Asia’s Three Long Steps to Sustainable Transport

This morning several of our colleagues engaged in a bit of sustainable  ping pong, comparing thoughts on how at least a first if still modest wave of cities in Asia are, with luck, starting to move into the third and most defining stage of transport policy and practice.  A well defined process that opens with: our old friend “forecast and build” in an attempt to “deal forever” with the problems of ever expanding traffic congestion in and around our cities; moving on from there to more well-advised, certainly, but nonetheless ultimately inadequate efforts to expand public transport sufficiently to deal with the challenges of getting around in a dynamic modern city; and finally on to what we may think of as the first necessary steps to a genuinely sustainable transport policy, namely car control by any of many available means.

And while this exchange of views was specifically concerned with the attempt to spot the latest stage of transport policy in Asian cities, you can find this pattern emerging in other parts of the world as well. But for now let’s review their thoughts on the process  that are leading the way in Asian cities, and in the days ahead see if we can take this further.

# # #

From: Cornie Huizenga, Manila, Philippines
Sent: Monday, April 02, 2012 3:35 AM
To: Global ‘South’ Sustainable Transport

Dear All, I came across the following news article on Viet Nam: “Vietnamese  Deputy PM advocates restricted use of private vehicles“, 15 Mar, 2012

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Chairman of the National Traffic Safety Committee, on Thursday instructed the Ministries of Finance and Transport to submit a proposal that will restrict use of privately owned vehicles by increasing toll fee, in a move to restore more traffic order and safety in Ho Chi Minh City. Deputy PM advocates restricted use of private vehicles

On Thursday afternoon, Deputy PM Phuc, Minister of Transport Dinh La Thang and representatives from other relevant departments and ministries met with City leaders to find ways to improve traffic safety and curb congestion.

For me this fits in quite well with a recent insight that I had on the manner in which thinking on sustainable transport is developing in the Asian region.  I see three main phases in the way that governments are approaching transport planning: (1) built your way out of construction – under this approach national and city governments resort to massive construction programs – e.g. the 6 ring roads in Beijing, (2) when the first approach does not solve congestion problems governments invest in massive expansion of public transport, (metro, BRT, etc) and put in place temporary restrictions on use of cars based on plate numbers, and (3) once the first two methods are not working consider limiting the growth of vehicles (e.g Shanghai and Beijing) or the use of vehicles through congestion charges, urban road tolling etc.

My impression/expectation is that we will see more of the third approach in Asia in the coming years.

It is interesting so far that it is governments who are in the lead on this and that this is not the result from extensive lobbying from international NGOs or development organizations who still are focused largely on phase 2 – the creation of alternative public and NMT transport infrastructure and services.

What do you think?

Cornie Huizenga, Joint Convener
Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport –

# # #

On Behalf Of Jean-Francois Doulet
Sino-French Center for Urban, Regional and Planning Studies
Sent: Monday, April 02, 2012 9:27 AM
Subject: [sustran] Re: Is Asia moving in the direction of restricting the use of private cars?

Dear Cornie,

I totally agree with you. however, when looking at the rationale behind congestion charge options in emerging Asia, we see that what you call the third option/phase is being legitimized by the option/phase 2: local governments are thinking about restricting the use of cars when they consider that the public transport offer is good enough.

In Vietnam, both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have set up a plan to curb car use in the future: Hanoi, through higher parking fees and Ho Chi Minh City, through congestion charge. When you look into the agenda supporting those measures, you notice that both cities identify 2015 as a turning point, estimating that their public transport system will be good enough so that restricting car use will be legitimate. You can find more or less the same roadmap in other big Asian metropolis, like Jakarta.

Indeed, it will make a real change if cities from emerging Asia could succeed in implementing transportation schemes that combine intelligently the three options/phases you are mentioning. The only city I know so far who did it is Shanghai. I am more skeptical about other cities. The pace of motorization is very fast all over emerging Asia and the political will to set up a comprehensive and strong urban transportation strategy doesn’t seem to be very high.

All the best,

Jean-Francois Doulet, PhD
Associate Professor, Paris Institute of Urban Planning V
ice-director, Sino-French Center for Urban, Regional and Planning Studies +33615253328

# # #

On Behalf Of Breithaupt, Manfred GIZ. Eschborn Germany
Sent: Monday, April 02, 2012 7:06 AM

Thks, Cornie!

2 and 3 , push and pull, Public Transport and Non Motorized Transport improvements in combination with a wide set of TDM (Transport Demand Management) measures are required and need to go hand in hand. The extent and depth on what needs to be done regarding TDM measures will vary from city to city.

In Ho Chi Minh City measures under 2 (below) have not yet been fully implemented. Therefore the impact so far is marginal.

With best regards,

Manfred Breithaupt
Deutsche Gesellschaft (GIZ) GmbH Transport and Mobility Division
65726 Eschborn
Skype: manfredbreithaupt

# # #

Note from the editor:

What is also worth noting beyond the above is that this three-step approach is in fact getting to be pretty universal. Even today many of the more advanced European countries have yet to fully engage the car-control strategy to the extent that the circumstances really require.  But the news is getting around and in not too long we should be seeing this strategy emerge as the new normal. (Somebody say it’s about time?)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s