Last year, New York City became the first U.S. city to win the 2009 Sustainable Transport Award. As reported on EMBARQ.org, the city was recognized for its significant transport reforms, as a continuation of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030, a long-term vision to improve the city’s land use, air and water quality, energy infrastructure and transportation systems. The city received accolades for transforming 49 acres of road space, traffic lanes and parking spaces into 255 kilometers of protected on-street bike lanes, as well as pedestrian areas and public plazas. Other notable accomplishments included planting 98,000 trees, implementing a select bus service and introducing car-free Sundays, similar to what can be seen in cities like Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Bogota.
This year marks another record-breaking achievement: For the first time in the six-year history of the award, all of the finalists are cities in developing countries, as officially announced last week by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.
Who are the finalists this year?
- Ahmedabad, India, for the Janmarg bus rapid transit (BRT) system (read our take on why it’s a game-changer here);
- Cali, Colombia, for transforming its citywide BRT service;
- Curitiba, Brazil, for opening a new BRT line and city park on a former federal highway;
- Guadalajara, Mexico, for completing a full BRT system in less than two years and at an affordable cost (thanks, in part, to planning and implementation assistance from the Center for Sustainable Transport in Mexico, a member of the EMBARQ Network. Check out their Spanish-language blog: TheCityFix DF); and,
- Johannesburg, South Africa, for creating Rea Vaya, Africa’s first BRT and the first public transit system that connects Soweto to the downtown district. (Read our first-person account of the new system here.)
The Sustainable Transport Award is given annually to a city that uses innovations in transport strategies to increase mobility for all residents, while reducing transportation greenhouse and air pollution emissions and improving safety and access for cyclists and pedestrians. This year’s winner will be selected by a committee of sustainable transport experts, including our very own blogger Dario Hidalgo, senior transport engineer for EMBARQ. (For a full list of selection committee members, see the bottom of this post.)
The award winner will be announced at an award ceremony held in Washington, D.C., coinciding with the Transportation Research Board’s Annual Meeting, on January 12, 2010 at 6:00 pm. (For more information or media inquiries, contact: Claudia Gunter, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, +1 646 839-6479, cgunter[at]itdp.org.)
Until the winner is announced, let’s review some of the strengths and weaknesses of each of the nominees:
- The first complete BRT system in India and all of South Asia. Delhi and Pune both have bus systems, but are weak examples of full-scale, high-quality BRT. The Ahmedabad Janmarg is a global “best practice” of BRT, as explained in a recent interview with EMBARQ Senior Transport Engineer Dario Hidalgo, one of the judges on the Sustainable Transport Award Committee. Ahmedabad’s new system signals a paradigm shift for medium-sized Indian cities.
- Exemplary design elements, including segregated lanes, pre-pay stations, level boarding, electronic fare collection, central control.
- Relatively small impact on increasing mobility in the city, given that the line is small and located on the periphery of the city. But the city is ambitious about its expansion.
- A three-month fare-less trial with partial launch of the system was an example of a poor financial model for launching transit systems.
- Low-quality passenger vehicles in an attempt to contain costs.
- Result of a model national policy (similar, but more effective than the one instituted in India.)
- Involved a comprehensive reorganization of the city’s transit systems that reduces the need for transfers. It is a vast improvement over feeder-trunk systems instituted in Bogota and Pereira.
- Implemented despite strong opposition from informal transit providers.
- Highest ridership of all nominees (170,000 passengers daily).
- Poor municipal leadership and a changing cast of characters lead to a prolonged implementation timeline.
- Small relative impact given that the line is small and on the periphery of the city. But, like Ahmedabad, the city is ambitious about expansion.
- Follows in the footsteps of Brazil’s storied excellence in transportation and land use policy.
- Ethanol buses provide lower possible greenhouse gas emissions.
- Exemplary design elements, including improved public spaces, “overtake” lanes at stations for passing buses, etc.
- Some delays for launch date. Supposed to be fully open by early 2009.
- Comprehensive integration with rail and feeder bus services.
- Exemplary design elements: station capacity, “overtake” lanes at stations for passing buses. (See EMBARQ’s slideshow of the new system here.)
- Quick implementation - just two years!
- Second-highest ridership among nominees – 120,000 passengers daily.
- Poor design of public spaces around the system. Sidewalks are narrow and many were under construction during the first months after initial operation.
- The feeder-trunk operation requires inconvenient transfers.
Johannesburg, South Africa
- Africa’s first complete BRT system. (Read our full report out it here.)
- Connects communities, from the emblematic Soweto neighborhood to the downtown district, in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
- Implemented despite strong and dangerous opposition from informal taxi industry.
- Quick implementation and extremely high quality.
- Very low ridership (12,000 passengers daily.)
FOR ADDITIONAL INFO ABOUT THE SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT AWARD, visit this Web site: http://st-award.org/
The 2010 Sustainable Transport Award Selection Committee includes the following experts:
• Walter Hook, Executive Director, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy
• Kathryn Phillips, Director, California Transportation and Air Initiative Environmental Defense Fund
• Ralph Gakenheimer, Chair, Transportation Research Board Committee on Transportation in Developing Countries
• Sophie Punte, Executive Director, Clean Air Initiatives for Asia (hosted by the Asian Development Bank)
• Dario Hidalgo, Senior Transport Engineer, EMBARQ, The World Resources Institute Center for Sustainable Transport
• Manfred Breithaupt, Senior Transport Advisor, GTZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit)
• Heather Allen, Senior Manager, Sustainable Development, International Association of Public Transport (UITP)
• Choudhury Rudra Charan Mohanty, Environmental Expert, United Nations Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD)
Past winners of the Award include the following cities and their representatives:
2009 – Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York, United States, for making bold moves to achieve the ambitious goals of PlaNYC 2030.
2008 – Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, Paris, France for implementing a range of innovative mobility solutions with vision, commitment and vigor.
Mayor Ken Livingston, London, United Kingdom for expanding London’s congestion charge program and developing other low emissions programs that dramatically impacted air quality.
2007 – Mayor Jaime Nebot, Guayquil, Ecuador for revitalizing the downtown, creating dynamic public spaces, and instituting a new public transit system.
2006 – Mayor Myung-Bak Lee, Seoul, Korea for the revitalization of the Cheongyecheon River and the implementation of its bus rapid transit system.
2005 – former Mayor Enrique Penalosa, Bogotà, Colombia for the TransMilenio bus rapid transit system, bicycle integration, and public space reclamation.
Additional contributions to this post from blogger Erica Schlaikjer.