What transportation lessons can we learn from some of the world’s top-ranking cities? Siemens’ series of “Green City Index” reports of different regions of...

What transportation lessons can we learn from some of the world’s top-ranking cities? Siemens’ series of “Green City Index” reports of different regions of the globe shows efficient-transport leaders share a few key, common threads:

  • An emphasis on public transport, especially networks that can move high volumes of people quickly
  • Large-scale programs to shift travel to the greenest options
  • “Carrot and stick” programs ranging from no-car days and congestion pricing to lots of bicycle paths and easy-to-use bike rental schemes

New York City, for example, which Siemens gave the highest transport ranking of all the major cities it looked at in both the US and Canada, has a whopping 45 public transit vehicles for every square mile. It also has the largest proportion of people who walk, bike or take public transport to work — 37 percent — as well as the largest hybrid-electric bus fleet in the world.

Stockholm, the top green-transport city in Europe, has a different, if even more impressive claim to fame: a full 75 percent of vehicles on its public transportation network run on renewable fuels. The city aims to extend that clean-energy record to private cars as well through its Clean Vehicles in Stockholm Initiative. That program aimed to have 35 percent of all new-car sales be for clean-fuel vehicles as of the end of 2010.

In Osaka, which earned the top title for transport in Asia, rail alone accounts for 32 percent of all journeys taken by people in the city, followed by walking (27 percent) and cycling (23 percent). Only 15 percent of all trips in the metropolitan area rely on cars … a figure that’s likely helped by regular no-car days and congestion pricing.

Santiago, Chile, ranked “well above average” among Latin American cities, and it’s easy to see why. The number of cars and motorcycles in the city is by far the lowest per capita out of the 17 cities studied on the continent: just 0.14 vehicles per person … less than half the Latin American average of 0.3. One part of the city also offers a bicycle rental scheme with numerous bike lanes, and motorists whose vehicles don’t have catalytic converters must comply with regular no-car days.

Out of all the regions Siemens has examined so far, Africa has the most catching up to do in terms of efficient transport. Ironically, the African city that ranked best in terms of green transportation was the one that has a terrible reputation for traffic: Cairo. On the other hand, Cairo is the only African city to boast a substantial metro system, and — prior to the start of political turmoil there — was moving ahead with a $3.7 billion program to extend metro lines. The city has also launched programs to replace old, inefficient buses with new ones powered by compressed natural gas, and to encourage taxi drivers to replace their vehicles with cleaner, more modern ones (20,000 cabbies participated in that program in 2009).