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2010 Sustainable Transport Awards: Nominees Announced
Recognized for its new Macrobus BRT system, Guadalajara is one of the nominees for the 2010 Sustainable Transport Award. Photo by itdp.

Recognized for its new Macrobus BRT system, Guadalajara is one of the nominees for the 2010 Sustainable Transport Award. Photo by itdp.

Last year, New York City became the first U.S. city to win the 2009 Sustainable Transport Award. As reported on, 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?

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]

Until the winner is announced, let’s review some of the strengths and weaknesses of each of the nominees:

Ahmedabad, India

Ahmedabad's Janmarg is a "game-changer" for India. Photo via Wikipedia.

Ahmedabad's Janmarg is a "game-changer" for India. Photo via Wikipedia.


  • 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.

Cali, Colombia

Cali's MIO changed the city's mass transit system. Photo by Manuel Vieda.

Cali's MIO changed the city's mass transit system. Photo by Manuel Vieda.


  • 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.

Curitiba, Brazil

Curitiba is known for its people-friendly public spaces. Photo by Mathieu Struck.

Curitiba is known for its people-friendly public spaces. Photo by Mathieu Struck.


  • 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.

Guadalajara, Mexico

Following in Mexico City's footsteps, Guadalajara is changing the way people get around. Photo by itdp.

Following in Mexico City's footsteps, Guadalajara is changing the way people move around their city. Photo by itdp.


  • 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

A brand new Rea Vaya bus station in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo by

A brand new Rea Vaya bus station in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo by


  • 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.)



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.

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  • Dilip Jadeja

    I lived in Ahmedabad for 35 years and then moved to Sydney for the past 20 years. I have travelled to 25 countries and seen first hand the progress made in cities like HongKong, Bangkok, Kulalumpur, Singapore, Sydney, Brisbane, Geneva, Paris and Los Angeles first hand, over the past 20-25 years. However, I have never seen as much progress as is made by the current Gujarat Government in the city of Ahmedabad in the past four years. Its growth rate was in double digits for three years in the past decade, outstripping India’s growth by a wide margin. In many quarters this and the last year, Gujarat growth rate matched China’s and at time exceeded China’s growth rate. Japan’s Mumbai Delhi industrial corridor fund has identified 40% projects in the state of Gujarat. Surat city in Gujarat has highest per capita income of US$11,000 despite the fact that global recession almost killed dimaond polishing industry in Surat for the past two years. Ahmedabad is now the fifth richest city in India and still its bank deposits from non-resident Gujaratis are swelling at a year on year rise of over 20%.

    Impressive as all this is, if you were to ask me what impresses me the most about the progress of Ahmedabad, I will say without a moment’s hesitation that it is Ahmedabad Bus Rapid Transport System at the top and Ahmedabad’s river bank redevelopment that will add 20% reclaimed and recovered (from other uses) land to green public parks. I was in Ahmedabad five times in the past 18 months for over three to four weeks in each visit and I monitored the progress of the Bus Rapid Transport System first hand. 18 months ago, while the roads were being expanded for BRTS, the city looked like a mess. I have seen lot of messes in Ahmedabad but I knew this mess was different. It had a method to the madness that you need when an old city is being converted to something brand new, all the while keeping the life of the old city ON THE GO, as one needs to in India. So while all the daily hustle and bustle continued as it did, the city was quite visibly undergoing transformation that I have never seen in the past 52 years of my interaction with this city I call my second home. I knew something different was afoot here. About 12 months ago, the lanes expanded, the feeder roads came to life and the main roads continued their transformation. Skeptics of BRTS were many and I had just kept an open mind with a bated breath.

    During my visit in 2008 I saw that some clarity was emerging and I thought we could either make this something big or we may lose it like India loses so many opportunities. During my visit I saw a strectch of road that I later described to my friends back in Sydney as the best road I saw in all of India. This was the road leading to Helmet circle. Some of my Australian friends also said this could be the start of something big for Gujarat and India. In May June 2009, I saw that BRTS lanes were much better defined and it was clear to me that as a first leg of a final system, no one could do a better job at building a brand new BRTS system from the scratch, in an already existing, crowded, overflowing, working city where normal life has to go on while work proceeds for such transformation. Critics of the BRTS system made noises but neither did the planners shuddered by the criticism, nor was my belief that the system could work.

    In Sept Oct 2009, I will tell you what happened. I was in the city when the trial period of free runs had commenced. As the trial period went on, the lukewarm initial response turned into a massive success. I recall passing by the bus lanes practically everyday in a car and seeing at first the empty bus stops and empty bus lanes that during my stay and before my eyes turned to packed buses and packed bus stops. It proved all the crtics wrong. In fact several times I felt like jumping out of my car and taking the bus myself. The excitement was just such a good feeling for someone as old as me and who had not taken to a bus in this city ever since I left my school in 1972.

    During the end of my trip two events absolutely blew me. A friend and a colleague took me out for dinner and as we approached the famous NehruNagar Cirlce on Satellite Road, he said, “Oh, I am lost, which way from here to satellite?” Then he asked me if I knew the road after all the changes. “Of course”, I said, ” I travel this road every day almost. Follow this way!” The fact was that he lived in the city and had not come this way to notice the change and as he later said to me, he was gobsmecked to see how much progress occured.

    My driver Shankar, who travels those roads everyday for his school drop runs, was a skeptic but I saw how his view changed. On my last but one night of my visit, he was just all praise for the work done. He said the city was changing for good and he said he had never seen before how quickly any bus could go so long, so fast. He said this was definitely going the right way. As green lawns appeared and trees lined up the roads, Shankar apperated baffled. How the hell did all this grow overnight, he asked me on our last visit on that road in October. Since then I am looking at more pictures and boy, I am pleased. I cannot wait to take the BRTS. It is now a touristy thing to do as well!

    I will close this by saying what one of my old friends and an astute investor with an engineering industry in the city said to me. He said, “Stop investing in Australia and the USA. You have no idea, Ahmedabad is the best opportunity. It is Mumbai in the making!” I think he knows that once the rapid trains cut Mumbai Ahmedabad distance of seven hours to five and Surat in between, Ahmedabad has all things going for it. It would have been too late to put the BRTS then. So the state has done a great job, the first job by any government of any state in India that I as an Indian can say has pleased me. I am even happy to pay more taxes and more fares, if that is what the government wants for making this development. All my friends feel the same way. Some friends met me at the fireworks in Sydney on 31 December and they were all praise for the state government (and they have been a critic before!).

    I am absolutely sure the state goverment is not going to stop here, it is going to do all that is needed to make this a bigger and better success, anything else not withstanding and we are going to vote in favour of those changes with all over zeal and money. The Riverbank development is the next one to watch out for as Ahmedabad transforms itself into a 21st century city with a 17th centurey history well preserved within the city. Only today I learnt that the AMC (Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation) is planning a hawker free Ahmedabad by identifying specific locations for hawker; they will make the area around Bhadra fort a pedestrian zone; they are declairing zero tolerance for traffic offences on city roads through a phased introduction program; they are cleaing up the river prepartory to riverbank redevelopment.

    When you consider what the AMC did around Kankaria Lake by developing picnic grounds and with an open air theater that is in the making, when you consider that a mass rapid transit system will join twin cities of Ahmedabad and GandhiNagar in the next few years, when you consider that the Chinese bullet trains with a speed of 350kms WILL DEFINITELY BE INTRODUCED FIRST IN INDIA BETWEEN MUMBAI AND AHMEDABAD IN MY VIEW and will reduce the distance between Mumbai and Ahmedbad to 1.5 hours journey, you know that the BRTS system of the state government is but one of the first few baby steps in making one of the fastest growing city and state in the world one of the best Indian city too.

    I consider that the Gujarat Government and AMC of Ahmedabad have jointly done so much good that they need to become an example for all other states and cities in India. Then only we can help a mass of billion people entere a new millenium with pleasure of existence and facilities that are world class. In this, I commend the Gujarat Government and the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation.

    I have no doubt this success is not going to stop here and this change is so irreversible that anyone who wants to be elected in Gujarat or AMC against this backdrop has to rise to the challenge and promise and do bigger and better things for Gujarat and Ahmedabad or they stand absolutely no chance.

    A UK trade report posted by the UK government now asks UK investors to invest in Ahmedabad, Rajkot and Vadodara (Baroda) as the second line of cities ( .

    The BRTS is the first chapter of Ahmedabad and Gujarat’s growth that has started benefitting the poor and the middle class citizens. It is a great way to protect environment; add lush greenery to the city; order in its heither to chaotic traffic; grow the city sustainably; link it to other satellite townships preparatory to linking big cities of India through rapid train systems (be they Chinese or Japanese or European railway systems) and make India a moden country that it deserves to be. This model can provide a growth engine that the world so desparately needs and a few good examples can make a vast difference to the laid back and old thinking of many other Indian state governments and politicians. Above all, this sustainable growth model is what the world needs to appear to as well as support in practice so that world does the right thing for the billions of poor at the same time providing the world with a growth engine that is not just depended for the next fifty years on China alone.

    I am so proud of my the progress model shown and being followed in Ahmedabad.

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