understand and use intermediary public transport (IPT) instead of their own vehicle because OLA is equally convenient. It addresses the challenges of vehicle ownership like cost and parking struggles. We estimate that a single OLA cab removes 6 cars from the road.

In addition to cabs, OLA software is now empowering auto-rickshaws in the country, a hugely unorganized sector, but one that has the potential to reach every commuter. Common challenges with three-wheelers are non-transparent fares and undue haggling with drivers, but those piloting the OLA software for rickshaws have accepted the platform and decided to follow the government meter fitted in them, making rickshaws visible to customers through the app and making payment more transparent.

Most drivers using OLA software are actually micro-entrepreneurs who own the vehicle. We help drivers with business intelligence to enhance their earnings; with the use of analytics we are able to identify high demand zones in every city that helps drivers get more bookings and helps commuters get a reliable service all the time.

How is the demand for mobility services in Indian cities expected to grow? What role do taxi aggregator services like OLA play within the larger urban mobility network?

The exponential rise of OLA’s service is clear evidence of the mobility service vacuum existing in India. These are exciting times and the mobility revolution is about to begin. India is on its growth trajectory, the new government and its policies are business and investment friendly, and mobility will become one of the most important factors for growth. We are not just aggregators but an online transport facilitation platform, which is a much wider term embracing all possible modes of transport that can be accommodated by our platform. We look forward to playing an important role in the growth story of India.

In your opinion, what are the key actions city leaders can take to support sustainable and efficient mobility? 

Mobility has become a basic need and the easiest way to fulfill it for some is to own a private vehicle. This may not be the best solution; promoting intermediate public transport should be the first step to ensure last-mile connectivity for any public transport system anywhere in the country. A robust public transport system complemented by efficient intermediary public transport (cabs, rickshaws, and more) solves half of the challenges in mobility.

Multi-modal transport through public transport and intermediary public transport should be backed with a common payment system that integrates the whole system and gives commuters a seamless experience. A robust public transport and intermediate public transport system should be supported through taxation to discourage use of personal vehicles in order to improve the city traffic and parking challenges. This will also address the issue of vehicular pollution by reducing vehicles on roads.

Mobility should now be at the helm of urban planning discussions. A city transport plan looking at the way people move around by different modes of transport is essential. These include walking, cycling, bus, train, taxi, motorcycle, car, freight vehicles, and more. To develop the most effective mobility plan, it is vital to involve the public to ensure that the end result is something that brings them the greatest benefit.

What does a supportive ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship in urban mobility look like to you? 

There are a few key factors for a supportive ecosystem. Transport-related legislations should be updated regularly to keep up with the country’s changing mobility environment. A simpler regulatory regime that ensures commuters’ safety and security and accommodates innovations is necessary. In other words, we need fewer gray areas in regulations.

Integrating land use and transport planning also offers clear benefits in reducing travel time and enhancing accessibility. Finally, alternative mass transit options need to be explored by appropriate studies and research.

Don’t forget to tune in to Transforming Transportation 2015 (#TTDC15) to learn more about advancements and innovations in urban mobility for India. 

Categories: Europe

Friday Fun: Paint can do more to transform your city than you think

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 01/09/2015 - 7:46pm

Tirana, Albania painted buildings throughout the city with bright designs to increase residents’ sense of belonging and hope for the city’s future. Photo by Joonas Lyytinen.

As Mayor of Tirana, Albania, Edi Rama had an unconventional strategy to make his city more livable. Before becoming mayor, Rama was a trained artist and moved to Paris in 1995 to practice his craft. When he was elected mayor of Tirana in 2000, Rama directed an army of painters to spread bright colors and creative patterns on buildings throughout the mostly gray city.

In his TED talk, “Take back your city with paint,” Rama describes how he aimed to increase residents’ pride and sense of belonging in their city. “When colors came out everywhere, a mood of change started transforming the spirit of people,” he said. Tirana is not the only city that has used paint as a powerful tool for social change. While most urban development projects require expensive investments and long political processes, these simple uses of paint have made cities worldwide more cohesive, livable, safe, and sustainable:

Using paint to build community pride

Painting Tirana’s buildings did more than make them look more appealing: it changed residents’ perceptions of their city. Rama describes in his TED talk that following the painting efforts, crime and littering fell. Take a look at some of the creative work of Tirana’s artists:

Photo by Journey Jeff’s Pix/Flickr.

Photo by Tal Bright.

It takes more than paint to make a city livable and equitable, and Rama has not escaped criticism for his efforts to beautify Tirana. In his talk, Rama proudly discusses demolishing more than 5,000 “illegal buildings” in the city, which raises questions about the availability of housing for poor urban dwellers, an essential element of equitable cities.

Still, the transformation of Tirana’s buildings provides an inspiring example of how simple acts can unite a city. The Guardian reported that about 80% of Albanians approve of Tarina’s “facelift.” Rama describes, “The paint on the walls did not feed children, nor did it tend the sick or educate the ignorant. But it gave hope and light, and helped to make people see there could be a different way of doing things.”

Tirana is not the only city where paint is a powerful community-building tool. Since 2005, Dutch artistic duo Haas&Hahn has worked with residents to paint creative designs in Vila Cruzeiro, a favela in Rio de Janeiro. Haas&Hahn aim to confront negative perceptions of favelas using the same ground-up, citizen-driven process with which the favela was built. They recently crowdfunded over US$100,000 to paint the entire favela.

These striking colors and creative designs brighten Vila Cruzeiro. Photo by Leolnel Ponce/Flickr.

Paint can save lives, too

City leaders have a number of instruments to design safer streets. But citizens can play a role, too. By painting murals at intersections, citizens can make neighborhoods safer and more attractive. Brightly colored intersections can catch a driver’s eye, making them drive more slowly and cautiously.

In Portland, Oregon, an organization called “City Repair” paints a street mural. Photo by City Repair/Flickr.

Advancing sustainable transport can be as simple as adding paint

Bus rapid transit (BRT) and bus priority systems can be an important part of a sustainable, livable city. BRT has been shown to save residents time, reduce congestion, and improve the environment, among other benefits. One of the first steps to creating a high quality bus priority system is creating dedicated bus lanes. This can be done almost entirely with paint. Enrique Peñalosa, former Mayor of Bogotá and member of TheCityFix’s Urbanism Hall of Famedescribed at a 2007 conference, “We could improve our air quality and dramatically reduce our emissions any time we want. It’s easy to do. All it would take is a can of paint and you’d have dedicated bus lanes. It doesn’t require huge amounts of money. It simply requires a choice.”

In Mexico City, activists who sought better infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists took matters into their own hands. In 2011, residents painted a bike priority lane leading to the doors of Congress to voice their demands. It appears that the city heard residents’ concerns. Last year, Mexico City launched a mobility law that prioritizes cyclists and pedestrians and establishes mobility as a fundamental right.

These examples and many more show that making a mark on your city can be easier than you think. All it takes is a can of paint.

Categories: Europe