26 November marks the first-ever United Nations World Sustainable Transport Day, promoting sustainable, efficient, and inclusive transport. ICLEI joins this celebration by spotlighting exemplary cities worldwide driving change—whether with electric buses in Quito, an urban freight revolution in Portland, or a decade of a car-free festival in Suwon, these urban innovators are paving the way for sustainable and inclusive transportation.
Portland, USA: Sustainability and equity at the core of urban logistics
Portland is part of ICLEI’s EcoLogistics Community, the first city network globally committed to a sustainable urban logistics future, launched in 2019 by ICLEI. For over three years, the Portland Bureau of Transportation has engaged Portlanders in planning how to move goods through the city while meeting their goals for a safe multimodal system that supports economic prosperity, human and environmental health, equity, and resilience.
The result? Last July 2023, the City Council adopted the 2040 Portland Freight Plan (2040Freight), which introduces an innovative transportation strategy focused on moving people and goods/services rather than prioritizing the number of vehicles.
Aligned with the city’s long-term objectives, 2040Freight seeks to reduce carbon emissions, promote equity, and address structural racism. Despite the significant role of the freight sector in the Portland region, the plan acknowledges the underrepresentation of women and people of diverse ethnic backgrounds in related occupations, highlighting the city’s commitment to inclusivity and sustainability.
Bremen, Germany: Crowd-sourced mobility data
“Where are things running badly?” and “Where are they running smoothly?”.
These were the pivotal questions posed by the city of Bremen to its community, utilizing an online platform to gather insights. The goal was to assess mobility challenges and opportunities within the city. Through this innovative approach, citizens became the primary data source, marking problematic locations on a map and color-coding entries based on transport mode. Complementing traditional data collection methods, Bremen embraced crowdsourcing, receiving over 100,000 page views, 4,000 contributions, 9,000 comments, and 100,000 ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ ratings on the portal.
Bremen is among the hundred-plus cities engaged in the SUMPs-Up project under the European Union’s CIVITAS 2020 Initiative and led by ICLEI. SUMP, or “Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans,” represent Europe’s primary urban transport planning concept, strategically designed to enhance the mobility needs of urban dwellers and businesses for an improved quality of life.
Comprised of 12 steps, the SUMP framework guides decision-makers in developing their mobility projects. Bremen’s involvement highlights the significance of the third step, “analyze mobility situation,” emphasizing the importance of identifying information sources and employing innovative approaches to access them.
Suwon, South Korea: A decade celebrating EcoMobility World Festival
“One neighborhood, one month, car-free.” This innovative motto set the stage for ICLEI’s inaugural EcoMobility World Festival in 2013, hosted in Suwon and later replicated in Kaohsiung, Chinese Taipei, and Johannesburg, South Africa. Despite community protests over the one-month car-free concept, Suwon’s initial ambition was to revitalize its deteriorating old city center through ecomobility. In response, Suwon established the Citizen’s Steering Committee for EcoMobility, whose members have since become the driving force behind the initiative. While the event has transitioned to a three-day celebration, Suwon remains committed, recently marking the 10th anniversary with a series of events held last October in the Hangung-dong neighborhood, where the event was first staged, including car-free days, bicycle parades, exhibitions, talks, workshops, and the EcoMobility Forum focusing on Suwon’s dedication to reducing car dependency.
The festival’s enduring legacies include car-free streets, the establishment of the EcoMobility Bureau dedicated to advancing ecomobility, and the annual organization of car-free days. Beyond these tangible outcomes, the festival has contributed to a strengthened culture of public participation in Suwon. The city now conducts more town hall meetings, allowing residents to offer feedback on administrative policies and initiatives.
Quito, Ecuador: Transitioning to electric buses
Quito’s ambitious goal is clear: achieve 100% zero-emissions public transport by 2040. In the meantime, the city plans to introduce at least 10% electric buses on each route by the end of this year and an all-electric fleet for new urban public transport services by 2025. In pursuit of this transition, the city joined the TUMI E-Bus Mission City Network in 2022—a learning network accelerating the shift to electric bus fleets in public transportation systems where they had the opportunity to exchange and visit the e-bus depot of the city Bogota, Colombia and Paris, France.
Quito’s journey towards electric public transportation started in 2018 with a pilot project with three electric buses. To move forward, the city reveals key lessons: Sustaining political will and fostering collaboration among stakeholders are essential for project continuity.
Despite adjusting its regulatory framework, Quito faces challenges in financing, accessing green bonds, and relocating subsidies for a successful electric bus transition. Notably, this year’s introduction of a higher rate in the Municipal Code for the use of electric public transport serves as a financial incentive, aiming to attract potential investors.
Kochi, India: Onboard with E-rickshaws
In Kochi, E-rickshaws, the eco-friendly champions of urban mobility, have become vital for short trips and first/last-mile connectivity. Despite their popularity, the unregulated growth of these vehicles brought challenges like electricity theft and subpar driving. To address these issues, ICLEI launched the initiative for Transforming the adoption of E-rickshaws in Indian cities. In Kochi, the focus was on evaluating E-rickshaws’ financial feasibility and charging infrastructure.
To advance and reshape the e-rickshaw ecosystem, the evaluation highlights the imperative for collaborative initiatives involving stakeholders such as financial institutions, policymakers, civil society, and the government. Key focus areas include regulatory actions, innovative financial business models, enhancements in vehicle design, and adopting sustainable technologies. Additionally, fostering behavioral changes is essential to promote safety and prevent electricity theft.
*Featured image credits: © Suwon City