On 1 October, Kaohsiung will welcome visitors from around the world to the EcoMobility World Festival 2017. They are coming to witness a bold experiment: Kaohsiung is transforming the streets of the historic Hamasen neighborhood into a space dedicated to ecomobile vehicles such as bikes, public transport and light electric vehicles. The city has long been preparing for this event, alongside neighborhood residents.
One of the most challenging – and most important – parts making urban transport more sustainable is the change that needs to happen in our minds. Switching to ecomobility involves behavioral change that lays the groundwork for a new transportation culture. Kaohsiung has taken on this challenge by working with over 150 local ambassadors to help residents understand and embrace the Festival, listening to their concerns and spending the necessary time to answer their questions.
The transition to ecomobility also involves practical changes to account for the variety of mobility needs in urban areas. In the run-up to the Festival, the city has worked with local shop owners, students and workers to understand how they move about the neighborhood each day. Based on this information, Kaohsiung has planned alternative ecomobile options to make sure daily life continues as normal – just in a more ecomobile, sustainable manner.
To ease the transition into the Festival, Kaohsiung made all ecomobile modes of transport available two weeks ahead of the Festival. Since 12 September, the residents of Hamasen and people coming to the neighborhood to work or study were provided with parking space outside of the neighborhood area, and invited to use the wide range of ecomobile transport options available. Two weeks before the Festival, 70 percent of the residents had already received a public transport e-ticket, allowing them to use the bus, metro, ferry and light rail for free throughout the month of October.
This soft launch is a way to transition smoothly into the Festival, when the streets of Hamasen will become fully ecomobile. It provides the city with time to fix any issues that may arise or answer concerns from residents, and test out the ecomobile options provided. For instance, within this two-week period, shop owners raised concerns regarding the movement of fresh produce requiring refrigeration, while some residents were concerned about the safety of their car in the parking spaces outside the neighborhood. The city has already addressed these concerns by providing refrigerated vehicles, hiring security companies to watch parking spaces and opening the transport options offered to the students to their parents and teachers as well.
Initial feedback is positive and encouraging: Students are finding it easier to commute to school, and residents are asking whether the variety of transport options will remain in place after the Festival – but the real experiment will happen in October.
Kaohsiung is treating the Festival as an investment for the future of the city and its residents. The city is committing to ecomobility and planning for long term changes, but for now, city officials are concentrating on making this challenging experiment a success.