Smart cities, smart transport

28 October 2014

In the world’s most lively and liveable cities, governments have invested in efficient and affordable transit systems. This article looks at what’s happening overseas and how we can apply some of these lessons here.

What makes a city great? In a transit-oriented city, commute times are shorter, due to less traffic. Air quality is better, due to decreased greenhouse gas emissions. People who have access to an easy and efficient transportation system are also more active and generally have a happy and healthier lifestyle. 

A Transit City uses different kinds of transportation to enhance its transportation systems, which can include subways; light rail; and bus rapid transit (BRT) networks, where fast vehicles that move separately from traffic transport people.

In a recent article, Dr David Suzuki looks at some examples of cities that are doing transport well. 

Curitiba in Brazil has had a lot of success with the implementation of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems. A city of 1.9 million, Curitaba decided to invest heavily in the transportation sector, putting a lot of its investment into BRT.

With over 2,000 modern, low-emission buses and 390 routes that crisscross the city and outer communities, Curitiba has 85% of its population using BRT and has cut car trips by 27 million per year.

In Canada, the city of Toronto has also seen the positive results of an efficient transportation system. The inner-city neighbourhood of Thorncliffe Park is made up mostly of immigrants and many of its inhabitants are poor.

However, this neighbourhood has avoided the problems that many other inner-cities face and sees many of its residents enter the urban middle-class within a generation. By offering easy transportation to the downtown area, opportunities have been created for jobs and education.

Efficient, high quality transit allows an inner-city to build economic and social connections within a city’s downtown urban area.

Here in New Zealand, the Congestion Free Network (CFN) provides a blueprint for a future integrated public transport network in Auckland, staged at five yearly intervals to 2030.

The CFN is a collaboration between the TransportBlog, Generation Zero and The Campaign for Better Transport. Building on existing transport corridors, the CFN is a solution to overcrowded roads, and could provide an alternative to driving for many commuters.

“Auckland’s current transport plan is contained in the Integrated Transport Programme, an expensive and ineffectual road heavy ‘build everything’ transport scheme that is currently unfunded. The CFN will lead to a higher quality and better functioning city, and is much more affordable than the Integrated Transport Programme,” says Sudhvir Singh, Generation Zero spokesperson.

“The CFN involves investment in the ‘missing’ public transport network, which will have the spin off effect of improving Auckland’s performance in other areas such as air quality, carbon emissions, oil dependency, urban form and public health outcomes,” he says.

A congestion free transport network would see higher frequency buses and trains (e.g. every 5-10 minutes), physical separation from congestion (e.g. bus only lanes), and a high-quality public transport service which works as a complete network.

SBN recognises the importance of smart city transit, and is working to encourage New Zealand businesses to accelerate the adoption of smart transport here. To find out more about our Smart Transport project, click here.