How can we focus on decreasing private vehicle use and establish transport systems that scale up public transportation?
According to The New Climate Economy technical note titled “Unlocking the Power of Urban Transport Systems for Better Growth and a Better Climate”, adopting smarter urban growth principles in the United States could result in savings of $200 billion each year. The technical note was produced with three objectives in mind. The first was to summarise their work and that of their partners on urban transport (including the latest evidence from around the world). The second objective was to discuss international transport initiatives and the third was to recommend actions for local, national and international policy makers.
Current urban development significantly contributes to the growth of private vehicles. There are currently more than 1.2 billion motor vehicles in the world, and by 2030 that number is expected to double. In 2010 these vehicles accounted for 23% of global energy related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and transport emissions could double by 2050. Such as increase is faster than any other energy sector.
Urban travel currently makes up more than 60% of the total vehicle kilometres travelled globally and it is likely that this will grow in the future. In addition, it is the largest global source of transport related carbon emissions and the largest local source of urban air pollution. Therefore, the economic prosperity of cities and countries is linked to the development of efficient transport systems.
The New Climate Economy technical note also discussed the following key trends in the current model of urban development and transport use:
- declining urban densities
- less cycling, walking and use of public transport
- tremendous growth in private vehicle use
Instead of perpetuating the current model, the technical note discussed a new model of increased urban productivity and transport connectivity, called the 3C model. The 3C model is comprised of compact urban growth, connected infrastructure and coordinated governance. Compact urban growth is underpinned by managed expansion and/or urban retrofitting to encourage higher densities, socially mixed neighbourhoods, walkable local urban developments and the provision of green spaces. Connected infrastructure focuses on smarter transport systems that connect and capture the economic benefits of more compact urban forms. These transport systems connect mixed use, employment, housing and commercial hubs and include mass transit systems (e.g. subways, light rail and bus rapid transit), bicycle super highways, car and bicycle sharing and electric vehicles with charging point networks powered by renewable energy. Coordinated governance refers to effective and accountable institutions to support coordinated planning and implantation across the public and private sectors and the wider society. Benefits of coordinated governance include lower particulate air pollution and reduced urban sprawl.
The recommendations in the Unlocking the Power of Urban Transport Systems for Better Growth and a Better Climate technical note are based on decisions that Governments will need to take over the next 5-15 years, which the note suggests will be critical to maximising the benefits of investing in better urban transport systems within and between cities. The recommendations for local and national policy makers include the following:
- establishing integrated transport and land use authorities that plan urban growth and scale up public transport, cycling, walking and low carbon vehicles
- strengthen strategic planning at the city, regional and national levels with a focus on improved land use and integrated multi modal transport infrastructure
- reform fuel subsidies and introduce new pricing mechanisms (e.g. road user charges to lower and eventually eliminate incentives for fossil fuelled vehicle use
- introduce new mechanisms to finance upfront investments in smarter urban infrastructure and new technology
- commit to ambitious emissions reduction targets and/or low emissions development strategies
In terms of international policy makers, the technical note made a number of recommendations including the following:
- assist in scaling up and accelerating local and national efforts by developing an integrated package worth approximately $1 billion over five years to support the world’s largest 500 cities by 2020 to-
- comply with the Compact of Mayors
- strengthen capacities for project preparation (including for urban transport)
- enhance creditworthiness to underpin large scale infrastructure investment (including in the transport sector)
- access climate finance more directly to cover the incremental upfront costs of sustainable transport project and other low carbon investments
- provide enhanced knowledge sharing and technology transfer platforms among cities to create local demand for sustainable transport financing
- make a stronger commitment to sustainable transport including taking steps to strengthen existing international collaborative initiatives
- promote improved quantification of wider co benefits and evaluation of performance
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