Washington, DC – January 14, 2008: London and Paris edged out Guatemala City, Guatemala; Eugene, Oregon; and Pereira, Colombia to win the 2008 Sustainable Transport Award. These cities were nominated for the 4th annual international honor for enhancing the sustainability and livability of their community or region by adopting innovative transportation strategies that lessen the impact of climate change by reducing transportation greenhouse and air pollution emissions.
"All of these cities took politically risky decisions that made a huge contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making their cities more livable," said selection committee member Dr. Walter Hook, executive director of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. "With their success, dozens of mayors around the world are now finding the courage to take similar steps. We are proud to honor these cities tonight."
London is the largest city to adopt congestion pricing and its success has inspired cities in the United States, such as New York City and San Francisco, to consider implementing it. Cities in developing countries such as Shenzen, P.R. China also see congestion pricing as a meaningful instrument to address the problems associated with the rapid growth in vehicles. In 2007, London expanded on the success of its groundbreaking 2003 congestion pricing plan with a doubling of the congestion zone, increased fees for motor vehicles, and new city-wide emission-based tolls that are spurring more rapid adoption of cleaner, fuel efficient vehicles.
"London is providing the political cover for major cities like New York to adopt congestion pricing because --once it's implemented -- it’s popular with most voters, even with those who initially oppose it," said selection committee member Michael Replogle, transportation director for Environmental Defense and a former consultant for the U.S. Federal Highway Administration. "Congestion pricing is a superior gridlock and pollution solution because it has a financial incentive that discourages driving, encourages mass transit and funds it."
Prior to the charge, London drivers spent 50 percent of their time in traffic jams, costing the city between
£2–4 million ($4–8 million) every week. Now, congestion has dropped 25 percent in 2007. About 70,000 fewer vehicles enter the extended congestion pricing zone on a daily basis, reducing global warming carbon dioxide emissions by 16 percent. Each year more than £123 million ($243 million) are raised for public transport improvements. Bus ridership has increased 32 percent as people are switching to bus transportation in London because their travel time has decreased due to congestion pricing. Bike use has increased by 43 percent. Emission-based toll incentives further boost environmental benefits.
Paris revolutionized bike sharing programs of the past to create an individualized mass transit system called Vélib ("Freedom Bikes"). People pay a low fee to use the bikes from one of the many bike parking stations located in the city and they can return the bikes to any station they wish. By the end of 2007, Vélib had more than 1,200 stations and 15,000 bikes in the system. "Freedom bikes" in Paris fill the streets, proving more popular than anticipated. As of November 2007, more than 11 million trips have been made on these bikes.
Vélib is just one component of Paris’ new mobility plan that uses transportation innovation to revitalize community life in public spaces. Paris is prioritizing pedestrians by renovating public squares and plazas, widening sidewalks, and adding new landscaping and raised crosswalks. Paris has built more than 314 kilometers (195 miles) of bike lanes, and bicycling has increased 48 percent during the past five years. Three corridors of the new bus rapid transit system also opened in 2007. These improvements led to a decrease in private vehicle traffic by 20 percent and a nine percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
Sean Crowley, Environmental Defense, +1-202-550-6524, scrowley(at)ed(dot)org
Aimee Gauthier, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, +1-212-629-8001, agauthier(at)itdp(dot)org
Cornie Huizenga, Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia) Center, cornie.huizenga(at)cai-asia(dot)org
Carlosfelipe Pardo, German Technical Cooperation, carlos.pardo(at)sutp(dot)org