Avoid, Shift, Improve

By L. Dennis Burns, CAPP

I recently read “How Do We Get Urban Transport to Deliver on Global Climate Targets?” on the Citiscope website. The feature was written by Cornie Huizenga, Mark Major, and Karl Peet and focuses on strategies to reduce the impacts of urban transport systems (of which parking is a key element).

There are many interesting elements in this commentary but two key items stuck out for me: One was observation that “the transport sector is somewhat unique in how decisions made today on related infrastructure ‘lock in’ demand for tomorrow. Thus, urban policy in the next few years will determine whether we set a course for a high- or low-carbon transport future, especially in rapidly motorizing countries. For the new international climate regime, which sets international goals for the end of this century, that’s of enormous consequence.”

The second was their concise action agenda, summarized as “Avoid, Shift, Improve.” While this sounds somewhat simplistic, the authors note it is no small task. In short, the authors suggest that we need to embrace an “avoid, shift, improve” framework to create a balanced set of transport options to reduce emissions and maximize development benefits.

Examples include:

  • A monthly auction on vehicle licenses has reduced the growth rate of private vehicles in Shanghai by about 30 percent (“avoid”).
  • Development of Mexico City’s Metrobus bus-rapid-transit system has led to a 15 percent mode shift from cars (“shift”).
  • Electric vehicles reached nearly 30 percent market share in Norway at the end of 2016 (“improve”).

Decarbonizing transport will mean embracing policies to avoid unwanted or unnecessary trips or to shift trips to lower-carbon modes. As such, it is policies in areas such as education, housing, health and planning (and parking!) that will determine the long-term scale and form of transport demand.

Dennis Burns, CAPP, is regional vice president with Kimley Horn.

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