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Eco-friendly transport: the future is in China

TRANSIT recently took note of some interesting information about public transport in China.

First, blogger Anil Netto comments on Guangzhou’s winning of a sustainable transport award for their Bus Rapid Transit system.

BRT: If Guangzhou can do it, why not Penang? ( 28 May 2011)If congested Guangzhou can win a sustainable transport award for its BRT and cycle system, why not Penang and other cities in Malaysia?

Over in Mumbai, India, the youth appear to be streets ahead of the politicians in recognising the importance of more sustainable modes of transport.

I was on the Jelutong Expressway this evening heading towards the Penang Bridge, and its was choked. Two lanes of traffic from Green Lane were trying to merge into the already jammed three lanes heading towards the Penang Bridge. As the traffic inched forward, I wondered to myself, even if we have two Penang bridges, how would it ease congestion along the Jelutong Expressway?

And then I came across this.

From the website of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy:


Cities worldwide are demonstrating innovation in transport planning by integrating bike, BRT and metro systems, with Guangzhou in China announced as winner of the 2011 Sustainable Transport Award. Guangzhou’s new world-class BRT system integrates with bike lanes, bike share and metro stations, raising the bar for all cities.

Walter Hook, Executive Director of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, commented: “Guangzhou’s transformations are nothing short of amazing. The reclaimed waterways for public space inspired by another Sustainable Transport Winner – Seoul – are a drastic improvement and bold innovation. The new BRT system is changing perceptions about bus-based and high quality mass transit. We hope all cities, not least those in the US, will be inspired by these examples.”

Sophie Punte, Executive Director, Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia) Center, elaborated: “Guangzhou has demonstrated that future emissions can be avoided through BRT systems integrated with cycling and other public transport systems at relatively low costs.”

The Sustainable Transport Award is given annually to the city that made most progress over the year to increase mobility for all residents while reducing transportation greenhouse and air pollution emissions and improving safety and access for cyclists and pedestrians.

The Honorable Mentions:

  • León in Mexico, home of Mexico’s first BRT, now achieving a level of integration unsurpassed in the region. Dario Hidalgo, Director of Research and Practice at EMBARQ, explained: “León was Mexico’s pioneer in introducing integrated bus systems and BRT in 2003; now they have scaled their system from 35% to 65% of the transit trips, through route reorganization and continued inclusion of the local bus operators. León has also an extraordinary track record in active transport, keeping the biking and walking share above 39% of the total trips, one of the highest values in Latin American cities.”
  • Tehran, Iran, where the introduction of congestion charging complements the city’s expansion of its metro and BRT systems. Lloyd Wright, Executive Director of Viva Cities, commented: “Over the past several years, Tehran has faced one of the world’s most severe air quality crises. The local climate, topography, and sharp growth in private cars have all conspired to create a lingering air quality emergency over the city. The national and local government have responded boldly. Investments in quality rail and BRT are re-defining public transport in Tehran, and a move towards new cycle and pedestrian infrastructure is helping to transform mobility patterns as well. Even more boldly, though, the government has begun the process of reducing fuel subsidies. In all, Tehran is developing a package of carrots and sticks that will hopefully steer the city towards a more sustainable mobility path.”
  • Nantes in France, where the integration of its bus light rapid transit with its tramway network presents a model of efficient coordination. Heather Allen, Senior Manager, Sustainable Development, International Association of Public Transport, argued: “Ambitious targets, vision combined with integrated planning and sustained investment have paid big dividends in Nantes. Last year it made significant progress in integrating its tramway and bus system, promoting bicycling and continuing to shift people away from cars. Its integrated transport system helps make it one of the most livable cities in Europe.”
  • Lima, Peru, where the long-awaited BRT is the first step towards creating an integrated citywide sustainable transport system. Sergio Sánchez, Director, Clean Air Institute for Latin America, said: “Lima has finally made considerable progress with planning, designing and launching its new BRT system. We truly hope that this trend continues in coming years and that we will see the same progress in 2011 and the following years.”

Finally, Manfred Breithaupt, Senior Transport Advisor, GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit), said: “The Sustainable Transport Award has been growing in importance every year, and giving greater relevance to the topic of physical and fare integration is most relevant to increase attractiveness and acceptance of public transport. This has been done by many of the nominated cities during 2010. We at GIZ are very happy to be part of this initiative.”

The Nominees are chosen by a Committee that includes the most respected experts and organizations working internationally on sustainable transportation. Committee members include:

  • Walter Hook, Executive Director, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy
  • Dario Hidalgo, Senior Transport Engineer, EMBARQ, The World Resources Institute Center for Sustainable Transport
  • Manfred Breithaupt, Senior Transport Advisor, GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit)
  • Sophie Punte, Executive Director, Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia) Center
  • Heather Allen, Senior Manager, Sustainable Development, International Association of Public Transport (UITP)
  • Ralph Gakenheimer, Chair, Transportation Research Board Committee on Transportation in Developing Countries
  • Sergio Sánchez, Director, Clean Air Institute for Latin America
  • Choudhury Rudra Charan Mohanty, Environmental Expert, United Nations Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD)

The Sustainable Transport Award is given each year during the annual Transportation Research Board meeting in Washington, D.C. Past winners include:

2010 – Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, Ahmedabad, India, for opening the first full bus rapid transit system in India.
2009 – Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York, United States, for making bold moves to achieve the ambitious goals of PlaNYC 2030.
2008 – Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, Paris, France for implementing a range of innovative mobility solutions with vision, commitment and vigor. Mayor Ken Livingston, London, United Kingdom for expanding London’s congestion charge program and developing other low emissions programs that dramatically impacted air quality.
2007 – Mayor Jaime Nebot, Guayquil, Ecuador for revitalizing the downtown, creating dynamic public spaces, and instituting a new public transit system.
2006 – Mayor Myung-Bak Lee, Seoul, Korea for the revitalization of the Cheongyecheon River and the implementation of its bus rapid transit system.
2005 – former Mayor Enrique Peñalosa, Bogotá, Colombia for the TransMilenio bus rapid transit system, bicycle integration, and public space reclamation.


It looks like everyone thinks that Bus Rapid Transit is the solution for our public transport woes. Let’s face it, Guangzhou’s BRT system is massive and impressive and carries more people than the LRT system of the Klang Valley.

But Guangzhou also has something that is very important that makes the BRT system possible. We are not talking about open roads, but rather, open minds.

Yes, it is the clear and effective government policy in China that makes the difference. When the Chinese government wants something done they do their research and they make sure that the project is in the public interest – and then, they get it done.

Now, Anil also looks at other forms of transport. For example, in this post he advocates more investment in cycling infrastructure in Penang. With the potential for electric train service to Penang by 2013 (Penang Sentral will unfortunately not be complete so there will be some challenges) there is a possibility that more people will be coming to Penang and not driving.

And in this area Hangzhou, China leads the way, with what describes as The Biggest, Baddest Bike-Share in the World with more than 50,000 distinctive bicycles for a city with a population of 7 million.

Hangzhou’s 2,050 bike-share stations are spaced less than a thousand feet from each other in the city center, and on an average day riders make 240,000 trips using the system. Its popularity and success have set a new standard for bike-sharing in Asia. And the city is far from finished. The Hangzhou Bicycle Company plans to expand the bike-share system to 175,000 bikes by 2020!


London’s Barclay’s Cycle Hire has probably got 5,000 bicycles (just for comparison). And that is of course what impresses people about China – the sheer scope of their undertakings and the speed in which they are accomplished.

Sure, there are problems in China. Many of these projects happen at a massive scale and the planning process does not give due consideration to social and environmental issues and this is something that has to be resolved. Corruption exists among certain municipal officials and railway officials – but this often the exception rather than the rule and those who are caught are not only punished, but they are also made an example of.

This is not a China good, Malaysia bad post – but it shows us that we can learn from the Chinese government and its ability to act in the public interest.

2 replies on “Eco-friendly transport: the future is in China”

Yes, am aware of that since i was the one who shared with him the 2 video clips just as I did here in Transitmy as well.

Not to say we don’t want to implement BRT, but need to be studied carefully for following reasons
1) In China, there are wide roads, in Penang there are still certain roads with 1 lanes. Also in China, there is no this problem of “not in my backyard” mentality by house owners – they can just bulldoze through anywhere. Do that in Msia and you can hv UMNO or DAP opposition (depending on whom is in power) forming human shields around houses
2) When i shared this with a friend of mine in Delhi, he says that they did try in certain areas but accidents piles up. Perhaps this is due to narrowing of certain roads
3) Bike share is good, but as i read somewhere in Wiki, even countries like Holland which introduces it faces the problems of bike theft

Yes, we can do that, but need to be studied + debated out proper

i am always happy to read all these successes achieved by so-called ‘third world’ countries in making their cities livable. I am also very envious of their achievements because their goverments have the will do the RIGHT things for the good of its people. Thus, i feel sad with my own country and my elected leaders, who dare not look past politics and popularity and do the right thing to make our cities livable.

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