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Six impactful actions cities can take to reduce transport emissions

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C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group

  1. Implement transit-oriented development
  • Transit-oriented development (TOD) is a type of urban planning that clusters jobs, housing and amenities around public transport hubs. This creates vibrant communities and delivers benefits for local economies, air quality and congestion.
  • Cities should establish a city-owned and long-term vision for TOD.
  • Align land use, planning and transport strategies and introduce regulations for denser, affordable, mixed-use, and walking and cycling-friendly development close to transit stations.
  • Reallocate road space to buses, cyclists and pedestrians.
  1. Promote walking and cycling as zero emission transport options
  • Focus messaging on what the city will gain from increased road space for walkers and cyclists, rather than what car users will lose.
  • Consider polling the public to gain a popular mandate, and act quickly to reap the rewards.
  • Designate pedestrian- and cyclist-only areas and build a walking and cycling network that connects with other public transport networks.
  • Improve walking and cycling infrastructure, such as segregated bike lanes and wider sidewalks, and improve cycle hire facilities.
  1. Drive a modal shift from personal vehicle use to public transport
  • Invest in public transport infrastructure, making it an attractive and convenient everyday choice.
  • Take a whole-network approach to public transport planning, including physical connectivity, integrated fares and integrated operations.
  • Deliver marketing campaigns to break down cultural barriers to public transport use, making use of new technologies and apps such as live journey planning tools to maximise the ease of use.
  1. Enact a low emission zone to target vehicle emissions
  • Frame the area to suit local priorities. Existing examples include ‘low emission zones’, ‘clean air zones’, and ‘congestion charge zones.’
  • Set strict vehicle emissions standards in the zone and charge vehicles that don’t meet them to enter, or ban them from entering, so that cars and heavy motor vehicles become fewer and cleaner. Strengthen these standards over time.
  1. Shift the vehicles left on the roads to electric
  • Procure only zero-emission buses, taxis and municipal vehicles from 2025, or earlier.
  • Build electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, guided by benchmark ratios on EVs per charger and the mix of charger types set in leading city markets, and encourage other stakeholders to invest.
  • To encourage EV public uptake, introduce financial incentives such as vehicle tax exemptions and convenience perks like reserved parking spaces.
  • To make EVs zero emission, decarbonise the electricity grid by increasing building-scale renewable energy production within the city, and use the city’s purchasing power to stimulate clean energy generation in the region.
  1. Shift to cleaner freight vehicles and reduce the miles they travel
  • Encourage ‘last-mile’ delivery strategies that enable the final stretch of journeys into cities to be taken by clean transport modes.
  • Encourage businesses to consolidate deliveries, so that there are fewer vehicles each carrying more goods on the roads.
  • Seek opportunities to shift freight off the roads and onto other modes of transport, such as rail or boats.

Actions one to four are about driving a transport modal shift away from reliance on private vehicles in favour of more sustainable modes, and they intersect. For instance, transit-oriented development is explicitly designed to promote walking, cycling and public transit use. To be effective cities should implement a combination of these actions as part of a holistic transport, land use and planning strategy. Read more how to drive a modal shift here. We explain how to implement each of these measures in the linked related articles.

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