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To reduce their carbon footprint, four European cities introduce drastic traffic regulation plans

Amidst the COP21 UN Climate Change Conference, numerous cities announced questionably large goals to reduce carbon emissions. However, Oslo, Stockholm, Amsterdam, and Madrid, have backed their goals with concrete plans for extreme traffic regulation, ranging from a car-free city center in Oslo to free public transportation in Madrid.

Oslo's City Center to Be Car-Free by 2019

On October 19th, Oslo’s newly elected city council announced plans to turn the city center, within Ring 1, car-free by 2019. To do so, at least 37 miles of bicycle infrastructure will be established and protected, and all interfering or free parking spaces will be removed. 

The plan will also include a new metro tunnel and end the extension of E18 to the west. Lastly, motorists will be charged a rush hour fee. Through these bold implementations, the city hopes to halve emissions by 2020 and remove 95 percent of emissions by 2030, as AN covered here. As a first step, the City of Oslo will stop all its investments in companies that produce fossil fuel energy.

Stockholm Royal Seaport to Be Fossil Fuel Free by 2040

Since 1990, the City of Stockholm has lowered emissions by 44 percent, despite being one of the fastest growing cities in Europe. Recently, Stockholm announced a goal to be fossil fuel free by 2040. Stockholm is one of three finalists in the Sustainable Communities category of the C40 Cities Awards. Stockholm's recognized project, Stockholm Royal Seaport, is one of Europe's largest urban development areas and aims to limit carbon dioxide emission below 3,000 pounds per person by 2020. By 2040, Stockholm Royal Seaport is expected to house 12,000 new residential units and 35,000 workspaces, in addition to becoming fossil fuel free.

Amsterdam to Prioritize Local Traffic at the City Center

Earlier this year, the Amsterdam city council agreed on a new design for Muntplein Square, but recent studies reveal traffic in the city center should be limited even further. A car number plate analysis revealed that 20 percent of motorized traffic in the city center is to access surrounding areas, 15 percent is to access areas further outside the city, and 30 percent are just circulating—taxis looking for customers or people in search of parking. The city council therefore agreed to implement further traffic limitations. The new plan will direct unnecessary traffic in the city center to outside roads and prioritize local traffic, creating more space for pedestrians and cyclists. Taxis will experience the largest extension in travel time—roughly six minutes per vehicle each week. Residents and commercial vehicles will have an additional two to three minutes of travel time each week. Although the city council has agreed upon rerouting city center traffic, they will not vote until 2016. If approved, the plan will be implemented before the end of the year.

Madrid to Monitor Air Quality With Strict Traffic Regulations

This year, Madrid received an F, 58 percent, in the Soot Free Cities rankings, and later announced plans to enact some of the most rigorous anti-pollution laws in the world. On days when air quality falls below a designated threshold, half of cars will be banned from the roads, drastic speed limits will be implemented, and public transportation will be free. According to El Pais, these measures would have a daily cost of $2 million, and if monthly and annual transit pass users are refunded for the day, the daily cost would rise to $4.4 million.   Although these numbers are dreading to a city swamped in financial crisis, studies reveal the city’s pollution is responsible for 2000 premature deaths per year, and therefore the matter must be addressed. If these four plans are approved and successfully implemented, their measures may become a pattern across the globe.