Buenos Aires has grappled with the problems of traffic congestion and transport-related air pollution, seeking to increase urban mobility through the provision of safe and affordable public and non-motorized transport solutions.
Buenos Aires’s Plan for Sustainable Mobility is an integrated effort involving a number of initiatives including:
- Creation of the first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Argentina
- Extension of the metro system
- Adoption of articulated buses
- Launch of the nation’s first bike sharing programme (EcoBici) and extension of bike paths
- Vast expansion of pedestrian zones and widening of footpaths
- Adoption of intelligent traffic management and information systems
A core part of the initiative is the extension of the BRT. The project involves three routes totalling 38km and passing through some of the city’s most congested streets. The first two corridors (Juan B. Justo and 9 de Julio) are already in operation and the remaining one was recently inaugurated. The city is also significantly increasing its cycle lanes and pedestrian zones. There are now 110km of new bicycle paths in the city centre. It launched a public bicycle rental system in 2010. With 800 bikes and 34 stations, the mayor recently gave the go-ahead to raise the number of bikes to 3,000, with some 200 stations. Work has also begun on an initiative to pedestrianize over 100 blocks of the city centre, which would make it one of the largest urban pedestrian zones in the world.
Public engagement through active opinion polling, awareness campaigns and the launch of a dedicated educational website remain a key focus for the city, as is engagement with other C40 cities with similar challenges and objectives.
The implementation of the plan is on-going. So far, the introduction of BRT lines on key routes has cut travel times by 20 to 40 percent on average, although in some cases by 50 percent or more. With BRT 9 de Juilio: travel time was reduced from 55 minutes to less than 20. The city estimates that the second phase of the BRT, a 3km stretch along the city’s busiest street which is became operational in July, will reduce annual CO2 emissions by nearly 6,000 tonnes each year. A final, 22km phase should bring about a 20 percent reduction in fuel use.
Buenos Aires will launch four new corridors in the second semester of 2014 and the US first of 2015. By the end of 2015 there will be 56km of Metrobus corridors connecting the main transport hubs in the city. 1,200,000 people will benefit.
Meanwhile, adopting articulated buses on some routes has also led to a reduction in carbon consumption. The city has also set a goal to get at least 5 percent of commuters — roughly 300,000 people — to use bicycles, about six times 2010 levels. So far, take-up of the Ecobici initiative is strong, with over 95,000 subscribers, and the planned expansion together with new bike lanes suggest it is moving in the right direction.
The ambitious and comprehensive nature of Buenos Aires’ Plan for Sustainable Mobility, and the joined-up thinking behind it, make this initiative an inspiring example for other cities to follow.