Sustainability and Cities: Overcoming Automobile Dependence

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Sustainability and Cities: Overcoming Automobile Dependence

Newman & Kenworthy

Chapter 3

The Pattern of Automobile Dependence and Global Cities”


- Quantitative indicators of urban sustainability

- The ability to use indicators to recognize improvement is important

- They should be tied into public policies

- We will be looking at:

- Transportation indicators such as energy patterns, land use, and air quality

- Livability indicators related to wealth and road expenditure

- First dataset derived from 46 cities around the world

- Second dataset contains a subset of cities in the first (36 cities plus Beijing)

- What does it mean to be automobile dependent?

- How does this relate to sustainability?

Transportation Energy Patterns

- Energy Use

- Per capita energy use for transportation (both private and public)

- Significantly more energy used per person in US cities than in Australian, Canadian, European, and Asian cities

- This is true even for the wealthier international cities

- Biggest differences seem to come in private transportation gasoline and public transportation electricity

- Numbers don’t even show the number of people that travel

- For example, although New York uses 97% of its transportation energy for private transportation,

this accounts for only 31.3% of trips… and 54% of households in NYC don’t even own a car
- See chart on p. 72… what seems to affect energy use?
Fuel Types
- Gasoline

- 86% of total transportation energy in U.S. & Australia

- 67% in Europe

- 49% in Asia

- Electricity

- 0.3% in U.S. & Australia

- 2.5% in Europe

- 1.2% in Asia

- Trends:

- Cities with any significant electricity usage were typically:

- Public transport-oriented

- low in terms of overall energy use

- low in carbon dioxide production
- This is true for cities that use coal to produce electricity even though coal is less fuel-efficient than gasoline and produces 4X more CO2 than gasoline

- Why?… because a city with an electric public transit system typically uses less fuel overall and often has land use patterns that promote walking & biking

- However, a coal city like Melbourne, Australia produces 69X more CO2 than a hydropower city like Zurich, Switzerland

Technology-Vehicle Efficiency
- How important are differences in vehicle efficiency in determining the differences between the cities?

- SUVs and hybrid cars are often the first things we talk about when it comes to fuel efficiency

- However, it does not seem to be a significant factor in the overall fuel efficiency of a city

- Public transportation is more of a factor in a fuel efficient city

- For automobiles, U.S. fuel efficiency was significantly worse than other countries getting better over time

- Average transit travel is typically 2X more efficient than car travel

- Rail travel btw. 2.5 and 5 times more energy efficient than bus travel
Car Use and Wealth
- Is there a link between driving and wealth?

- What would this mean for a transportation planner if this were true?

- However, the data suggests a negative link between economic performance in a city and high levels of automobile use

- Compares per capita use of cars versus the gross regional product (GRP is an indicator of city wealth)

- No obvious pattern
- The large U.S. cities sampled have:

- 2.2X higher car use than Toronto but only 1.2X higher GRP

- 2.4X higher car use than avg. European city and 0.85X GRP

- 7.3X higher car use than wealthy Asian cities and 1.3X GRP

- New York has 36% less car use than Houston and a higher GRP

- Looking specifically at the wealthy Asian cities vs. the poorer cities, the poorer cities have slightly higher car use but only 12% of the GRP

Road Expenditure
- Road expenditure per capita tends to follow car usage

- Road expenditure includes maintenance so it is difficult to really assess trends

- For example, Copenhagen, Denmark has a very dense city center with low road expenditure and high transit use…

- However, has more car-dependent, low-density suburbs that requires a relatively high road expenditure

- Also, Asian cities have relatively high road expenditure mostly due to initial road building in developing cities
Percentage of GRP Spent on the Journey-to-work
- What trends might you might expect… would more car-oriented cities spend more or less on commuting?

- It turns out that the % of GRP spent is similar across the board at ~6%

- Even for cities with drastically different car usage, they are similar in terms of economic efficiency with transportation
- In terms of sustainability, this suggests that a more sustainable transportation system can be realized without harming the overall economic structure
Transit Recovery Cost

- This is often a policy decision that is highly controversial… should transit be subsidized?

- The numbers show U.S. and Australian cities relatively low at around 35 to 40 percent

- Asian cities have typically high transit cost recovery averaging more than 100% with Hong Kong at 136%

- European cities average 54% cost recovery

- Ranges from London at 93% to 27% in Brussels, Belgium

- This is more a reflection of deliberate public policy decisions rather than inherent economic differences

- London has very high transit fares while cities in Belgium and Germany choose to subsidize transit

- Rapid bus transit is often advocated as a low-cost transit solution, but cost recovery for such cities is typically low

- What the numbers show is that it is much easier to attain high transit recovery in a city that physically support high transit use

- Cities without the physical environment to support transit would have a much more difficult time maintaining high cost recovery if that is the chosen policy
Traffic Deaths

- U.S. cities averaged 14.6 traffic deaths per 100,000 people in 1990

- Australia = 12.0

- Europe = 8.8

- Wealthy Asian Cities = 6.6

- Developing Asian Cities = 13.7

- Toronto = 6.5

- U.S. also has the highest level of car dependence

- What factors are important?

- Traffics deaths seem to decline in with car usage… but not linearly

- Other factors include the level of traffic regulation, traffic engineering, management, and education

- Trends:

- A good transit system

- Toronto has 24% transit trips compared to ~3% in U.S.

- Less than half the fatalities of a typical U.S. city

- Tokyo and Hong Kong have very good transit systems as well as some of the best safety records

- Cities with highest bicycle usage often have lower rates of traffic deaths… puts the perception that bicycling is dangerous in doubt

- Amsterdam, Netherlands & Copenhagen, Denmark

- Both cities have fostered a culture of respect for non-motorized travelers where the bicyclists are accommodated and even given priority at many intersections

Transportation Emissions

- Carbon Dioxide

- Due to an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide is a focal point

- CO2 is relatively small from transit as compared to cars

- The best solution seems to be a transportation plan that focuses on improved technology (more fuel-efficient vehicles), facilitates mode shift, and reduces the need for travel (land-use)

- Smog Emissions

- High congestion seems to be less of a factor than one might think

- Cities with higher average travel speeds (smoother traffic flow) do not have lower smog emissions

- Wealth seems to be a major factor

- Poorer cities typically have an older vehicle fleet, more lenient vehicle inspections, and lower emission standards

Proportion of City Wealth Spent on Transportation

- Sum of all the direct costs for both private & public transportation in proportion to the wealth of a city (GRP)

- This measure is different than the amount of wealth spent on commuting mentioned earlier

- Cities with the highest car usage have the highest overall percentage of transportation costs

- U.S. and Australian cities have highest proportion of wealth being spent on automobiles (highest cities spend between 15% and 17%)

- European and wealthy Asian cities spend the least (btw 5% & 8%)

- The best North American cities are Toronto at 7% & NYC at 10%

- Strong transit is an important factor

- % GRP Spent on Passenger Travel vs. Urban density

- Automobile dependence seems to be caused by a combination of high car use, high provision for automobiles, and scattered low-density land use
- Based on the economic and environmental indicators here, these types of car-oriented cities are not sustainable
Car-oriented cities are:

- not any wealthier,

- not any more economically efficient,

- do not spend less time or money commuting,

- have lower transit cost recovery,

- higher road expenditure,

- higher energy use,

- higher emissions ,

- use more land per capita,

- and have more traffic deaths

- We are starting to see some positive trends in terms of more focused land use and increased density in U.S. and Australian cities
- It remains to be seen whether or not this will have any significant effect on automobile dependence
- European and wealthy Asian cities have the least costly and least environmentally unsound transportation systems
- Rail transit systems seem to be able to best lure people away from their cars while also relatively energy efficient
- A high level of non-motorized transportation is highly significant as an economic and environmental indicator

Other quantitative indicators of urban sustainability

- The ability to use indicators to recognize improvement is important

- They should be tied into public policies
- Good indicators can have very local interests


- Seattle uses 20 different indicators including:

- # of pedestrian-friendly streets

- # of youth participating in community services

- Diversity of the local economy

- Quantity of salmon in the urban streams

- Copenhagen, Denmark

- # of seats available to the public in streets/squares

- Adelaide, Australia

- # of local frog species

- Amount of rainwater reused

- The Hague, Netherlands

- # of storks successfully breeding

- # of installed wind-energy devices

- # of 30 km/hr residential zones

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