An exceptional 60% reduction in congestion

photo of pollution in Paris

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The French capital Paris was forced to take drastic action in limiting car use earlier this week in response to a spike in pollution which rose to health-threatening levels.

The capital and much of northern France (and Belgium) had experienced high levels of pollution in the preceding days with PM10 particles emitted by diesel exhausts, heating systems and heavy industry held responsible. On 14 March, there was a peak of 180 microgrammes per cubic metre in Paris, more than double the safe limit of 80, leading authorities to impose a ban on car traffic based on a system of alternating number plates.

Even before the ban was introduced the city sprang into action offering its citizens free public transport (and use of the city’s Vélib and Autolib bike- and car-sharing schemes) and the promise of between 600,000 and 1 million extra places on the city’s public transport system. RATP President, Pierre Mongin, described it in an interview with BFM Business as an “excellent opportunity to introduce public transport to car drivers who are not necessarily used to using it”. At the same time, Pierre Mongin presented RATP’s will to convert the company’s entire bus fleet to electric propulsion on the horizon 2025. 

The measure seems to have had an immediate effect, with reports suggesting a 60% reduction in congestion on Monday (17 March) with the level of PM10 particles in the Île-de-France region falling to between 40 and 55 microgrammes.

UITP’s position     

With urban populations set to soar in the coming years, cities will need transport systems that benefit everyone and help protect the environment. Public transport offers low-emissions and energy-efficient mobility solutions for all, and the sector is working hard to improve its already excellent environmental performance, notably by decreasing the average age of their fleets and introducing a variety of cleaner fuels and propulsion technologies.

Beyond emergency measures, actions to reduce emissions from urban mobility should be achieved through a combination of measures, notably from shifting to alternative sustainable modes and to cleaner fuels and vehicle standards. This should also be complemented by better managing transport demand to increase in the efficiency with which we use transport. Congestion pricing, low emissions zones (LEZ), clean air funds, green zones, parking management and vehicle quota systems are examples of the measures that some cities are taking in this area.

Prioritising public transport is also efficient: a gain of 3km/h for average commercial speeds (scheduled speeds) on a public transport line equates to a 20% reduction in pollutants and CO2 emissions. Public transport is already delivering green transport solutions worldwide and is fully on track to further improve its green credentials. Public transport provides green mobility and keeps cities moving.

For more information:

UITP members may access, in Mobi+, a recent report on Air Quality and Public Transport produced by the Sustainable Development Commission.

Photo: © Alberto Hernández/Flickr

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