Ani Dasgupta, Global Director of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities discusses unique solutions cities can offer to combat climate change, boost economic prosperity, and catalyze smart urbanization.
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, 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 percent.
This report includes recommendations for integrating safety into the planning, design, and operation of major bus routes.
More than one half of the world’s population lives in cities, and by 2030, about one billion additional people will live in urban areas.
Former president of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, explains that how cities build their transport systems will determine their economic performance and citizens’ quality of life.
The number of SUV models getting at least 25 miles per gallon (mpg) has doubled in the last five years, while the number of cars achieving at least 40 mpg has increased sevenfold. Research shows that new policies can drive efficient vehicle use even further, lowering emissions and saving consumers money.
WRI initiated major bus reforms to improve public transportation in Bangalore, Karnataka, Ahmedabad, Bhopal and Surat and held car-free events in five Indian cities. During these "Raahgiri Days," cities closed streets to motorized vehicles for several hours to encourage walking, cycling and outdoor recreation, showing citizens that streets are for pedestrians and cyclists, not just cars.
With India’s urban population expected to grow to 590 million by 2030 and personal vehicle use on the rise, other forms of transportation suffer. Buses, India’s main public transit option, use outdated and inefficient systems, resulting in long commutes. Roads are unsafe: Pedestrians and bicyclists account for as much as 60 percent of road deaths in Indian cities. More personal motor vehicles cause traffic congestion and air pollution. Indian cities need improved transportation alternatives to decrease motorization and improve the urban quality of life.
WRI initiated major bus reforms to improve public transportation in four Indian cities. In Bangalore, WRI helped put in place a modern bus route system, a reform Indian cities had tried to implement for 20 years. WRI also aided in introducing city buses in seven cities in Karnataka. In 2013, WRI worked with transportation agencies in Ahmedabad, Bhopal and Surat to launch India’s first bus rapid transit (BRT) systems, where a lane is dedicated to buses, letting them travel faster. This year, WRI collaborated with the cities’ transport agencies to help design and train the operators to run 53 additional kilometers of BRT.
To make cities more walkable and bikeable, WRI held car-free events in five Indian cities, including Delhi and Navi Mumbai. For these events, called Raahgiri Days, cities closed streets to motorized vehicles for several hours to encourage walking, cycling and outdoor recreation, showing urban residents that city streets are for pedestrians and cyclists, as well as for cars.
Better bus systems and the Raahgiri movement have made life better for Indian city dwellers. Bangalore’s new bus network reduced travel times and improved public transport for approximately 150,000 passengers daily. Since implementing BRTs in three Indian cities, fatal accidents have decreased by 50 percent around BRT corridors, particulate air pollution has decreased by 20 percent, and a quarter of motor vehicle users have switched to public transportation. The Raahgiri phenomenon has changed how people perceive cycling and pedestrian infrastructure in Indian cities. .
EMBARQ Brasil provided technical assistance to the transportation agencies of Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Brasilia—three of Brazil’s largest and most traffic-congested cities—to design and implement bus rapid transit (BRT) systems. In 2014, 154 kilometers of high-quality BRT corridors were launched, cutting 1.5 million people’s commute times by 50 percent.
Brazil is the sixth-largest economy in the world, and 85 percent of its citizens are urban dwellers. However, Brazilian mega-cities suffer from poor transportation design and infrastructure, increasingly relying on cars and motorcycles as people become more affluent. Every day, millions of cars flood Brazil’s streets, resulting in traffic congestion, road fatalities and air pollution. Meanwhile, inefficient, low-quality bus services cause long, uncomfortable commutes. Bus rides that would take 40 minutes in an efficient system take more than twice that in Brazil’s urban areas. These problems are compounded by the country’s booming urban population.
Starting in 2010, WRI’s Brazilian transport arm, EMBARQ Brasil, provided technical assistance to the transportation agencies of Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Brasilia — three of Brazil’s largest and most traffic-congested cities — to design and implement bus rapid transit (BRT) systems. BRTs incorporate bus-only traffic lanes with large, state-of-the-art buses to provide fast, high-quality service.
In each city, EMBARQ Brasil convened bus companies and operators, agency officials, and other major stakeholders to plan and invest in BRT networks. It also hosted workshops, giving those who will implement the projects a chance to learn from BRT experts and put these lessons to use in operation manuals and contingency plans. With extensive experience in BRT, EMBARQ Brasil provided technical expertise to design the actual systems, placing as much emphasis on safety, accessibility and low emissions as on speed and efficiency. EMBARQ Brasil experts then trained the system operators.
In 2014, 154 kilometers of high-quality BRT corridors were launched in Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Brasilia. These systems cut 1.5 million people’s commute times by 50 percent, and millions of city residents benefited from safer roads and cleaner air. The success of the BRT systems has motivated the governments of all three cities to continue to expand the networks, with an additional 211 kilometers of BRT in the planning and early implementation stages. These projects provide a model of transportation reform, empowering and inspiring other Brazilian cities to achieve sustainable urban mobility.
Rapid urbanization creates a number challenges for city leaders, but the growing use of sustainable urban mobility solutions provides reasons for optimism in cities worldwide.
Through the Compact of Mayors and parallel initiatives, cities are making ambitious commitments to curb emissions, adopting new greenhouse gas emissions measuring standards, and supporting the financing of low-carbon infrastructure.
Next week at the UN Climate Summit in New York City, leaders from business, national government, and cities will convene to discuss bold actions to address climate change in various sectors, including transport.
And while climate change is an international challenge, climate action in the transport sector is proven to create significant and immediate development benefits at the national and local levels.