Mayors and business executives from around the world are meeting in New York this week for the C40 Large Cities Climate Summit to discuss actions and projects to tackle climate change. In a panel session on Tuesday, mayors tackled the topic of the reduction of transportation congestion.
Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, discussed London’s successful implementation of a congestion charge. Mayor Livingstone described how the initial proposal for a congestion charge came from a consortium of London business interests that calculated the cost of congestion in terms of London’s productivity and competitiveness at two billion pounds annually.
In one year, the congestion charge has brought about a 38% drop in private cars entering London—twice the anticipated figure. There has also been a more than 80% increase in cyclists and a rise in bus passengers from four million to six million. This modal shift has been accompanied by substantial emissions reductions, including a 20% reduction in carbon emissions.
Mayor Livingstone reassured leaders concerned with the effect that making such changes would have on their electability that his own poll ratings jumped 12% within one week of adopting the congestion charge.
Panelist Beto Richa, Mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, pointed out that the battle for the world’s climate would, in fact, be fought in the major metropolises represented at the summit, since those cities are home to the majority of the world’s population. He noted that, in coming up with solutions to the problem of transport congestion, cities need to look for integrated solutions that addressed multiple problems associated with climate change simultaneously.
In Curitiba, Mayor Richa is developing “green lines,” consisting of roadway arteries in which all traffic is fuel-efficient and bordered by plantings that both combat carbon emissions and increase biodiversity. Mayor Richa also argued that in expanding urban mass-transportation systems “fair prices compatible with user’s wallets” had to be maintained. “Quality of life concerns and standards of sustainability,” must be linked, he stated.
In his keynote luncheon address, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg reiterated his administration’s goal of “a 30% reduction in New York City’s global warming emissions by 2030,” and outlined a major conservation plan for New York City to achieve this which includes the reduction of vehicle traffic through strategies such as congestion pricing. (Earlier post.)
In a case study supplied for the event, the city of Bogotá, Columbia described its successful implementation of a bus rapid transit (BRT) system that reduced traveling and greenhouse gas emissions.
The Bogotá Transmilenio BRT system consists of 850 buses. The system averages 1,600 passengers per day per bus, reducing traveling time by 32%, eliminating 2,109 public-service vehicles, reducing gas emissions by 40%, and making zones around the trunk roads safer thus decreasing accident rates by 90% throughout the system.
Currently, Transmilenio has completed two initial phases and has a total of 84.4 kilometers of dedicated lanes. Transmilenio Phase III is to add three new trunk routes by 2012, representing 130 km of new dedicated lanes including new bus-stations and a fleet of around 1200 new articulated buses with a capacity of 160 passengers, operating on trunk routes and 500 new large buses operating on feeder lines. The daily passenger target is 1.8 million.
The city of Copenhagen provided a case study on cycling. More than 36% of the city population cycles to work each day, and the city continues to build out its cycling infrastructure. A 10-year Bicycle policy crafted in 2002 is targeting an increase in the proportion of people cycling to workplaces to 40% by 2012.
There are cycle tracks on either side of all major roads with a total cycle track length of approximately 350 kilometers. Tracks are traditionally 2.2 meters wide, however, the new standard is 2.5 meters. On roads without tracks, cycle lanes indicate a separate lane for bicycles. Approximately 15 kilometers of cycle lanes exist within Copenhagen.
The city’s new Cycle Track Priority Plan 2006-2016 calls for an additional 65 kilometers of cycle tracks. The Green Cycle Route Plan 2007-2024 includes an additional 71 kilometers.
A summit session on Wednesday will explore the use of alternative fuels in urban transit systems.