One photo, every eight steps, the camera pointed straight ahead. The formula is simple, but the results reveal a lot about the way we perceive urban streetscapes. Geographer Daniel Raven-Ellison formed the Urban Earth network, in an effort to, “explore and (re)present our urban habitats”. Five years and a National Geographic partnership later, Raven-Ellison and his team have explored some of the world’s most dynamic urban centers.
Raven-Ellison emphasizes the need to recognize an increasingly urbanized world as the impetus for forming Urban Earth. The city, he states, “is the biggest habitat on our planet. These are the places we live in”. What Urban Earth has tapped into is a major demographic trend: in 2007, the world crossed the threshold from a majority rural population to majority urban. Currently, 52% of the world’s population lives in cities, with this number expected to grow most rapidly in the developing world.
Raven-Ellison’s transects are a way of exploring this shifting landscape and gaining a deeper understanding of our built environment and those with whom we share it. He states that, “although we share our cities with millions of other people, we are in many ways more disconnected than ever before, moving from the island of our home to the island of our car to the island of our office”. Urban Earth, then, is about “documenting truth in cities and showing them as they exist, and not as people choose to see them”.
Take, for instance, Urban Earth’s trek through Mexico City, which required over 75 miles of walking and took three days to complete:
The newest iteration of the Urban Transect is the Urban “Storywalk”, or a transect with a route guided by a specific theme. In 2012, for instance, the Urban Earth team mapped rates of depression in different neighborhoods in London and devised a path that led them through the areas with the highest and lowest rates of depressions. Future Storywalks are slated to be organized around rates of violence and energy consumption.
Visit Urban Earth to organize a transect, watch more videos, and join the discussion at: http://urbanearth.ning.com/.
You can see the publications by clicking the following links:
The world, and Asia in particular, is heading in the wrong direction
Asia is rapidly urbanizing, creating localized stress on the transport system. In 2011, for the first time in history, more Chinese lived in urban centers than rural areas and a similar trend is underway in India. Combined with urbanization, vehicle fleets across Asian countries are increasing exponentially owing to urbanization and rising incomes, doubling every 5-7 years. Road congestion costs Asian economies 2-5 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year due to lost time and higher transport costs. At this pace, energy use in Asia is likely to double by 2050, according to IEA projections.
Unchecked, the repercussions of unsustainable transport in Asia have global implications. Greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector will continue to rise, which is already the fastest growing source of CO2 emissions in Asia. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) forecasts that the region’s share will rise to 31% of global transport sector CO2 emissions by 2030 at its current pace, with total regional emissions projected to triple by 2050. Asian cities now have among the highest air pollution levels in the world and traffic accidents account for nearly 2,000 deaths a day.
On April 24, EMBARQ presented a background paper at the 7th Regional Environmentally Sustainable Transport Forum in Asia on the role national governments in Asia can play in realizing the shift to sustainable transport. The key messages apply to countries around the developing world.
$2.5 trillion in transport investment needed in Asia
According to a recent ADB report, an estimated $2.5 trillion of investment is needed in Asia by 2020. Currently, around $1 billion is invested annually in transport worldwide. Recognizing this need for increased investment in sustainable urban transport, in June 2012 at the Rio+20 meeting, eight multi-lateral development banks (MDBs) voluntarily committed to shift $175 billion to more sustainable transport programs over the next decade.
While the $175 billion commitment by the MDBs is a major achievement, $17.5 billion per year is merely a fraction of transport investment needed. To change the current transport funding paradigm, multi-lateral development banks and national governments will need to embrace sustainable transport in national level planning. Private investors will need to collaborate with public entities to channel funding to sustainable projects and local governments and cities will need to show strong demand for sustainable transport finance.
National governments play a central role
National governments can play a crucial role in financing sustainable transport systems. They facilitate domestic finance through national development banks and develop urban transport plans that direct development strategically. They coordinate international finance through MDBs and international investors and act as an intermediary between funding sources and city and local governments, which have an understanding of the projects needed at the local level. National governments can play an important role in establishing and overseeing monitoring and evaluation programs, building technical capacity nationally and locally, and sharing best practices between national governments abroad and local governments domestically.
The EMBARQ background paper identifies two key sets of actions that national governments can implement to have the greatest impact on shifting transport finance towards sustainability: leveraging financing and increasing the effectiveness of existing financing.
Leverage financing for greatest impact
For a true paradigm shift to occur, transport finance must be leveraged to support sustainable transport projects. National governments link international and national financing through strong domestic policy frameworks that strategically invest in sustainable projects that address domestic goals on greenhouse gas emissions, energy security, and public health.
National programs can also engage the private sector by improving the regulatory and legal environment. India’s next Five Year Plan (from 2012-2017) relies on the private sector to provide 35% of urban transport investment. Historically, private sector investment in transport in India has primarily gone to ports and airports and not urban rail or urban roads, which can improve mobility and accessibility for masses of people. The future investment opportunity for sustainable transport had to be further explored in discussion between national government and the business community to enable a transparent policy framework.
Local funding sources – like road user fees, parking fees, vehicles taxes, and congestion pricing – can also provide innovative sources of financing for sustainable transport projects. In Hong Kong and Singapore, the rail and land development model has successfully financed profitable mass transit through innovative land development. Combined with correcting national fuel subsidies, these local sources could raise financing for sustainable projects at the local level.
Increase effectiveness of financing
There are also key ways that sustainable transport financing can be more effective through national government action. Governments can streamline the institutional process for funding local projects by coordinating funding, planning, operations and private actors around sustainable transport projects. They can do a better job learning from individual projects by conducting needs assessments, policy formulation and planning, monitoring and ex-post impact evaluation. National governments also play a key role in consolidating information, building capacity for developing and implementing sustainable transport plans, and developing the technical capacity to evaluate project alternatives at the local level.
The role for regional organizations
Regional and global trends underway highlight the importance of rethinking transport in a sustainable way. Transport finance directs global transport development and national governments fulfill a central role in realizing sustainable transport finance. Regional forums, like the EST Forum in Asia today, enable international cooperation between national governments by convening transport ministers in a collaborative environment. Bringing the ministry of finance to future forums would strengthen the dialogue and allow a better understanding of the economic challenges and financing opportunities enabling sustainable transport. By leveraging transport finance to increase the magnitude of sustainable investment and through improving the effectiveness of available financing, national governments are a vital component of the shift towards sustainable transport currently underway.
View Holger Dalkmann’s full presentation on Slideshare from the 2013 Regional Environmentally Sustainable Transport Forum in Asia, entitled, “Financing needs for sustainable transport systems for the 21st century“.
WRI’s Access Initiative hosted a regional meeting in Jakarta to propose new actions to improve the current right of access to environmental information in the Asian region. The event provided a space for peer learning about issues faced by communities in seeking access to environmental information through the use of freedom of information laws and promotion of proactive release of environmental information.
This blog post is part of the Catalyzing New Mobility program and receives support from The Rockefeller Foundation.
Intermediate public transport (IPT) services, such as auto-rickshaws and taxis are an important part of sustainable urban transport in India. Over the past few years, EMBARQ India has undertaken several activities to promote IPT services in Indian cities. These activities can be broadly categorized into research and publications; city-level demonstration projects; policy reforms; capacity building; and knowledge-sharing and information exchange. As part of the knowledge-sharing and information exchange activities, EMBARQ India created an online discussion forum in April 2012, titled the Rickshaw Taxi Discussion Group. Its aims is to bring together a diverse group of professionals, in India as well as internationally, who are interested in sharing ideas, asking questions, and debating a wide range of issues affecting auto-rickshaw and taxi services, such as policy and regulation, economics and finance, entrepreneurship, technology applications, environmental impacts, vehicle design, and road safety.
Over the course of the past year, the group has grown to comprise more than 100 members from various backgrounds, including government, civil society, academicians and researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, industry associations, and major manufacturers. On its one-year anniversary, we briefly highlight some of the key discussions that have ensued in the group and some ideas on the way forward to enable the group to achieve its intended objectives.
The group members have discussed and deliberated on a range of topics, primarily in the areas of policy and regulation, and entrepreneurship. These are briefly discussed below.
Policy and regulation
Fare policy for auto-rickshaws was one of the most important topics of discussion, reflecting both the importance of this aspect in the regulation of auto-rickshaw services, as well as the need for many cities across India to address current challenges regarding auto-rickshaw fares. The discussions focused primarily on the fare policy work of the Hakim Committee (a one-man committee set-up by the state government of Maharashtra to devise auto-rickshaw and taxi fare policy for Mumbai and other cities in the state), addressing what other cities in India learn from this initiative. These discussions led to insights on key input factors (costs and operating characteristics) to be considered for fare-setting, formulas for fare estimation, and the need for undertaking fare revisions on a regular basis to reflect changes in input costs. The importance of stakeholder engagement, as well as public outreach, was also emphasized as a critical component in the fare policy reform effort.
Current policies on auto-rickshaw permits in cities and their impacts on driver economics and quality of service for passengers were also discussed. These discussions led to the following insights:
- Closed permit policies in cities, where there is a regulatory cap on the number of permits, often lead to permit trading and a significant increase in permit costs, which impact driver economics. Closed permit policies also typically lead to an under-supply of service — a major reason for the poor quality of service for passengers (characteristic of a seller’s market).
- Cities need to rethink their current permit policy frameworks, so that issues such as under-supply, high permit costs, and lack of transparency in permit ownership, can be addressed for the overall improvement of the sector.
The auto-rickshaw sector in India is witnessing significant entrepreneurial activity, with many innovative services and socially-focused businesses emerging in many cities, aiming to address the current challenges facing the sector while providing enhanced quality of service for passengers. Many of these entrepreneurs have joined the group and have used the platform to share ideas, and ask questions related to finance opportunities and current regulatory barriers to entrepreneurship in the sector. Following are some key insights from these discussions:
- There have been many initiatives across cities aiming to organize the currently unorganized auto-rickshaw sector into fleet-based services. The group discussions have enabled expert insights, as well as peer-to-peer learning, between initiatives in different cities, in subject areas such as regulatory barriers, which need to be eliminated to promote such initiatives, and avenues for access to finance for entrepreneurs to scale-up their businesses.
- Innovations in the area of electric auto-rickshaws and taxis were discussed, with insights on the factors that could make electric vehicles a viable option in the future (such as economics and favorable government policies), while addressing some of the complexities of large-scale deployment of electric vehicle fleet, including charging infrastructure, charging time, as well as after-sales support and maintenance of fleet.
- The discussions also shed light on some of the other areas of entrepreneurial activity in the sector, including smartphone applications for hailing auto-rickshaws and taxis; technology applications for vehicle and fare tracking; and ride-sharing services (i.e. carpooling and cab-pooling).
The way forward
The Rickshaw Taxi Discussion Group serves as a useful platform to bring together a diverse group of professionals (both organizationally and geographically), who are interested in sharing thoughts, ideas and insights on auto-rickshaw and taxi services. These discussions are enabling the members to learn about case studies from different cities in India (as well as internationally), assess regulatory implications, appreciate the innovations taking place in the sector, and identify the role of various industry stakeholders (such as regulators, civil society, and the private sector) to promote reforms. The discussions have made it clear that there are many challenges facing the sector in Indian cities, but the opportunities for reforms are significant, which would provide benefits for drivers, passengers, and cities as a whole. The group, through its discussions, hopes to serve as an important knowledge exchange platform, to help bring auto-rickshaw and taxi issues in the spotlight.
This blog post is a part of the Catalyzing New Mobility program, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation.
Rapid economic growth in developing countries has resulted in increased purchasing power among the people, which manifests itself in an ever-increasing number of private vehicles. This, in turn, is leading to greater traffic congestion; an increase in road accidents, some of which are fatal; and rapidly deteriorating air quality of the cities we live in. An EMBARQ India analysis of travel patterns in Indian cities reveals that 56–72% of trips are performed within a distance of 5 kilometers or less, which is ideal for cycling and bike-sharing networks.
Bike-sharing networks offer a solution
Public bicycle sharing is an innovative platform comprising short-term bicycle rental systems, at which bicycles can be picked up at any self-serve bicycle station and returned to any other bicycle station.
Bike-sharing is ideal for need-based, point-to-point, short-distance trips and is an ideal alternative transport mode to complete the “last mile” of a journey. Public bike-sharing networks differ from traditional leisure-oriented bicycle rental services, in that they provide fast and easy access to bicycles, and can be used for daily one-way trips. Additionally, they do not place a burden of ownership on the user. The bicycle is both an alternative and viable individual transport mode and an extension of service for “first and last mile” connectivity between home or the workplace and public transport facilities — distances that may be considered too far to walk.
Cycling has the important potential to influence all three elements of the Avoid-Shift-Improve strategy of sustainable transport and development in cities – explained here by EMBARQ Director Holger Dalkmann — by offering a healthy, eco-friendly alternative to motorized transport, while also promoting people-centric urban development.
Check out the video below featuring the 2010 debut of bike-sharing in India:
Bike-sharing from a user perspective
Bike-sharing is a flexible and low-cost form of personal public transport. Cycles are stored in a closely spaced network of stations. With a smart card or other form of identification, a user can check out a cycle from a station and return it to any other station.
Typically systems across the world provide the first half hour free, and rates increase based on the duration of rental. The nature of the rate structure allows for rapid turnover, meaning that a single cycle can be used multiple times over the course of the day.
Modern bike-sharing networks have the ability to track the identity of the user as a way of preventing bike theft. All users are required to furnish proof of identity, either at the time of registration or when signing up for temporary subscriptions. Credit cards can be used as a security mechanism if the user fails to return a cycle, a fine can be charged against the user’s credit card. The user’s account can also be blocked to prevent him/her from checking out other cycles.
Components of bike-sharing systems:
- A dense network of stations across the coverage area
- Cycles of varying sizes with specially designed parts to discourage theft
- Radio frequency identification devices (RFIDs) to track where a cycle is picked up, where it is returned, and the identity of the user
- Regular redistribution of cycles
- Real-time monitoring of station occupancy rates through General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), used to guide the redistribution of cycles
- Real-time user information provided through various platforms, including the web, mobile phones, and/or on-site terminals
- Customer service
Implementing bike-sharing systems
Entrepreneur V. Ramesh first brought bike-sharing to India in 2010, after witnessing its success in Barcelona, Spain. “The idea appealed to me so much,” Ramesh recalled, “that I quit my job in the financial sector and devoted the whole year to ground research for this project.” The FreMo system in Thane, a city outside Mumbai, in addition to the Cycle Chalao! System on Mumbai’s streets from 2010 to 2012 (see video below), demonstrated just how much potential bike-sharing could have for urban commuters in India.
Successful implementation of a cycle sharing system requires meticulous planning and oversight on the part of the government. Most cycle sharing systems operate in a public-private partnership structure in which the government carries out planning and oversight activities and the private sector handles day-to-day operations. As with most public transport systems, cycle sharing systems generally require supplemental revenue sources to cover operating and investment costs. Revenue streams used in major cycle sharing systems around the world include annual and temporary membership fees, advertising, sponsorships, and on-street parking fee proceeds.
Around 25–30 percent of trips in cities across India are performed using non-motorized modes — a practice which needs to be preserved and promoted, if urban development is to be sustainable. As a first step towards this objective, bike-sharing offers a promising solution. Public bicycle sharing systems can be introduced in the core areas of cities on a pilot basis. Based on the success of the pilots, they can be expanded to other areas of a city.
For more information on bike-sharing in India, check out this Transforming Transportation 2013 conference presentation by Amit Bhatt, Strategy Head for Urban Transport at EMBARQ India.
In the African nation of Uganda, where many areas are difficult to access and have limited resources, bicycles are saving lives. Bicycle ambulances, modified to pull a covered stretcher in back, allow an individual experiencing a medical emergency — and even pregnant women — to be transported to medical facilities quickly. This alternative has already saved many lives in a community that previously had no access to any type of transportation. The bicycle has become essential, both in bringing patients to the hospital and in transporting health professionals and medicine to the community.
The impact of the bike has not gone unnoticed by organizations and institutions worldwide, that have come onboard to support the cause. These include: Bike4Care, linked to Cycling out of Poverty; the Make a Move campaign, and the First African Bicycle Information Organization (FABIO).
In emergency cases, a motorized ambulance is the best option in terms of speed and access to medical care. But at this time, the bike is the most economically viable solution for people in villages like Katakwi, Uganda, and it is proving its worth, saving lives and raising life expectancy.
What would happen if alternative were implemented in other areas of globe, where people have poor access to health care? What you think?
Source: Bike Storming
Originally posted on TheCityFix Brasil
El boletín Temas de Análisis de abril de 2013, corresponde al Amicus Curiae (amigo de la curia o amigo del tribunal), un instituto de derecho procesal que permite la presentación de razonamientos jurídicos o interdisciplinarios a quienes no son parte procesal en causas de incidencia colectiva o que generan interés público, con el objeto de aportar a la consecución de la justicia.
Once again, China’s ability to handle a changing climate is being tested.
In 2013, rainfall in south China’s Yunnan province dropped 70 percent below average levels. This, combined with similar rainfall decline over the past three years, has turned the once water-abundant region into a much drier place.
China is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change. An extreme weather event like Yunnan’s years-long drought is just one of many problems it faces.
3D printing, the process by which objects are produced entirely from a digital model and then “printed” in successive layers, has come a long way. You may remember we did a post on this back in May 2011 on 3D printing a bicycle. Back then, two British engineers had printed the first bike, an incredible feat for the burgeoning industry. In 2013, the stakes have been raised: enter the first 3D printed house.
In the past few months, three architecture and design firms announced that they will be using 3D printers to build a house/building. Two Dutch firms — Janjaap Ruijssenaars and DUS Architects — and one British firm, Softkill Design, are competing to be the first one to build an architectural structure with a printer.
While we can expect that the first buildings to be printed will be quite expensive and may not live up to current building standards, this is the first step in what may become the way we build the cities of the future. Imagine when new buildings, monuments, parks, and fountains aren’t built the way they are today, but are designed and “printed” in place. The precision and efficiency of 3D printers has the potential to prevent materials, and time, from going to waste — allowing for safer, greener, more creative, and one day, more affordable — building options.
The design possibilities are endless!
In 2050, Pankaj and Amisha may live in the same country, but their daily experience in traffic could not be more different. Being troubled by congestion, air pollution, noise, and an insufficient public transport system is the daily life of Pankaj, an IT-consultant from Mumbai. The fact that the challenge to avoid rush hour extends his working hours and thus, has a negative impact on his social life and physical activities, causes frustration. On the other hand, Amisha, a doctor from Hyderabad, is able to bike to work, due to the short distances between her home and the hospital where she works. Cycling on safe and broad cycle paths or being able to transfer to the bus rapid transit system (BRT) is highly convenient. Amisha’s two children both walk to school, which is located only a few blocks away.
This is the starting point for a book recently published by Routledge, entitled Low-Carbon Land Transport – Policy Handbook. The authors focus on the second scenario and discuss how Amisha’s story could become a reality. The book begins by outlining drivers of increased motorization and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), such as technology, economic development, demographics, culture, and spatial development; it then provides a comprehensive overview of the tools needed to realize this vision and reducing the emissions.
The toolbox to make this vision a reality is roughly divided into three parts: strategies, quantification, and success factors:
The first part is a comprehensive overview of national and local strategies that have proven to be effective. The selection is based on the idea that policies and measures to promote low-carbon transport systems can be realized by identifying a combination of strategies, such as avoiding unnecessary travel; shifting towards a higher share of low-carbon modes, such as public transport and rail-based freight; and improving the efficiency of vehicles and the promotion of low-carbon fuels. On the local level, cities can focus on implementing high-quality cycling and walking infrastructure; transit-oriented urban development; and green mobility management. These strategies will promote sustainable transport, of which climate change mitigation is one benefit. Policies and measures are discussed not only in regard to their impacts, but also in consideration of barriers and success factors.
The second part of the toolbox focuses on measuring emissions and their reduction. In order to track progress and identify the most effective strategies, there is a need to quantify carbon emissions and account policies in future scenarios. Especially in developing countries, low-quality data is a bottleneck in the process of utilizing more advanced emission estimation methodologies. As data gathering can be a costly undertaking, an optimal balance needs to be found between costs and accuracy of outcomes. Reliable data is also benefits transport planning and other public policy goals, such as road safety and air quality improvement. Taking up the Activity-Share-Intensity-Fuel framework (ASIF), in which the total emissions are the product of activity (A), mode share (S), energy intensity (I) and fuel mix (F), the book provides an overview on several emissions inventory models, such as the German-Austrian-Swiss Handbook of Emission Factors for Road Transport (HBEFA); the Motor Vehicle Emission Simulator (MOVES); and the International Vehicle Emissions Model (IVE), in addition to scenario tools like the TREMOVE policy assessment model and the Long Range Energy Alternatives Planning system (LEAP).
Factors of success
Last but not least, the handbook also looks at barriers for implementation and success factors for policy-making. Therein, it identifies a typology of four principles or areas of success factors for effective strategy development and implementation:
- Feasible and realistic visions on what to achieve (Direction)
- Good data describing the challenges and options (Information)
- Dialogue, interest mitigation and integrated decision-making (Coordination)
- High-quality implementation and constant evaluation of the quality and success (Excellence).
Considering that transport already accounts for 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and this share is increasing, the authors of Low Carbon Land Transport – Policy Handbook argue that we are reaching a crossroads: Pankaj and Amisha represent two different ways of life that are consequences of decisions taken today. Pankaj lives in a world where the global fleet of vehicles increases to 2–3 billion. GHG emissions continue to rise, and the world has already experienced a rise in global temperature of 4 to 5 degrees. On the other hand is Amisha’s world – a scenario in which all dimensions of sustainable mobility are enhanced. Here, the global fleet of cars is kept to around 1 billion — including a large proportion of lightweight and electric, plug-in hybrid or alternative fuel engines — and air quality is improved tremendously. Global warming is kept in balance, and public health improves due to active transport. And ultimately, cities become more attractive through a vibrant street life, made possible by a lower traffic volume, due to the proximity of the workplace and home. Taking this into consideration, the book is written for today’s decision-makers who care for future generations and low carbon development.
About the authors:
Daniel Bongardt is project director at GIZ – the German International Corporation – and is responsible for urban transport and climate change in China. Since 2009, he has developed GIZ’s transport and climate change agenda. Before that, he worked at the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, a think tank on sustainable development.
Insa Eekhoff is a Sustainable Transport and Climate Change specialist for China at the German International Cooperation (GIZ).
Felix Creutzig is senior research fellow and group leader in the Economics of Climate Change department at the Technical University of Berlin (Germany). Felix is lead author of the upcoming IPCC Assessment Report on transportation and obtained his PhD in Computational Neuroscience at the Humboldt-Universität of Berlin after graduating in Theoretical Physics from the University of Cambridge.
Hanna Hüging is Research Fellow at the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy (Germany). Her research focus is on energy-efficient and low-carbon transport strategies. She holds an MSc in Environmental Science from the University of Cologne.
Ko Sakamoto is a transport economist at the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Prior to joining ADB, he worked at the UK Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), focusing on international climate change and sustainable transport policy. He holds an MA in Transport Economics from the University of Leeds.
Stefan Bakker has been a climate policy researcher at the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands in the area of climate change. He pursues a PhD on the topic of low-carbon development in the transport sector with the University of Twente, the Netherlands. Since October 2012, he implements the ASEAN-German project on Energy Efficiency in the Transport Sector on behalf of GIZ.
Sudhir Gota works as a technical manager in the Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia) Centre in Manila. He specializes in environmental issues related to transport and holds a Masters Degree in Transportation Engineering from the National Institute of Technology, Warangal.
Susanne Böhler-Baedeker is urban planning engineer and co-director of the research group ‘Energy, Transport and Climate Policy’ at the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy. For her PhD thesis at the University of Dortmund she analyzed the acceptance of different mobility services for individual mobility.