How improved urban transportation could save $70 trillion

The International Energy Agency is calling on cities to improve the energy efficiency of their transit systems.
Written by Tyler Falk, Contributor

As more of the world's population moves to cities, congestion will only increase, the strain on urban transportation systems will only intensify, and the amount of energy used for urban transportation is set to double by 2050. But careful planning could lead to big savings for farsighted cities.

In a new report, The International Energy Agency says that we lose hundreds of billions of dollars in lost time and fuel because of crowded transportation systems. But it estimates that cities investing in improved energy efficiency of transportation systems could collectively save $70 trillion by 2050.

“Governments must think beyond individual technologies and electoral cycles, and consider how to build – and how to renew – cities that will accommodate and transport nearly 6.3 billion people by 2050. We must plan infrastructure, logistics and energy systems now that make sense today and over the coming decades,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven, in a statement.

In the report, IEA makes numerous policy recommendations and suggests an "avoid, shift, and improve approach" to transportation planning. "Avoid" policies help reduce the burden on transportation systems -- initiatives that promote telecommuting, for example. "Shift" policies encourage the use of more energy efficient modes of transportation -- buses and bikes, for example. "Improve" policies make transportation systems more energy efficient. But it's not a one-size fits all approach. The report makes suggestions that vary by city type -- from sprawling cities to multi-modal cities.

Case studies in the report point to cities that have already implemented sound policies to improve transportation efficiency, from New York City reducing travel time with express bus service to Belgrade refurbishing its urban rail system and tripling passenger numbers in the first six months.

There's already a lot of us living in cities and there will only be more urbanites in the future, so we might as well start planning for it and save a little money in the process.

Read more: IEA

Photo: Flickr/Thomas Leuthard

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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