This piece was co-authored with Daniel Bongardt, Project Director of Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) China.
China—especially its cities—has embraced sustainable transport in a big way. The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development recently urged Chinese cities to increase the number of travelers using non-motorized transportation to at least 50 percent by 2015. The country has been undergoing the most rapid expansion of urban rail systems in world history, and it leads Asia in bus-rapid-transit (BRT) and busway implementation. Plus, dozens of cities are expanding non-motorized transport. Hangzhou, for example, has built up the largest public bike program in the world, accumulating 65,000 bicycles in fewer than two years.
But while China leads the developing world in sustainable urban transport expansion, the country faces great challenges when it comes to financing the construction, maintenance, and operation of new and existing public urban transport projects.
The Great Challenge of Funding Sustainable Transport Projects in Chinese Cities
China lacks dedicated funding structures for planned public transit, biking, and walking facilities—at both the national and local levels. The Ministry of Transport provides funding only for inter-city highway projects, acquiring this revenue from gasoline taxes and vehicle registry fees. Local governments, which are often in charge of urban public transport development, currently support metro or BRT construction through per project-based funding, mainly via land leasing and local loans--neither of which is sustainable.
Who said urban transport was boring? Certainly not the 1,100 people who recently gathered in Mexico City at the 8th annual International Congress on Sustainable Transport. The event, organized by colleagues at EMBARQ Mexico, brought together leading government officials, practitioners, academics, and other professionals to explore lessons and find new solutions to global transportation challenges. I was amazed by the energy and excitement that pervaded the event and by the ideas and innovations emerging in this field.
I had the pleasure of addressing the plenary on the bigger context for urban transport in today’s global society. With nearly a billion people being added to the world’s cities in the coming decades, how transport systems are designed will be pivotal for livelihoods, society, and the global environment. Transportation goes to the heart of how we live and what kind of future we want.
2011/2012 was a transition period as WRI said goodbye to President Jonathan Lash and welcomed new President Andrew Steer. With ample wind in our sails from 18 years of Jonathan’s leadership, the Institute’s accomplishments—many captured in this report—reflect both the strength and versatility he...
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are working to finalize rules for light-duty vehicles that could significantly reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
These rules, which could be released this week, will establish new fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for passenger cars and light trucks for model years 2017 through 2025. Light-duty vehicles represent a significant portion of U.S. greenhouse gases, accounting for approximately 17 percent of U.S. emissions. If the forthcoming rules resemble the proposed standards published by EPA and NHTSA last November, they will be an important step forward in protecting the environment and shielding consumers from higher gas prices.
Highlights from the Proposed Rules
The proposed rules would establish an emissions standard of 144 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per mile for passenger cars and 203 grams of CO2 per mile for trucks. If vehicles meet the standards entirely through fuel economy improvements, cars will achieve 61 miles per gallon (mpg), while trucks will achieve 43 mpg [^1]. If cars and trucks attain these standards, vehicles sold in 2025 will consume roughly half the fuel as vehicles sold in 2008 (27 mpg), emitting about half the greenhouse gases.
One week ago, with assistance from EMBARQ India, the city of Rajkot, in partnership with Nirmal Foundation, launched the G-Auto service, debuting a new fleet of auto-rickshaws, featuring a unified brand and dial-a-rixa (call-in) service, on July 13. The initial fleet includes 50 auto-rickshaws. The service will scale-up in the coming months and is expected to reach a fleet size of around 500 auto-rickshaws at the end of the first year of operations.
Rajkot, a city of around 1.3 million people in Gujarat State, India, currently has a patchwork collection of auto-rickshaw fleets and companies, with more than 12,000 auto-rickshaws currently operating, many without formal fare structures or employment benefits for drivers. G-Auto service will continue to expand its fleet in the coming months, with support from EMBARQ India and the Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC). This partnership, fostered by EMBARQ India, has coalesced over the past eight months to allow for safe and reliable auto-rickshaw service for the people of Rajkot.
WRI's experts will continue to provide commentary and analysis of the results of the Rio+20 conference through our series, "Rio+20 in the Rear View." Check Insights this week and next for more post-Rio+20 coverage.
As we look to make sense of the Rio+20 conference that concluded last week, we can confidently say that transportation drove its way to the top of the sustainable development agenda. It’s a far departure from the last global development conference 10 years ago in Johannesburg, when transportation was conspicuously absent from the agenda and the resulting Millennium Development Goals. After the Rio+20 conference last week, transportation is now poised to become a significant part of the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals, which are beginning to take shape as one of the conference’s major outcomes.
With transportation intricately tied to so many of the global mega-trends today—climate change, traffic fatalities, city growth and congestion, poverty, and air pollution—it was exciting to see sustainable transport finally included in development discussions. Here are a few of Rio+20’s major transportation outcomes:
It’s the final week of Rio+20, and WRI’s experts are on the ground for all the action. Each day, I’ll bring you highlights of what’s on the horizon. Check out the details below on the exciting things happening tomorrow. And be sure to visit the full list of WRI's Rio+20 events.
The formal text for Rio+20's official outcome document was agreed to today. Meanwhile, WRI hosted its event on governance (watch the video recording here), and I had the opportunity to spend some time with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who visited Rio de Janeiro's operation center. Plus, the Mayor of Rio highlighted the EMABARQ Center for Sustainable Transportation's work on the city's first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor.
The official, three-day Rio+20 conference begins tomorrow, June 20th. Here's what's on tap:
More than 50,000 international experts and leaders from government, NGOs, business, and other sectors are flocking to the United Nations' Rio+20 Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Taking place 20 years after the first Earth Summit, Rio+20 aims to address two major, globally important themes: building a green economy and establishing a framework for sustainable development that will decrease poverty, boost social equity, and protect the environment.
Rio+20's informal sessions kicked off last week and will continue right up until the official conference on June 20th-22nd. WRI's experts in business, climate, energy, forests, governance, transportation, and more are on the ground for all the action. (Check out a full list of official WRI events at Rio+20).
Before WRI's staff headed to Rio, I asked our experts the following question: What is significant about the Rio+20 conference, and what do you hope will come out of it?
Ten years ago, world leaders convened in Johannesburg to establish the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), global strategies designed to end poverty, hunger, and disease by 2015. While the pledges were ambitious, they neglected to recognize a critical component of sustainable development: transportation. Development banks, governments, and other decision-makers spent the next decade focusing their attention on MDG priorities. Meanwhile, cities around the world faced worsening traffic congestion, increased air pollution, and dangerous roads.
We’re now face-to-face with the next major global development summit, the U.N.’s Rio+20 Conference. One of the biggest tasks at hand will be shaping new “Sustainable Development Goals,” plans that will pick up where the MDGs left off. This time, we can’t leave transportation out of the agenda.
The Rio+20 informal sessions kicked off this week, and WRI’s experts are on the ground for all the action. Each day, we’ll bring you highlights of upcoming WRI events. Check out the details below on what we’ve got going on tomorrow. And be sure to visit the full list of all WRI events at Rio+20.
Jaipur, in northern India, is a tourist destination well known for its forts, palaces, and gardens. The city is also witnessing a rapid growth in its trade and manufacturing industries, and an influx of people from small villages and nearby towns in search of employment, education, and a better standard of living.
Facing high transport demand and lacking a formal public transport system, the city is partnering with EMBARQ India to help manage the reorganization of bus services, as a crucial first step toward a modern, sustainable transport system. Technical assistance from EMBARQ, WRI’s Center for Sustainable Transport, included guidance on fare structures and contract negotiations to reduce operational costs. We also helped develop tools for bus schedules and for monitoring performance to improve quality of service.
The public response has been overwhelmingly positive. Ridership on the Jaipur bus system increased from 65,000 in July 2010 to 172,000 in March 2011, and the city is planning to expand the system from 200 to 400 buses. India’s Ministry of Urban Development recognized Jaipur’s new bus system as a best emerging initiative at its annual urban mobility conference.
With cities set to house almost 5 billion people by 2030, how urban transport systems are designed will be pivotal for local economies, public health, and the global environment.
In June 2012, Rio de Janeiro blazed a trail for sustainable transport when it launched a 56 km cross-city bus rapid transit (BRT) system. Designed and implemented with technical support from EMBARQ, the high-tech bus route carries 220,000 passengers a day, establishing best practice in bringing improved quality of life while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
BRT systems bring proven environmental, social, and economic benefits to crowded, congested, and polluted cities.
In Rio, the new BRT line, Transoeste, replaces short, fragmented bus routes with a rapid-transit corridor that gives priority to buses and enables passengers to cross the city on one bus instead of several. Pre-ticketing speeds journeys, as do dedicated BRT lanes and high-platform stations in place of roadside bus stops. For the first time, people from the west of Rio de Janeiro without cars can easily access opportunities in the far south.
The result is safer transport, shorter commutes, less pollution, and greater social inclusion. Typical travel time has been cut by at least half for 65 percent of riders. Surveys suggest 90 percent of passengers are satisfied with the new service. “Now I have one more hour to sleep in the morning and more time to play with my kids in the evening,” was one typical comment.
EMBARQ studies show road safety benefits from the BRT corridor. The BRT will save an estimated 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year by 2016, as well as 148 million hours of passengers’ time.
Making Change Happen: WRI’s Role
EMBARQ promotes BRT routes and their critical role in sustainable, integrated public transport systems around the world.
In Rio, EMBARQ Brazil partnered with the Municipal Secretariat for Transport and Mayor Eduardo Paes in providing technical support for Transoeste. In addition to providing design and project management expertise, EMBARQ assisted with marketing the new transport system to residents and the media. We also guide continuing safety audits that will help maximize passenger safety benefits.
By 2016, the year Rio hosts the summer Olympics, city authorities plan to expand the BRT network to 153 km. This expansion would make it the largest BRT network in Latin America, carrying 1.2 million passengers daily. By showcasing the bus transportation of the future, Rio’s actions can help promote BRT scale-up across emerging economies.
Urban transport in India, the world’s second-most populous country, has wide-ranging effects on local public health and safety, as well as on the global environment.
The number of auto-rickshaws in Indian cities has doubled between 2003 and 2010, offering significant opportunities to promote more sustainable transport. In a move to reduce pollution, improve road safety, and boost service, in July 2012, the city of Rajkot in Gujarat launched India’s first organized fleet service for auto-rickshaws.
EMBARQ India helped design and implement the pioneering fleet service, which sets a precedent for other cities seeking to provide sustainable public transport choices for India’s soaring urban population.
Reforming Rickshaws, Promoting Sustainable Transport
Auto-rickshaws are used for 10-20 percent of daily motorized road trips in India’s urban centers. Fleets range from 30,000 vehicles in medium-sized cities such as Rajkot (population 3.8 million) to 150,000 vehicles in Mumbai. While they provide a crucial form of intermediate public transport—especially for low-income residents—auto-rickshaws raise health and safety concerns. Their two-stroke engines are a major source of PM10 (soot) emissions, and poor design and maintenance can threaten passenger safety. Traditional lack of management of the sector creates additional problems, including informal fares and empty trips that generate unnecessary pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
Rajkot’s solution was to launch G-Auto – India’s first city-supported, privately operated fleet auto-rickshaw service. Managed by the city government in partnership with Nirmal Foundation, a charitable trust, G-Auto launched with 100 vehicles and will expand significantly over time.
Benefits for passengers include reliable, meter-based services; trained drivers; dial-in, doorstep pickup services; and dependable auto-rickshaw presence at bus terminals, railway stations, and the airport. In terms of broader sustainable transportation policy, G-Auto promotes the use of public transport and reduced reliance on private motor vehicles.
Making Change Happen: WRI’s Role
EMBARQ India was a key partner in designing and implementing Rajkot’s organized auto-rickshaw fleet. In April 2011, EMBARQ India signed an MOU with the Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) to help the city implement the sector reforms.
Based on our service-model concept, RMC invited bids to run the fleet service. EMBARQ India then drew up the pioneering partnership agreement and helped organize the service launch.
EMBARQ India is continuing to monitor the service and provide technical support. There is great demand to replicate the Rajkot model in other Indian cities. In August 2012, the city of Surat led the way, launching a pilot rickshaw fleet of 35 vehicles, with aspirations for significant scale-up.
Legislation by national governments to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is essential to achieving a low-carbon economy and improved public health worldwide.
In 2012, Mexico took the historic step of enacting a comprehensive climate change law. The groundbreaking legislation commits Mexico to cut its GHG emissions by half by 2050 and prominently features sustainable transport initiatives.
EMBARQ Mexico played a major role in shaping the law, proposing measures for mass transit, fuel efficiency, pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, and restrictions on high-polluting vehicles—all of which the government included.
Setting a Precedent for Global Climate Action
When a government signals its seriousness about combating climate change by passing legislation, it promotes the country’s transition towards a competitive, sustainable, and low-carbon economy. It provides a precedent for other countries to follow suit, and gives a boost to the U.N. international climate negotiations.
Mexico’s groundbreaking law makes it one of the first countries to adopt ambitious and comprehensive legislation on climate change. Enacted by President Felipe Calderón, the General Law of Climate Change seeks to guarantee citizens’ right to a healthy environment. The law will unlock substantial federal funds for low-carbon development and will prompt new regulations to mitigate GHG emissions.
In a major departure from the international climate negotiations, the bill’s measures for reaching the 2050 emissions goal include transforming transportation systems and infrastructure. Mexico’s president worked across party lines at the federal, state, and city levels to win agreement on the policies needed to meet the bill’s ambitious targets.
Making Change Happen: WRI’s Role
EMBARQ Mexico was designated as the transport expert to review the draft bill when it went before Mexico’s Senate and make specific policy recommendations.
We proposed key sustainable transport measures that were included in the final law, including the development of sustainable mass transport systems and improved infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists. The bill also includes our recommendations to develop new fuel-efficiency standards for light and heavy-duty vehicles, as well as regulations restricting imports of high-polluting vehicles.
EMBARQ’s prominent role in the legislation stemmed from our work in helping Mexican cities to introduce sustainable transport systems, as well as our national policy research demonstrating the importance of sustainable transport as a climate-mitigation strategy.
Developing countries, led by China and India, will build more urban areas between now and 2030 than humanity has throughout history. These 21st-century cities can drive social and environmental progress by embracing sustainable approaches to urban development, including transportation.
Recognizing this situation, the world’s biggest multilateral development banks (MDBs) pledged in June 2012 to provide $175 billion over 10 years to help fund sustainable transportation systems. EMBARQ played an important supporting role in the banks’ decision to invest this unprecedented sum into initiatives in emerging regions like Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.
A Game Changer for Sustainable Transport
The banks’ announcement, made at the U.N. Sustainable Development Conference in Rio de Janeiro (Rio+20), will enable the scale-up of sustainable transport systems across the developing world. Equally important, it signals a critical shift in MDB investment policies, moving away from environmentally damaging transport infrastructure such as highways.
The financial institutions taking part are the African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, CAF-Development Bank of Latin America, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, European Investment Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank, and the World Bank.
Over the next decade, their investments in initiatives such as improved mass transit systems and walking and cycling routes, should bring cleaner air, less congested roads, and safer transport to hundreds of millions of people. Other benefits will likely include improved mobility for the poor, safer roads, and reductions in transport-related climate impacts. Transport is responsible for about one-quarter of global carbon dioxide emissions.
The banks’ leadership is also likely to encourage national governments to adopt such transport projects, placing sustainability at the heart of urban development.
Making Change Happen: WRI’s Role
For four years, EMBARQ played a key public role in the discussions and preparatory processes that led to the banks’ joint declaration. For example, EMBARQ organized several Transforming Transportation conferences in partnership with the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank, convening thought leaders to focus on MDB policy. EMBARQ helped found the Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT), whose advocacy played a pivotal role in catalyzing the MDBs’ financial commitment. EMBARQ also advised and built close working relationships with influential decision-makers at the Asian Development Bank and Inter-American Development Bank, two institutions at the forefront of the shift in MDBs’ thinking.
The attention paid to sustainable transport at Rio+20—not only by MDBs, but by governments, NGOs, and civil society—provides an unparalleled opportunity to scale up EMBARQ’s work at international, national, and local levels worldwide.
Indian cities are urbanizing at an unprecedented scale and pace. Over the next few decades, India’s urban population is expected to increase significantly, from 377 million in 2011 to 590 million by 2030.
In 2011, nearly 350 million people lived in Indian cities. More than 300 million new residents will join them over the next few decades to become part of the new urban India. This population boom will stress an already-pressured urban infrastructure system, especially with regard to transportation.
Indeed, Indian cities have become synonymous with congestion, noise, and air pollution. Each year, 135,000 people die in traffic crashes on Indian roads. Currently, India has 120 million vehicles, a number that is steadily growing. In 2010, outdoor air pollution contributed to more than 620,000 premature deaths. Plus, urban transport’s energy use and greenhouse gas emissions are set to increase almost seven-fold in the next 20 years.
This trend is clearly not sustainable if India’s city residents want to have any sort of quality of life in the future. In order to reverse course, the country must begin scaling sustainable transport and ensuring that it is integrated with land development. This is a topic we’ll discuss extensively during next week’s CONNECTKaro, a sustainable transport and urban development conference co-hosted by EMBARQ India, WRI’s center for sustainable transport in India.
Over the past two decades, the world has witnessed a remarkable period of economic and human development: More than 2 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water; life expectancy has increased by approximately five years; more children are going to school, with 90 percent enrolled in primary education; and per capita income levels have doubled across developing countries.
China has experienced an even more profound transformation during this period. The country has sustained an annual GDP growth of around 10 percent. Five hundred million people have been lifted out of extreme poverty. People's lives have visibly improved and there are more opportunities for them.
Yet, many challenges remain. With the world's expanding population, rapid economic growth, and booming middle class, the pressure on natural resources is mounting. The truth is the world is on an unsustainable path.
China is part of this problem, but it also must be part of the solution. China faces real challenges when it comes to the environment and natural resources. Demand for water is rapidly outpacing supply, with food, energy, and domestic use intensifying for this scarce resource. The need for affordable and clean energy is on the rise. China's rapidly expanding urban population is having a significant impact on transportation, energy, and water infrastructure.
As more and more people move into cities, more cars are also hitting the streets. These vehicles not only spew greenhouse gas emissions, they can cause urban traffic fatalities. We already see 1.2 million traffic-related deaths per year worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, with increased urbanization and motorization, road fatalities are expected to become the fifth-leading cause of death by 2030.
What are some of the key drivers of urban traffic fatalities? What can be done to reduce fatalities through sustainable urban development and sustainable urban mobility? What are successful examples of projects to reduce road fatalities in cities?