• 14/05/2003

Integrate Foremost among the traditional approaches governments take is to increase existing road capacity (see table: More roads...). But how effective is this method? New roads and flyovers invite more traffic and get filled up within a few years. Experts argue that drivers are induced to flock to the new facility hoping to save time, even if they have to travel a great deal more. The result is not just a redistribution of traffic from surrounding areas, but an overall increase in the total amount of driving and the total number of automobile trips in the region. Cities invest heavily in road capacity expansion, then fare no better in reducing traffic congestion than those that invest much less. Points out a study by us -based University of CaliforniaBerkeley researchers Mark Hansen and Yuanlin Huang: "With so much induced demand, adding road capacity does little to reduce congestion."

This approach has been characteristic of many cities in southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa. India"s city administrations consider it the primary attractive option. However, the world is now switching over to an integrated approach to achieve what is being referred to as environmentally sustainable transport (est). Cities today are writing success stories based on local variations of a few basic principles: encourage mass transport, restrict private vehicles, integrate transport planning into city land-use planning, use fiscal measures and manage traffic efficiently.

Some takers for public transport
Public transport, to begin with, has received a considerable boost. According to an April 2001 report of the European conference of ministers of transport and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (oecd) projects until the 1970s the main function of public transport in Europe was to satisfy the individual needs of the less affluent members of society; the policy discourse has now shifted to its distinct advantages in congestion relief and environmental preservation. High quality public transport systems exist in many European cities of today. Zurich in Switzerland has extended its bus and tram networks, provided separate lanes for them and given them priority at junctions. In addition, convenient no-wait connections between train and bus services are being introduced throughout the country. In Strasbourg, France, public transport comprised a mere 11 per cent of all modes of transport in 1988. This share leaped by 43 per cent in 1999 with measures that included dedicated lanes for the city"s tram system, intelligent traffic lights prioritising trams at junctions, extension of the bus service and better frequency. Strasbourg also freed its city centre of traffic and provided park-and-ride facilities near tramway routes, terminuses and motorway outlets. Perhaps the strongest indicator of such revival is that in 2000, use of public transportation systems in the us - land of the owner-driven car - grew by 320 million rides. According to the American Public Transportation Association, this was the highest level of use in more than 40 years.

This transformation isn"t exclusive to the developed world. Some of the more striking examples of integrated public transport management come from developing world cities. The Brazilian city of Curitiba, for instance, set up a network of structural bus corridors. City authorities then induced land occupation along these corridors, combining high-density use and public transport supply. The corridors consist of an express bus corridor with two side roads for local traffic and two parallel roads for long-distance faster traffic. The bus corridors connect to bus terminals from which feeder bus lines operate. The Curitiba bus system now operates with 1300 buses and serves about one million passengers per day.

Bogota in Columbia has much to boast about. There is a successful busway, Latin America"s largest network of bicycle ways, the world"s longest pedestrian-only street (17 km) hundreds of miles of sidewalks, and the world"s biggest car-free day (when private vehicles cannot enter the city). "In Bogota, we chose to build a city for the people, not for automobiles" says former mayor Enrique Penalosa, who spearheaded this change. "Cities built for cars" mobility suffer from congestion and unsafe street conditions and leave many residents with poor access to jobs. Instead of these problems, we gave our citizens enjoyable public spaces and unprecedented mobility."

In Asia, Singapore and Hong Kong have led the way. Among the first strategies they resorted to was city-wide planning. The transit system in both cities is fixed, rapid and comfortable (electric rail) and flexible and local (standard buses and minibuses).This is supplemented in both cities by high levels of non-motorised transportation, mainly walking. In Hong Kong, ferries are also an important part of the system. The two cities have also clamped down on private vehicle ownership. Not only are costs for owning a car forbidding but cars are also sold according to a quota system through open bidding. Singapore is also trying to encourage cycling through bicycle areas and shaded cycleways.

As with Curitiba, the Singapore-Hong Kong model is that of high-density urban development closely integrated around the transit system. For these cities, planning principles have always been based on the need to create super-compact nodes of residential, institutional and commercial complexes so that people can access most local needs with a short walk.

Sold out on cars
What people travel in, in the world’s cities

Urban Area  

Figures in per cent

Car             Public Transit  Bicycle Walk
Austria            39 13 9 31
Canada          74   14  1 10
Denmark        42   14 20 21
France             54 12    4 30
Germany      52 11 10 27
the Netherlands  44   8 27   19
Sweden           36   11  10 39
Switzerland      38   20 10 29
United Kingdom  62 14 8   12
USA                 84 3 1 9
Amsterdam (NL)  38 15   21 26
Leeds (UK)     60 25 2   13
Bristol (UK)       66       14      6 14
Munich (Germany)      36  25 15 24
Dresden (Germany)      43 21 8 28
Source : Todd Litman, Quantifying the Benefits of Non-motorised Transport for Achieving TDM Objectives, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, Victoria, Canada, 1999
Recommending a modal shift from motorised transport to cycling and walking, a 2001 report by the Economic Commission for Europe and the World Health Organization"s regional office for Europe points out: "The large health and environmental benefits that can be derived from encouraging cycling and walking in urban areas have not yet been given sufficient prominence in decision-making." It goes on to say that if pm- 10 is taken as the indicator of exposure, air pollution causes 6 per cent of total mortality per year in Austria, France and Switzerland. About half of this is due to air pollution from motorised traffic, double the deaths due to road traffic accidents in these countries. Traffic-related air pollution is also responsible for more than 250 new cases of chronic bronchitis in adults, more than 2900 episodes of bronchitis among children and more than 0.5 million asthma attacks.

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