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When we think of great cities for sustainable transport, we think of picturesque cities in Northern Europe, such as Copenhagen, or wealthy, dense enclaves such as Hong Kong or Singapore. There have, however, been exciting transformations in cities all over the world, particularly in the global south. Here are five cities that have improved quality of life for millions by investing in sustainable, equitable transport.
Ahmedabad is a city of five million in the western state of Gujarat. In 2009, the city set the benchmark for high-quality transit in India with the Janmarg bus rapid transit system. Janmarg, which means “the people’s way” in Gujarati and moves more than 130,000 people per day, was a major improvement for a city that previously had few options for the 90 percent of residents that do not own cars. Today, Ahmedabad is a regional leader in transport and urban planning, with progressive legislation on parking and Transit-oriented Development, dense, mixed-use development, parking reform, and improvements for walking, cycling, and even better public transit.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
In 2013, Buenos Aires transformed their iconic 9 de Julio avenue, one of the widest avenues in the world with 20 lanes of car traffic, into an efficient, modern public transit corridor. The project is part of a citywide mobility plan initiated in 2009, which includes the pedestrianization of more than 100 blocks of the city center, an extension of the ecobici bike share program, a 300 km cycling network, and intersection treatments to improve safety for pedestrians.
This megacity on the Pearl River Delta is home to the highest-performing BRT system in the world, carrying more than 850,000 passengers per day through 26 stations with speeds equal to metro. The achievements of Guangzhou, however, go well beyond the bus. They have one of the largest bike share systems in the world, and have transformed underused areas, such as the often-derelict space under overpasses, into beautiful public spaces. ITDP China, based in Guangzhou, hosts upwards of 50 government, NGO, and academic site visits every year, and has inspired replication projects in cities across China and Southeast Asia.
Mexico City, Mexico
The largest city in North America boasts 5 lines of Metrobus BRT, one of the highest-performing bike share systems in the world, groundbreaking parking reform, and a revitalized, pedestrian-centric historical center. In 2012, Metrobus Line 4 proved that a world-class BRT can help revitalize a dense, central area while maintaining its cultural and historical heritage.
In addition to improving commutes, the project has helped to massively improve the streetscape and quality of life in the downtown area – making many of these streets exclusively for cyclists, pedestrians, and BRT.
Iran is the most urbanized country in the Middle East, and Tehran is one of the largest metropolises in Asia. A decade ago, Tehranis had few options for getting around their city other than driving on increasingly congested roads. Over the last decade, Tehran has built more than 200 km of metro rail, transporting 2 million passengers per day. The city also created a high quality BRT network of 100 km that transports another 2 million daily. Beyond that, Tehran has implemented a congestion pricing program to reduce traffic in the city, and developed a bike share system in one of their administrative districts.