January 13, 2009

Press Release: New York is First U.S. City to Win International Award for Sustainable Transport

(Washington, DC – January 13, 2009) New York will be honored tonight as the first U.S. city to win the 5th annual Sustainable Transport Award.  The other award finalists, Beijing, Istanbul, Mexico City and Milan will receive honorable mentions. The award presentations will take place at 6:30pm-7:30pm at the Washington Hilton in Washington, DC as part of the Transportation Research Board Annual Conference, which is expected to attract 10,000 transportation professionals from around the world.

The Sustainable Transport Award is granted to cities for adopting innovative transportation strategies. This year’s nominees made noteworthy strides in confronting climate change and decreasing air pollution from vehicle emissions. Street space was reclaimed to build attractive public plazas. Increased public transit options led to a boom in ridership. New bicycle lanes were installed, prompting more commuters to bicycle. Pedestrian amenities were enhanced, encouraging more walking trips.

“As Congress crafts its stimulus bill, these cities serve as great models for how we can strengthen the environment, improve energy efficiency, and prepare our infrastructure for the 21st century,” said U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), vice chair of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and a featured speaker at the awards ceremony.

“With much of the world looking for transport projects to provide an economic stimulus, this year’s winners demonstrate the sort of investments that would create the livable and competitive cities of tomorrow,” said selection committee member Dr. Walter Hook, executive director of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. “Other cities will be inspired by the achievements of the cities honored tonight.”

New York City, U.S.A. has demonstrated that political will, bold leadership and citizen engagement can lead to sweeping transportation reforms. In 2008, the city implemented key parts of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s long-term sustainability vision, PlaNYC 2030. The laudable changes made throughout 2008 have reshaped the experience of walking on New York City streets. The city has embraced biking and walking as investment-worthy transportation alternatives, while the traditional car-oriented mobility model is taking a back-seat.

“For a mega-city to embark on an EcoMobility agenda requires courage,” said Konrad Otto-Zimmermann, selection committee member and Secretary General of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability based in Toronto, Canada. “New York must be congratulated for both courage and drive, and I am sure it will take the well deserved Award as an incentive to do even more.”

In 2008, New York City took 49 acres of road space, traffic lanes and parking spots away from cars and gave it back to the public for bike lanes, pedestrian areas and public plazas.  Protected on-street bike lanes were part of the 140 miles (255 kilometers) of bike lanes implemented.  Bike ridership increased by 35 percent from the past year.  The city planted more than 98,000 trees, implemented a select bus service and introduced car-free Saturdays.  The NYC Department of Transportation recycles 40 percent of the asphalt used to repair streets.

“In tough economic times, bus service is the most immediate and inexpensive way to meet growing commuter demand for transit in New York City,” said Michael Replogle, a civil engineer and transportation modeling expert who is the Transportation Director for Environmental Defense Fund, an adviser to the U.S. Department of Transportation, as well as co-founder and president of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. “It also makes the Big Apple more livable by reducing traffic congestion, air and global warming pollution.”

Beijing, China has made impressive efforts improving air quality and working to make transportation better and cleaner.  The city implemented vehicle restrictions for the Olympics, most of which were re-instituted afterwards because of popular demand.  The restrictions require owners to leave their automobiles home one day each week, getting 800,000 vehicles off the streets every day.  The government mandated Euro IV fuel standards, which lowered the amount of sulfur allowed in gasoline and diesel from 150 parts per million (ppm) to 50 ppm.  The city also added a new line to the metro system and two new lines for the bus rapid transit (BRT) system in 2008, extending the hours for both the metro system and BRT.  Beijing increased its bus fleet, while decreasing the fleet of government vehicles by 30 percent.  One-third of the police fleet is now patrolling the streets using non-motorized and electric bikes.

“The Olympics provided Beijing with a unique opportunity to introduce an impressive mix of measures that transformed the air quality and livability of the city,” said Sophie Punte, executive director of Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia).  ”It is an encouraging example for other Asian cities, showing us that this transformation can only be achieved by an integrated approach that covers all aspects of transport.”

Mexico City, Mexico has continued its efforts to implement a cohesive and broad sustainable transport and development agenda, El Plan Verde.  Metrobus, Mexico City’s BRT system, expanded along Avenue Insurgentes, and the city inaugurated the second line, Eje 4, in 2008.  Metrobus now carries 320,000 passengers a day. Accidents dropped by 30 percent, and the corridor saw a five percent shift from private vehicles to public transport. Mayor Ebrard also initiated Sunday Closing – Paseo Domincal – which closes Reforma and other major avenues from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm every Sunday.  This transformation has helped to stimulate a growing cycling and walking culture.  The city approved a bicycle master plan and a pilot new bikeway, but has not yet implemented the plan or built the bikeway.

“Mexico is one of the world examples of congestion, but now it is a world example of how a megacity can improve substantially by implementing well-thought out projects,” said Manfred Breithaupt of GTZ, the German technical cooperation enterprise on sustainable development. “Replication effects in other cities of the country show its snowball effect.”

Istanbul, Turkey has quickly moved to open Metrobus, a BRT system that now carries 450,000 passengers a day over 43 kilometers (about 27 miles) of segregated busway.  After pursuing many high cost, not terribly sustainable transport projects, Istanbul opened one of the most effective BRT lines in the world. Metrobus was built on expressways, so it reaches exceptionally fast travel speeds at 40 kilometers per hour (about 25 miles per hour), reducing travel times by 75 percent.  The system is also integrated with the underground metro and existing bus services.  Other cities in Turkey are looking to this low cost, quickly implemented example as a model.

“It is impressive that after so many wrong starts with transportation projects in Istanbul, the city quickly and with dedication moved to implement this,” stated Dario Hidalgo senior transport engineer at EMBARQ and former deputy director of TransMilenio, Bogotá’s BRT system. “It is always nice to look for inspiration in New York City, but not less interesting to find remarkable efforts in other cities like Istanbul.”

Milan, Italy introduced Ecopass in January 2008, which is designed to restrict access to the central Cerchia dei Bastioni area of the city by charging the most heavily polluting vehicles. It is the first urban environmental policy worldwide in the transport sector based on the European Union’s “polluter pays” principle and is an evolution of the London’s congestion charge. Milan also just unveiled its bike share program, BikeMi, with 1,300 bikes and 103 stations.

“It is an ambitious project which has already shown a reduction in car traffic. The public transport offer should be increased to make it more attractive than driving the car. This system is different from London’s because it is based on environmental performance,” observed Heather Allen, senior manager of Sustainable Development at the International Association for Public Transport (UITP). “Ecopass not only addresses the increasing congestion and high levels of pollution in downtown Milan, but it also sends a strong signal to citizens that there is a choice.”

Since February 2008, there has been a 19.2 percent traffic reduction within—and an 8 percent reduction outside—the Ecopass enforcement time. As a result, public transport speed increased by 11.3 percent, passenger ridership increased on public transport by 9.7 percent and in two months the government generated revenues of 3.9 million Euros (about 5.6 million in U.S. dollars). As a result, carbon dioxide has decreased by 12 percent during the enforcement period, and particulate matter has decreased by 19 percent.

The selection committee includes the most respected experts and organizations working internationally on sustainable transportation with representatives from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (Senior Transport Advisors to the Clinton Climate Initiative); Environmental Defense Fund; the Transportation Research Board Committee on Transportation in Developing Countries; the Clean Air Initiatives for Asia (hosted by the Asian Development Bank), Latin America (hosted by the World Bank), and Africa (hosted by UNEP); GTZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit); EMBARQ (The World Resources Institute Center for Sustainable Transport); ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability); UITP (International Association of Public Transport); and the United Nations’ Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD).

For more information, photos, and videos about the award and its current and past winners, visit https://www.st-award.org


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