In 1901, the future looked bright for the newly arrived automobile. Racing driver Henri Fournier confidently predicted that because the automobile was so much “better, quicker, surer, cheaper” than horse drawn transport, city streets would become cleaner and there would be four times as much capacity than there had been previously, doing away with “blockades” in traffic.
We still have blockades today – now we call them traffic jams, and they consist of the very vehicles that Fournier promoted so enthusiastically. We still have pollution too; but now it chiefly arises from the emissions of the same vehicles. So, what can we do?
Making city transport sustainable. Where do we go from here?
One thing that city planners have learned in the intervening century since Fournier’s optimistic outlook on city transport is that increased capacity leads to a larger number of cars on the road. Even though cleaner, greener and more efficient vehicles are becoming available, too many of our cities are still clogged with vehicles and choked with their pollution.
By the end of the 20th century it became obvious that an effort had to be made to make cities, which are home to an increasing percentage of the world’s population, clean places to live with an efficient transport network. Exponential growth in car use cannot continue: urban transport’s future lies in public transport, powered not by fossil fuels but by electricity produced from renewable energy.
The urban appeal of tactical transit
Key to engaging with this issue in depth is the provision of public transport networks, whether by bus, metro, underground and overground rail or city tramways. Good and appropriate transportation development has at its core tactical transport planning. This is where radical new approaches such as tactical transit – taking what already exists and increasing its effectiveness, safety and appeal to multiple users, including public transport passengers, pedestrians and cyclists – comes in.
These are the 10 cities with the best public transport
In 2017, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, became the 17th major city in the world (and the first city in Africa) to win a Sustainable Transport Award (STA), which means that it will host Mobilize, the sustainable transport summit organised by ITDP, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. The STA awards “vision in sustainable transport and urban livability” working to “improve access and mobility for all residents, reduce air pollution, and enhance safety for cyclist and pedestrians.”
The city achieved this by the development of its Bus Rapid Transit system which has halved the time that commuters spend in traffic as well as providing cycle paths and improved pedestrian access and safety through sidewalks and crossings. Bella Bird, World Bank Country Director for Tanzania, Burundi, Malawi and Somalia reckons that the travel time savings give approximately 16 days per year back to commuters, which they’d previously lost sitting in traffic jams!
The awards have come a long way since the first one was awarded to Bogotá, Colombia back in 2005, but the principles remain the same. As with Dar es Salaam, it was Bogotá’s BRT, the TransMilenio, that was key to the project, along with integrated cycle tracks and reclaiming space for pedestrians. Described as a “model livable city”, Bogotá set a standard to which other cities could aspire and attempt to better.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, given the challenge, eight other South American cities have achieved the prestigious STA awards, including Guayaquil, Ecuador, whose cleaner, greener, Metrovia BRT formed a key part of the regeneration of the city with a focus on pedestrianizing areas such as the waterfront. Medellin in Columbia took on the challenge in 2012 with its Urban Integral Project, including environmental parks and urban promenades, all made possible through its BRT “Metroplús” and cable cars, along with the visionary EnCicla bicycle system, integrating universities and other destinations in the city.
Older cities often create a headache for transport planners, with urban development that has seen many forms of transport come and go, and accreted accordingly; nonetheless, Paris and London have both won STAs, and both in the same year, 2008. Paris’s Vélib Freedom bikes put 15,000 bikes via 1,200 stations onto the city streets. Within a short space of time, an estimated 11,000 trips had been made using these cycles, and cycling use had increased by 48 percent. This, along with the BRT, quickly reduced private vehicle traffic in the city by 20 per cent, leading to a 9 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions, it’s estimated. London, taking a slightly different approach by applying charges to heavily congested zones of the inner city, reduced congestion by 21 per cent with around 70,000 fewer vehicles entering the zone daily. This alone, it’s estimated, reduced CO2 emissions by 16 percent. The charges raised are invested in the public transport network, meaning that bus use has gone up by 45 per cent.
Bus-Cycle-Walk. Right across the globe, from Asia to the Americas.