People, Environment

Buses, Bikes Help Save Money, Environment

Buses, Bikes Help Save Money, EnvironmentBuses, Bikes Help Save Money, Environment

The argument that embracing a low-carbon future is a roadmap to economic ruin is bunk, says a band of economists who argue that investing in more efficient transportation, buildings and waste management could save cities worldwide at least $17 trillion.

One way to unlock that savings is to promote the use of bikes and buses, Wired reported.

The savings come from stimulating economic activity, decreasing healthcare costs, reducing poverty and cutting the costs associated with urban sprawl, like time and productivity lost to traffic congestion.

That’s according to a report, “Accelerating Low-Carbon Development in the World’s Cities”, released on Tuesday by New Climate Economy, a group of economists formed to examine the costs and benefits of addressing climate change.

“For too long, there’s been the same old argument used to prevent bold action on climate change, which is there’s some sort of tradeoff between economic prosperity and climate action,” says Nick Godfrey, an author of the report and the organization’s head of policy and urban development.

“In cities, that is a false choice. Actually, there is a significant confluence between promoting economic growth and prosperity, and climate action.”

Transportation comprises as much as one-third of the emission reductions the report says cities can “unlock”. That’s good for 3.7 gigatons of carbon reductions, which is up to 20% of the carbon dioxide emissions needed to keep the global mean temperature from increasing by over 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

In other words, shifting to low-carbon modes of transport could save trillions and the environment.

But changing how people move through a city is not easy. More mass transit is great, but time consuming and expensive to build.

 Transportation Key

Cities in the developing world will account for 90% of urbanization in the coming decades and many of them will be strapped for cash. That’s why the report emphasizes two particularly cost-effective modes of transportation: cycling and buses.

There are “compelling economic, social and environmental reasons for cities to invest in safe and well-connected cycling infrastructure”, the report says.

Biking is an “equitable transport mode”, since it’s far cheaper to own and maintain a bike than a car.

And there are proven ways to promote pedaling any city can implement. Provide bike lanes and connect them. Lower speed limits and increase penalties for drivers who hit cyclists. Distribute maps of bike paths. Start a bike sharing system—something more than 700 cities have already done.

Bus rapid transit is a hybrid between traditional bus service and a subway. The buses usually get dedicated lanes, so they do not get tied up in traffic. They make infrequent stops to cover long distances quickly. Fares can be paid before boarding, to keep the vehicle moving as much as possible.

The report cites a study that found a BRT system costs about $10 million per mile to establish, one-tenth the price of a metro rail system.

“There’s a significant economic dividend to investing in better transit systems,” Godfrey says.

The key is for city leaders to consider things like cycling infrastructure and bus rapid transit as not a burden, but an opportunity.