City of Boulder Recognized as Leader in Eco-Transportation

City of Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones Reports from the 2017 Eco-Mobility World Congress

Boulder, CO was recently rated “the happiest city in America.” Perhaps related: Boulder is also one of the most bikable U.S. cities and internationally recognized for its alternative transportation solutions. Below are comments from Mayor Suzanne Jones while representing Boulder as one of a few cities invited to present at the October 2017 Eco-Mobility Congress in Taiwan.

“I am so pleased to be representing City of Boulder, along with Natalie Stiffler (Boulder senior transportation planner), at ICLEI’s 2017 Eco-Mobility World Congress in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. This gathering was described to me as “the Olympics of city transportation solutions” – being held every two years, with over 42 countries, 53 cities and 1,200 participants in an amazing international city, I now understand the reference.

Boulder is one of only a few United States cities invited (and hosted) to come speak at the conference, and yours truly spoke at one of the opening panels with reps from the host city; Suwon, South Korea; London, England; and Melbourne, New Zealand. I shared about the transportation work that Boulder is undertaking to become a more livable city—like our extensive multi-use path bike/pedestrian network with its 80 underpasses that also doubles for flood management; our collaborative successes with regional bus rapid transit along US36; our investment in Boulder Junction as a transit-oriented development to create a new mixed-use, walkable neighborhood in east Boulder; and our renewed safety focus on “Vision Zero” to reduce serious collisions; and so on.

How reassuring to find that we are not unusual or alone: cities all over the world are undertaking similar experiments and transitions—driven by concerns about increasing congestion, air pollution, growing populations and climate change. It is a gathering of cities that are committed to utilizing the latest smart technologies (e.g., autonomous electric buses) to rethink what mobility looks like and creating state-of-the-art communities that place people back at the top of the hierarchy (e.g., reclaiming public spaces for people).

The theme is “Livable. Shared. Intelligent.” Companies like Tesla and 7StarLake (and a plethora of other companies touting every form of electric and smart mobility from skateboards to buses) are here to explain emerging technologies and how they will make cities better; and old-school concepts like walking and biking are celebrated as essential mechanisms to re-create vibrant downtown city centers. It is a fascinating and inspiring gathering, and making me realize that Boulder will have to run to keep up with these innovating cities.

One element of every Eco-Mobility Congress is that the host city turns a portion of their city into an eco-mobility demonstration district closed to cars for a month. In this case, Kaohsiung chose the historic Hamasan neighborhood to give the streets over to walkers, bikes, electric scooters and busses, as well as an autonomous electric shuttle demonstration. Events are hosted within the district all month, including the conference’s bike parade of mayors and city reps from around the world riding all fashion of e-bikes through waving crowds (the mayor of Kaohsiung is a former political prisoner and beloved celebrity, so she has crowds wherever she goes!).

The three-day Congress concluded with the unveiling and publishing of the Kaohsiung Principles for Shared Mobility (https://www.sharedmobilityprinciples.org ), which are consensus principles from lead global non-profits to serve as a roadmap moving forward. Some of these principles are no-brainers and others certainly provocative — e.g., moving beyond cars (and all of the public real estate devoted to them) as the organizing theme for cities. But having traveled through several major Asian cities on this trip—with the congestion, the incredible air pollution, and the high fatalities—it is clear that a major transformation is needed in urban areas as populations continue to climb. And seeing what has been accomplished in the Netherlands, with state-of-the-art transit technology in addition to their incredible bike mode share, it is certainly worth examining what Boulder’s version of eco-mobility should look like to keep improving our livability and sustainability. At a minimum, shaping this next chapter involving autonomous vehicles to make sure they are both electric and shared when they arrive in Colorado, seems like an important and immediate task.

In closing, it was indeed an honor and privilege to be here—to represent our city, but also our country in a time when our international reputation is taking a beating. It turns out that Boulder is both known and respected here (hats off to the prior work of Matt Appelbaum, Kathleen Bracke and Tracy Winfree!)—I am told that we have participated in every one of these World Congresses in some fashion, and our engagement is both noted and appreciated.”

Solar-powered Gondola in Colorado

Free gondola traveling between the town of Telluride and town of Mountain Village

APA client The ASTER Foundation supports sustainable transportation solutions …

Visiting Telluride, Colorado, the first thing you notice, besides the spectacular mountain view, is a free gondola. The gondola, traveling from the town of Telluride to the town of Mountain Village, is the first and only free public transportation of its kind in the United States. It was built to improve air quality in the region by keeping cars off the road.

“We created the free gondola for the right to build this town,” said Deanna Drew, director of plaza & environmental services at Mountain Village. With the condition to keep as many vehicles off the road as possible, Mountain Village was incorporated in 1995 to join 20 towns in San Miguel County and has become one of the world’s top resort destinations.

Read more …

The Elements of Truly Sustainable Transportation

Emirates_Cable_CarTransport is responsible for around a seventh of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Of these emissions almost two thirds are the result of passenger travel while the rest is due to freight.

So passenger travel is a big deal for climate.

As you can imagine there are a number of elements that help to determine how sustainable any form of transportation really is. Below are five elements to consider.

1) Fuel Economy

Better fuel economy leads to lower emissions. Large cars (15 MPG) have emissions almost three times that of the hybrid car (45 MPG).

By improving fuel economy we can get the same mileage while generating fewer emissions. Something that is achieved by making engines more efficient, vehicles lighter and bodies more aerodynamic. But even then combustion engines remain relatively inefficient and produce emissions at the tailpipe, so improving them is really just a stop-gap en-route to sustainable transport.

2) Occupancy

The cheapest and simplest way to lower the carbon intensity of a passenger mile is to stick more people in the vehicle.

If you look at buses, the importance of occupancy becomes even more stark. The local bus has emissions seven times higher than the school bus. While their routes may vary a little they are both diesel buses. The main difference is that the school bus has very high occupancy.

With notable exception of flying, public transport tends to have quite low carbon emissions, due largely to having relatively high occupancy.

3) Electrification

In the absence of breakthroughs in second generation biofuels, electrification is the most important pathway to low carbon transport.

Electric cars using low carbon power have footprints less than half that of the best hybrid, even after you account for their larger manufacturing footprint. The high-speed EuroStar rail which uses low carbon French electricity. The lowest carbon transport on earth is probably electrified public transport in a place like Norway where electricity generation is almost carbon free.

While there is a natural tendency to obsess about the electrification of cars, there are lots of interesting innovations occurring in the electrification of rail, motorbikes, scooters and bikes.

4) Pedal power

When it comes to carbon emissions, bicycles are pretty cutting edge. Even when you account for the foodprint of excess energy used when cycling, the humble bike is incredibly low carbon.

Bikes have obvious limitations around speed and distance, but for short trips in places with good infrastructure they are hard to beat in terms of carbon. They also have a great synergy with public transport systems like intercity rail.

5) Urbanization

Each of the first four elements we have described above refers to improving the carbon intensity of transport. But emissions are a function of both how we travel and how far we travel. One thing that tackles both of these issues is the trend towards urbanization.

People who live in cities have lower transport emissions. Fuel economy may be lower in city traffic but that is more than made up for by the fact that city dwellers drive far less. Electrification of public transport is more economic and practical in cities. Occupancy on public transport systems is much higher. And access to infrastructure for both cycling and walking is often better.

In 1950 less than 30% of the world’s population lived in cites, by 2010 that figure was over 50%, and by 2030 it is expected to surpass 60%. This natural trend to urbanization is a huge opportunity to for lowering both distance travelled per person and the carbon intensity of that travel.

Source: Shrink That Footprint.

Americans Are Driving Less

Transportation_Transition_ImageThe report, “Transportation in Transition: A Look at Changing Travel Patterns in America’s Biggest Cities,” is based on the most current available government data. It is the first ever national study to compare transportation trends for America’s largest cities and lists results for each. Among its national findings:

  • The proportion of workers commuting by private vehicle — either alone or in a carpool — declined in 99 out of 100 of America’s most populous urbanized areas between 2000 and the 2007-2011 period averaged in U.S. Census data.
  • From 2006 to 2011, the average number of miles driven per resident fell in almost three-quarters of America’s largest urbanized areas for which up-to-date and accurate Federal Highway Administration data are available (54 out of 74 urban areas).
  • The proportion of households without cars increased in 84 out of the 100 largest urbanized areas from 2006 to 2011. The proportion of households with two cars or more cars decreased in 86 out of the 100 of these areas during that period.
  • The proportion of residents bicycling to work increased in 85 out of 100 of America’s largest urbanized areas between 2000 and 2007-2011.
  • The number of passenger-miles traveled per capita on transit increased in 60 out of 98 of America’s large urbanized areas whose trends could be analyzed between 2005 and 2010.

The study found that cities with the largest decreases in driving were not those hit hardest by the recession. On the contrary, the economies of urbanized areas with the largest declines in driving appear to have been less affected by the recession according to unemployment, income and poverty indicators.