WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/—
London and Paris edged out Guatemala City, Guatemala; Eugene, Oregon; and Pereira, Colombia to win the 2008 Sustainable Transport Award. These cities were nominated for the 4th annual international honor for enhancing the sustainability and livability of their community or region by adopting innovative transportation strategies that lessen the impact of climate change by reducing transportation greenhouse and air pollution emissions.
“All of these cities took politically risky decisions that made a huge contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making their cities more livable,” said selection committee member Dr. Walter Hook, executive director of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. “With their success, dozens of mayors around the world are now finding the courage to take similar steps. We are proud to honor these cities tonight.”
London is the largest city to adopt congestion pricing and its success has inspired cities in the United States, such as New York City and San Francisco, to consider implementing it. Cities in developing countries such as Shenzen, P.R. China also see congestion pricing as a meaningful instrument to address the problems associated with the rapid growth in vehicles. In 2007, London expanded on the success of its groundbreaking 2003 congestion pricing plan with a doubling of the congestion zone, increased fees for motor vehicles, and new city-wide emission-based tolls that are spurring more rapid adoption of cleaner, fuel efficient vehicles.
“London is providing the political cover for major cities like New York to adopt congestion pricing because—once it’s implemented—it’s popular with most voters, even with those who initially oppose it,” said selection committee member Michael Replogle, transportation director for Environmental Defense and a former consultant for the U.S. Federal Highway Administration. “Congestion pricing is a superior gridlock and pollution solution because it has a financial incentive that discourages driving, encourages mass transit and funds it.”
Prior to the charge, London drivers spent 50 percent of their time in traffic jams, costing the city between 2-4 million pounds ($4-8 million) every week. Now, congestion has dropped 21 percent in 2007. About 70,000 fewer vehicles enter the extended congestion pricing zone on a daily basis, reducing global warming carbon dioxide emissions by 16 percent. Each year more than 123 million pounds ($243 million) are raised for public transport improvements. Bus ridership has increased 45 percent as people are switching to bus transportation in London because their travel time has decreased due to congestion pricing. Bike use has increased by 43 percent. Emission-based toll incentives further boost environmental benefits.
Paris revolutionized bike sharing programs of the past to create an individualized mass transit system called Velib (“Freedom Bikes”). People pay a low fee to use the bikes from one of the many bike parking stations located in the city and they can return the bikes to any station they wish. By the end of 2007, Velib had more than 1,200 stations and 15,000 bikes in the system. “Freedom bikes” in Paris fill the streets, proving more popular than anticipated. As of November 2007, more than 11 million trips have been made on these bikes.
Velib is just one component of Paris’ new mobility plan that uses transportation innovation to revitalize community life in public spaces. Paris is prioritizing pedestrians by renovating public squares and plazas, widening sidewalks, and adding new landscaping and raised crosswalks. Paris has built more than 314 kilometers (195 miles) of bike lanes, and bicycling has increased 48 percent during the past five years. Three corridors of the new bus rapid transit system also opened in 2007. These improvements led to a decrease in private vehicle traffic by 20 percent and a nine percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
“Paris is a great example of how a city can transform by implementing a package of measures, like Velib or the Quartiers Verts, that all aim to improve transport in the city and quality of life for its citizens,” said selection committee member Manfred Breithaupt from GTZ, the German Technical Cooperation.
“Paris and London have demonstrated that effective leadership can result in real change,” said selection committee member Cornie Huizenga, executive director of the Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia) Center. “Asian city authorities should carefully look at the experience of Paris and London and decide what can be replicated in their cities. We hope that this will help to bring back the award to Asia in the near future.”
Guatemala City, Guatemala won an honorable mention for implementing TransMetro, the first bus rapid transit system in Central America. The first 11 kilometers of dedicated median busways with on-level boarding have reduced travel times by 20 percent, as well as significantly reducing air pollution and traffic accidents. The first corridor carries 145,000 passengers a day and by the end of the year more than 50 million people will have taken the new service. TransMetro is part of a grander vision of Mayor Arzu to create “A City for Living.” This plan focuses on sustainable development for the fastest growing city in the region, as well as bringing social cohesion to Guatemala City after suffering 30 years of civil war.
Eugene, Oregon won an honorable mention for opening one of the first full bus rapid transit systems in the United States using diesel-electric hybrid articulated buses. The Green Line of the Emerald Express Rapid Transit system (EmX) has dedicated busways and on-level boarding, as well as having a parallel bicycle lane along the corridor. The buses were also designed so people can bring their bikes onto the buses with them. Since opening, bus ridership has doubled on the corridor, surpassing projections. More corridors are being planned because EmX has shown that it is politically possible to take traffic lanes in the United States from private cars for a high-quality, lower-cost rapid transit system.
Pereira, Colombia garnered an honorable mention by continuing to be a leading city in the country for coordinating land use development and transport planning. Megabus, its bus rapid transit system and one of the key elements to this development strategy, was appropriately designed according to the local conditions and financial capacity, and carries 155,000 passengers per day. In the narrow streets of downtown Pereira, Megabus makes a clear statement of the importance of giving priority to bus users, rather than the users of private vehicles. It is also well coordinated with the improvement of pedestrian facilities in downtown, the redevelopment of the old marketplace area into large plazas, and redevelopment of the city center.
The award presentation for the two winning and three honorable mention cities will take place tonight, 6pm-7:30pm, at the Washington Hilton in Washington, DC as part of the international Transportation Research Board Annual Conference, which is expected to attract 10,000 transportation professionals from around the world.
The award selection committee includes the most respected experts and organizations working internationally on sustainable transportation. It includes representatives from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, Environmental Defense, the Transportation Research Board Committee on Transportation in Developing Countries, the Clean Air Initiatives for Asia, Latin America, and Africa, GTZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit), and the United Nations’ Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD). For more information, photos, and videos about the award and its current and past winners, visit https://staward.org.
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