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  • Blog post

    Why Transportation Needs to Be on the Rio+20 Agenda

    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.

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  • Blog post

    What's Happening at Rio+20: June 15th

    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.

    Coming Tomorrow: June 15, 2012

    Sustainable Transport in the Cities of the Future

    WHO: Holger Dalkmann, Director EMBARQ

    WHEN: Friday, June 15 2012, 1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. BRT

    WHERE: Rio+20, United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Riocentro Complex, Room T-5

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  • Blog post

    Rio de Janeiro Opens First Bus Rapid Transit Corridor

    This post was originally published in Portuguese on EMBARQBrasil.org.

    As world leaders gather to address global sustainability at Rio+20, the summit’s host city, Rio de Janeiro, just undertook its own green initiative—it launched its first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor.

    The lives of millions of cariocas, Rio de Janeiro residents, have already started to change with the opening of the Transoeste, the city’s first BRT corridor. The public transit system, developed with assistance from EMBARQ – WRI’s Center for Sustainable Transportation, expects to help hundreds of thousands of Rio residents, providing them with safer transport, shorter commutes, and less pollution.

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  • Blog post

    BRT by the Numbers: New Database Launched

    This piece originally appeared on TheCityFix blog.

    Three global organizations recently launched a new public database of bus rapid transit (BRT) systems around the world.

    Here are some need-to-know numbers of BRT trends:

    13 – Cities with BRT systems in the United States

    24 – Cities with BRT systems in Asia

    36 – Countries with BRT systems worldwide

    95 – Different indicators used in the brtdata.org database

    129 – New corridors implemented globally since 2000

    134 – Cities with BRT systems

    560 – Kilometers (348 miles) of BRT in Brazil—more than any other country

    3,358 – Kilometers (2,087 miles) of BRT worldwide

    110,000 – Passengers on New York City’s BX Select Bus Service, the highest volume of passengers of all U.S. systems

    600,000 – passenger trips daily on U.S. BRT systems

    22 million – passenger trips daily worldwide

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  • Publication
  • Blog post

    Bold Vision for the Future of Sustainable Transport

    EMBARQ and its partners are pleased to host the annual Transforming Transportation event on January 26-27 at The World Bank in Washington, D.C. This year’s conference will focus on big ideas to scale up sustainable transport best practices in cities worldwide. To learn more, see the agenda for Day 1 and Day 2. Highlights include a keynote address by Jaime Lerner, former Mayor of Curitiba, on the “Future of the City: Challenges of Scaling Up Good Practices in Urban Transport,” and a keynote address by Chris West, director of Shell Foundation, on “Innovations in Scaling: What Lessons are Available for the Transport Sector?”

    The following is a letter from EMBARQ’s 10-year report, 20 Years of EMBARQ: Celebrating the Past 10, Setting a Vision for the Next 10. It was originally posted on TheCityFix.

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  • Blog post

    Three Ideas That Are Good for Both Economy and Environment

    This piece was written with Vinod Thomas, Director General, Independent Evaluation, Asian Development Bank. It originally appeared in The Guardian.

    As we enter a new year, the world continues to be in the grips of dual crises. A stubborn economic downturn with widespread job losses combined with accelerating global warming threatening vulnerable communities. Many argue that dealing with climate change in the midst of an economic slump will hurt recovery efforts. The underlying reality, however, is quite the opposite. Not only can preparing for climate change offer opportunities for economic growth, it would be unwise to pursue one without the other.

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  • Blog post

    Mexico’s Proposed 2012 Budget Fails to Allocate Adequate Funding for Climate Change

    This post is based on a release that originally appeared on the CEMDA website.

    According to a new study by the Mexican Finance Group – 16 NGOs, including CEMDA, that work on environmental, budget, gender equity, and human rights issues – the funding currently allocated in Mexico’s budget for climate change mitigation and adaptation is insufficient for meeting the goals the country has established for 2012. The group, created in 2010, agrees that international finance is necessary to complement domestic investment in order to achieve Mexico’s emissions targets, but they affirm that first and foremost it is necessary improve the national budget allocation to begin the transition towards a low carbon development path.

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  • Blog post

    Five Lessons from The Atlantic’s Green Intelligence Forum on Sustainable Cities

    Last week The Atlantic hosted its 4th annual Green Intelligence Forum on sustainable cities, assembling a rich buffet of experts and moderators. The Forum made clear the complexity of the sustainable cities movement but also its necessity, what with millions migrating to urban areas amid scarcer resources. Demand is soaring on many fronts for safe, healthy, livable places, and smarter urbanization is looking less like a trend than an inevitability. Five things I took away from the conversations:

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  • Blog post

    Committee on Climate Change Advises Northern Ireland to Harness Significant Opportunities to Reduce Emissions

    This post originally appeared on November 2, 2011 on the UK Committee on Climate Change's website.

    The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) will today advise the Northern Ireland Environment Minister that legislated emission reduction targets could be helpful to harness the significant opportunities to reduce emissions in Northern Ireland.

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Embracing Ecological Progress in China

This post originally appeared on ChinaDaily.com.

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.

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More Urbanites, More Cars: The Challenge of Urban Road Safety and Health

This post originally appeared on TheCityFix.com.

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?

At the invitation of The Brookings Institution and the FIA Foundation, Holger Dalkmann, Director of WRI’s EMBARQ Center for Sustainable Transport, and Claudia Adriazola-Steil, EMBARQ Director of the Health & Road Safety Program, highlighted last week in Washington, DC some key findings and actions to reduce urban traffic fatalities. Here are some highlights:

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Unlocking Sustainable Transport Starts with Cities

This post originally appeared on National Geographic's "City Solutions" blog.

City leaders face incredible pressure to deliver sustainable transportation. Cities now account for more than half of the world’s population—by 2050, they will hold 75 percent of us. These people--increasingly from the middle class--will need ways to commute to work, travel, and carry out their livelihoods.

At the same time, 1.27 million people die from traffic accidents every year—about half of these fatalities occur in cities. Cities also account for about 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, much of which is transportation-related.

Cities, then, are tasked with a huge challenge: provide reliable, safe, and affordable transportation systems that can benefit both people and planet.

Meeting this challenge is a topic we discussed at length during the 10th annual Transforming Transportation conference in Washington, D.C. The two-day event looked at the various ways to scale up sustainable transportation and share lessons learned. Examples of city leadership were featured prominently throughout the event—and can serve as inspiration for how urban centers can meet transportation challenges.

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4 Big Ideas to Revolutionize Transportation

Two leaders on urban development recently came together on the same stage: Dr. Jim Yong Kim and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Kim, president of the World Bank, and Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, headlined a panel at the Transforming Transportation conference, an event co-organized by the World Bank and WRI’s EMBARQ Center for Sustainable Transport. Through a discussion moderated by Zanny Minton Beddoes, an editor at The Economist, and closed by WRI’s president, Dr. Andrew Steer, Kim and Bloomberg took on the meaty topic of how to shape the future of urban transport.

It was an interesting pairing of perspectives. Bloomberg is a leader in business, government, and philanthropy who has had an enormous impact on New York City. Kim brings a public health and international perspective, and now, at the World Bank, focuses on advancing the goal of reducing poverty and boosting “shared prosperity” across the globe. Despite their different backgrounds, the two shared the idea that sustainable transport goes beyond moving vehicles and infrastructure. At its core, transportation is about improving the health and quality of life for people.

A Critical Moment for Sustainable Transport

As both Kim and Bloomberg noted, the world is moving unsustainably—literally. About 1.3 million people die every year as a result of traffic accidents. In most cities, motorized transport is responsible for 80 percent of local air pollution. And with 70 percent of the world’s population expected to live in cities by 2050, these urban problems are likely to worsen.

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3 Big Opportunities to Transform Transportation

The need for action on sustainable transport has never been more apparent than it is today. The world’s population is expected to reach a whopping 9.8 billion people by 2050, with about 70 percent of these people residing in cities. Meanwhile, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are on the rise. Transportation contributes 13 percent of global emissions, spurring climate change and creating dangerous air pollution.

Sustainable transport—like public transport systems, bicycling lanes, and walking—has the capacity to save lives, reduce energy use and GHG emissions, facilitate access to goods and services that support sustainable development, and enhance the overall quality of life in cities. While the need for sustainable transport has long been accepted in some parts of the world, it is now gaining momentum globally. Cities, which are so important to the global economy, play a key role.

A Critical Moment for Sustainable Transportation

Multi-lateral development banks (MDBs) signaled a paradigm shift when they committed $175 billion for sustainable transport over 10 years at the Rio+20 summit this past June. While the funding comes from resources already allocated for development, this commitment represents the first time that MDBs have earmarked dollars of this magnitude for sustainable transport. This financial commitment can help leverage the impact of investments in transport infrastructure, which already account for more than $1 trillion a year globally. It can also support work at the national level, as well as cities’ historic leadership on transportation.

We are now presented with a chance to truly embrace sustainable transport at the local, national, and international levels. It’s imperative that we capitalize on the opportunity presented by this unprecedented alignment of wills.

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Zipcar’s Purchase by Avis: Car Sharing Success or Failure?

This post originally appeared on TheCityFix.com.

Zipcar’s $500 million acquisition by Avis-Budget Group announced last Wednesday is a watershed moment for the car-sharing industry. What will it mean for car sharing?

Barely 10 years ago, no one knew whether car sharing could even work in North America, let alone become a staple of trendy and pragmatic urban living. Yet today Zipcar, plus dozens of innovative start-ups like City CarShare, PhillyCarShare, I-Go, and CommunAuto, have grown into robust community assets in every major U.S. and Canadian city.

Car sharing has made an indelible mark on how we live in cities. Membership exceeds one in five adults in many urban neighborhoods from Montreal to San Francisco. Each shared vehicle in North America has been shown to replace nine to 13 personal cars, and reduce driving by an average of 44 percent – as members pocket the savings and choose to walk, bike, and take public transit.

Zipcar has been at the forefront of this transformation. Launching in Cambridge, Mass., with a handful of lime-green Volkswagen Beetles, the feisty start-up pioneered early innovation, catalyzed massive scale-up around the world, and helped inspire a whole movement toward shared access to everything from houses to bicycles to parking spaces—and even pets.

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The Trillion RMB Question: How Can China Fund its Sustainable Urban Transport Growth?

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.

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Reflections on the 8th International Congress on Sustainable Transport

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.

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WRI Annual Report 2011-2012

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...

What to Look for in the EPA’s Forthcoming Standards on Emissions from Light-Duty Vehicles

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.

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