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Unlocking Sustainable Transport Starts with Cities

This post originally appeared on National Geographic’s “City Solutions” blog.

City leaders face incredible pressure to deliver sustainable transportation. Cities now account for more than half of the world’s population—by 2050, they will hold 75 percent of us. These people–increasingly from the middle class–will need ways to commute to work, travel, and carry out their livelihoods.

At the same time, 1.27 million people die from traffic accidents every year—about half of these fatalities occur in cities. Cities also account for about 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, much of which is transportation-related.

Cities, then, are tasked with a huge challenge: provide reliable, safe, and affordable transportation systems that can benefit both people and planet.

Meeting this challenge is a topic we discussed at length during the 10th annual Transforming Transportation conference in Washington, D.C. The two-day event looked at the various ways to scale up sustainable transportation and share lessons learned. Examples of city leadership were featured prominently throughout the event—and can serve as inspiration for how urban centers can meet transportation challenges.
Cities Lead On Developing Sustainable Transport Systems

Examples of cities taking the lead on sustainable transport are numerous. Beijing has built the longest metro in the world, moving 5.97 million people every single day. In China, Wuhan and Huanghzou have built the two largest bike-sharing programs in the world, surpassing Paris’s Vélib, with 90,000 and 60,600 bikes respectively. In Turkey, Istanbul pedestrianized 256 streets in its Historic Peninsula between 2010 and 2012. And we are now seeing 147 cities with bus rapid transit (BRT) and bus corridors around the globe, moving 25 million passengers every day.

Some cities are even being recognized as global leaders in sustainable transport. Last week, Mexico City’s former mayor, Marcelo Ebrard, received the Sustainable Transport Award, and Eduardo Paes, received the honorable mention as Rio de Janeiro’s mayor. With assistance from EMBARQ, Mexico City implemented a BRT system to deal with the city’s mass congestion and high number of traffic-related deaths.


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