On the last day of the ICLEI World Congress, An Pan (Secretary General of Guangzhou City Council) presented the city’s prize-winning BRT system at the sub-plenary ‘Leaders for Innovation’.
Opened in 2010 and with a total length of 22.9km, Guangzhou’s BRT system has a daily passenger flow of 960,000 person-time – more than triple the peak passenger flow of any other BRT system in Asia. It is also the first “metro replacement” level BRT system outside South America. In 2011, the city won the Sustainable Transport Award. It has also been named as a UNFCCC Lighthouse Activity winner.
Besides its capacity to handle large passenger flows, Guangzhou’s BRT system integrates with the city’s bike lanes, bike share and metro stations. It is the first BRT system worldwide with a bike sharing system planned and implemented at the same time along the corridor.
According to the Sustainable Development knowledge Platform of the United Nations, the Guangzhou BRT system reduces 14 tons of the particulate matter emissions that cause respiratory illness on an average annual basis. According to estimates, it helped to save 84,000 tonnes of CO2 emission per year over the first 10 years of its operation.
To promote sustainability and innovation, Guangzhou city has also established the Guangzhou Institute for Urban Innovation, the Urban Innovation database, and the Guangzhou Prize, which is awarded to cities around the world for their innovations in promoting urban sustainability.
The other cities to present their innovations during this session were Heidelberg (Germany), Freiburg (Germany), Boulder (USA) and Dunedin (New Zealand). Eckart Wurzner, the Mayor of Heidelberg, described how his city is a “knowledge pearl”, attracting business with its educated citizens and culture. Dieter Salomon of Freiburg spoke about the city’s Green Industry Park, which provides jobs for more than 50,000 people.
Matthew Appelbaum of Boulder described how, by voting to transfer land outside the city to public ownership, citizens of Boulder had ensured that their city remained compact, avoiding the suburban sprawl characteristic of cities in the USA. Finally, Jinty MacTavish explained why Dunedin Council had decided to divest from fossil fuels, along with tobacco, armaments, gambling and pornography. MacTavish urged other ICLEI members to follow suit.