The world is in the midst of unprecedented urbanization, with cities expected to hold 5.2 billion residents by 2050. One of the major challenges of the 21st century, therefore, is achieving a sustainable future for our cities. And transport – which connects people to economic opportunities, education, health services, and more – can make or break “The Future We Want.”
Experts at Transforming Transportation have identified five opportunities to move human society toward transport of the 21st century. These areas for action include: road safety, mid-sized cities, regional and local governments, finance, and data and technology.
Tracking Public and Private Investment in Transport
This paper attempts to quantify capital investment in transport around the world. Distinguishing public and private investment at the national and international level is the first step needed to shift investment towards more sustainable, low-carbon modes and systems.
Last month, SLoCaT and the Bridging the Gap Initiative (BtG) led a partnership of 15 additional co-organizers to host Transport Day 2013 at the nineteenth Conference of the Parties (COP 19) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). EMBARQ, the sustainable urban transport and planning program of the World Resources Institute, was one of the 15 co-organizers of the event.
This year’s COP was held in Warsaw, Poland, from November 11 to November 22, 2013. Transport Day was November 17, marking the first time an entire day at COP has been dedicated to transport, and underscoring the importance of engaging the transport sector in addressing climate change.
It is not possible to effectively address climate change without substantive [greenhouse gas] GHG emission reductions by the transport sector. But putting the pieces together – especially in developing countries – will require fine-tuning transportation climate finance readiness to match growing demand.
New research shows that Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) can reduce travel time by millions of hours for commuters worldwide. For instance, BRT users in Istanbul, Turkey, can save 28 days per year by shifting from other transport modes to BRT. Commuters in Johannesburg, South Africa, meanwhile, can save an estimated 73 million hours between 2007 and 2026. That’s the equivalent of more than 9 million eight-hour work-days.
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) – a high-quality, efficient, bus-based mode of public transport – can shorten commuting times, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and generally improve quality-of-life for city residents. Today, 160 cities around the world use BRT and busway systems—up from just 45 cities since WRI’s EMBARQ program was founded in 2002. EMBARQ has played a major role in expanding the BRT concept to cities throughout the world.
Rapid urbanization, motorization, and climate change require high-quality, sustainable urban transport solutions that can be developed quickly and cost-effectively. BRT systems can carry up to 46,000 passengers per hour—matching some of the world’s busiest metros—and can be implemented at one-tenth to one-half of the time and cost as subways or light rail. Yet in the early 2000s, BRT systems were largely limited to Latin America, and the rate of adopting the new system had plateaued.
Since EMBARQ’s founding in 2002, our experts have helped implement and develop the BRT concept around the world. We collaborate with local, regional, and national-level decision-makers to provide research and expertise that is both technical – advising on aspects such as safety, operations, fare integration, and branding – and political – navigating relationships to create a common vision.
EMBARQ provided technical assistance to more than 20 cities over the past 11 years. These cities’ BRT systems have now carried passengers on more than 5 billion trips. These systems save passengers almost 30 percent travel time, reduce CO2 emissions, and improve safety. In 2013 alone, we directly influenced new or improved BRT systems in cities such as Lima, Peru; Indore, India; Puebla and Chihuahua, Mexico; and Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Currently, EMBARQ is helping to plan or expand systems in Bangalore, India; Izmit, Turkey; Brasilia, Brazil; and Chengdu, China..
EMBARQ has also played a major role in championing financial support from international banks and national programs, such as in Mexico and India, for sustainable transport systems like BRT. In addition, we’ve published and widely disseminated cutting-edge research such as Modernizing Public Transport, and built BRT capacity through learning networks and trainings.
Today, 160 cities have adopted BRT. The BRT concept has reached a tipping point, with massive new investment and significant expansion planned on six continents. EMBARQ estimates that dozens of cities around the world are planning new or expanding existing BRT or busways, giving citizens access to safe, equitable transport and a higher overall quality of life.
Moving forward, EMBARQ will continue to promote major global BRT scale-up through project implementation, national policy advice, influence in major financing initiatives, and capacity building.
In June 2013, Mexico took a big step toward a low-carbon economy and improved public health by implementing a new fuel-efficiency standard for light vehicles– the first fuel-efficiency standard in Latin America. EMBARQ Mexico played a major role in developing this new standard, writing the draft regulation, proposing mechanisms for economic flexibility, and assisting the government of Mexico during the negotiation process.
National fuel-efficiency standards are critical tools in reducing CO2 emissions and improving public health. Yet, Mexico was the only OECD country without a fuel-efficiency standard, and Mexican car manufacturers were hesitant to support a new fuel-efficiency regulation.
For four years, EMBARQ and our partner, Centro Mario Molina, collaborated with the Mexican government to help develop a new fuel-efficiency standard. Originally, EMBARQ Mexico offered the Mexican government our transport and economic expertise. Then, when negotiations between the government and the car industry broke down, EMBARQ and Centro Mario Molina stepped in and presented Mexico’s National Environmental Ministry (SEMARNAT) with a fully written draft regulation and strong technical support. This draft brought the automotive industry to the negotiation table, and won EMBARQ a voting seat on Mexico’s National Standardization Committee of Environment. Finally, on June 21, 2013, the final fuel-efficiency standard was released, with recognition for EMBARQ’s contributions published in the official journal text.
The new standard mandates a new vehicle fleet average of 14.9 kilometers per liter of gas (or 35 miles per gallon) by 2016. This will reduce CO2 emissions by 170 megatons– the amount of CO2 captured by a forest 10 times the size of Mexico City. It’s a win for people and the environment – consumers will save $2,700 USD each in fuel over the lifetime of a regulated vehicle.
In addition, Mexico patterned their standard on U.S. and Canadian regulations, meaning these three countries now have a harmonized fuel-efficiency standard. Mexico exports 81 percent of its cars to the global market, so this regulation could make the Mexican car industry more competitive globally.
The Mexican experience, tools, and methodology can be replicated in other developing countries that are in the process of implementing fuel-efficiency standards. Furthermore, expanding this regulation to other countries creates incentives for an increasingly homogeneous and more efficient global automotive industry.
EMBARQ Mexico is part of the EMBARQ network. EMBARQ is a program of the World Resources Institute. EMBARQ helps cities make sustainable transport a reality.