Beyond Emissions: 5 Cities Achieve Social and Economic Development by Reducing GHG Emissions from Transport

Vélib Bike Station in Paris, France. Photo by mariordo59/Flickr

Low-carbon transport has many social and economic benefits that can accelerate local sustainable development and that deserve recognition beyond their role in addressing climate change. A new series of papers from the Low Emissions Development Strategies Global Partnership’s (LEDS GP) Transport Working Group highlights case studies that provide evidence of the variety of social and economic benefits of low-carbon urban transport—from job creation and saved time and money, to fight poverty, safer roads and cleaner air.

Here are five cities that are maximizing these benefits and leading the way:

BRT Saves Guangzhou, China US $14 Million Annually

Bus rapid transit (BRT), can help reduce the amount of time and money people spend on transport, lower the government’s operations budget and cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. With about 12 million people in Guangzhou’s metropolitan area, the city suffered from an overloaded bus system and daily congestion. Launched in 2010, the BRT carries 850,000 passengers every day and has succeeded in shifting 10-15 percent of trips away from private vehicles. High capacity buses move 29 percent faster than pre-BRT traffic, reducing fuel consumption and making operations more efficient. In addition to generating annual savings of US $14 million and reducing 86,000 tons of CO2 every year, passengers personally save $103 million in out-of-pocket travel costs and 30 million hours of travel.

Velib, Paris’s Bike Share, Employs 400 People

A broad range of jobs—in construction, management, sales and services—can be created by adopting low-carbon transport. With a 6.6 percent unemployment rate in Paris and young people making up a large number of the unemployed, Velib is looking to make a small dent by providing directly 400 full-time and part-time jobs to local youth. Employees have a variety of educational backgrounds and take up services, warehouse and call center jobs. While Velib already has about 20,600 bikes at 1451 stations spread throughout the city, the municipal government is playing an increasingly supportive role to create a bike friendly environment—developing road safety campaigns, speed restriction zones and about 125 miles of new bike lanes for more connectivity. This has helped increase ridership by 70 percent since Velib’s introduction, cutting emissions down by 32,330 tons of CO2 per year.

Ahmedabad’s BRT Will Prevent 77 Percent of Traffic Fatalities by 2040

Globally, private vehicles cause about 70 percent of all traffic related injuries, and it is estimated that traffic crashes will be the third greatest cause of premature deaths by 2020 as a result of rapid motorization. With a focus on safety and access for pedestrians and cyclists, low-carbon transport can help improve traffic safety in cities. For example, strategic changes—protected stations, designated entry and exit points, level boarding for safe access to buses—to Ahmedabad’s BRT system, Janmarg, have led to 79 percent positive safety ratings for the system. Since 2009, Janmarg has carried over 140,000 daily passengers, and is slated to reduce a third of the city’s total CO2 emissions by 2040, an 84 percent reduction from the baseline.

Stockholm’s Congestion Charge Cuts Hazardous Particulate Matter by Nearly 10 Percent

Fossil fuel consumption by motorized transport releases exhaust fumes that contain particulate matter hazardous to human health and detrimental to the climate. However, Stockholm’s congestion pricing system shows how cities can cut vehicle pollution to curb climate change. By pricing vehicles during peak hours in congestion-prone zones, the city is able to distribute traffic flow uniformly throughout the day and cut back on road blockages. Private vehicles are charged 15 kronas ($1.77) on workdays and double in evening and morning rush hours. This stimulated about a 9 percent increase in public transport ridership from 2005 levels and an 18 percent reduction in traffic volumes by 2011. Together, this cut down the particulate matter by 9 percent and mono-nitrogen oxides by 7 percent and has been generating daily revenues of $500,000 to 2.7 million for the city. These funds are then reinvested for expanding bike lanes and new bus lines.

Lagos’s BRT Reduces Poor Households’ Transport Costs from 17 to 11 Percent of Income

Key to low-carbon transport is connecting low-income groups to social and economic opportunities in their city in a clean way. Nigeria’s Lagos BRT system, BRT-Lite, provides a high-quality, efficient and affordable service to the local population, about 61 percent of whom live under poverty. Lagos is the fastest growing city in Nigeria, and a high rate of private vehicle ownership has resulted in 27,500 vehicles congesting the city’s roads daily. On average, a resident of Lagos spends about 17 percent of his or her income on either private vehicles or public bus and minibus services. The BRT system has helped reduce the income spent by poor households on public transport from 17 to 11 percent, as BRT fares are 30 percent lower than those for traditional public transport.  

These five stories from the LEDS GP’s series of papers demonstrates how cities can accelerate the provision of social and economic benefits for city residents by choosing low-carbon transport policies and projects. Many more national and subnational leaders should take note from these inspiring examples, innovating and enabling low-carbon transport through greater investment, public-private partnerships, new regulatory frameworks and more public participation.

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