Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wichita City: free buses to increase ridership & cut pollution

Riders board buses at the Wichita Transit Centre.

By Bill Wilson, The Wichita Eagle, April 2014

Wichita City, Kansas (pop 390,000) will offer free bus rides in June to try to increase ridership and reduce pollution.

The Free Fares program, developed between the Public Works & Utilities Air Quality Program and Wichita Transit, will devote (funds towards) free bus rides June 16 through 21, including Dump the Pump Day on June 19.

Free rides also will be offered any time the city is under an ozone alert, indicating that air pollution levels are at or near federal limits. The project ends Oct. 31.

The goal, city officials say, is to get Wichitans out of their cars and onto already-running buses, thus reducing ozone-forming emissions.

“I don’t think the environmental issues here have been played as strongly as it should be,” said Ron Terzian, who chairs the city’s transit advisory board. “Because, if we have to face penalties or whatever for ozone noncompliance, then that’s a bad deal. Any little step is a good thing.”

Mayor Carl Brewer hopes the free fare program will familiarize more Wichitans with an improving transit system.

“I’m going to be very interested if people use it, even if we provide rides for free,” the mayor said. “If we can get people to ride the bus, it will reduce the number of cars on the street. We’ve seen in other cities how it reduces traffic and improves environmental issues.”

Brewer said the transit system’s biggest challenge remains expanding ridership. Wichita remains an automobile community.

“I talked to the Realtors yesterday, and I asked them how many had taken public transportation. Nobody raised their hand,” the mayor said. “Five years? Nobody raised their hand.

“This is going to be a snapshot in time, basically. We have to keep this program going for an extended period of time so people can become accustomed to it and adjust to it becoming available.”

Wichitans view the city’s transit system as a “sinkhole for money” because they don’t need it, Terzian said.

“I talk to a lot of people around the community about transit, and their assessment is ‘Ain’t my problem. I’ve got a car,’ ” he said. “If we can get people to ride the buses in this program who don’t normally, it might open some eyes.”

Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/2014/03/27/3371265/wichita-to-offer-free-bus-rides.html#storylink=cpy

Monday, March 17, 2014

'Free public transport is key to sustainability' says mobility specialist

 Curitiba, Brazil - plan to gradually reduce fares to zero thwarted by costly subway project.

By Daniel Bland, BNamericas (Latin American business journal) Friday, March 7, 2014

Developing a free bus rapid transit (BRT) service is one way of accomplishing long-term sustainable urban mobility solutions, civil engineer Roberto Ghidini told BNamericas.

One such solution has been offered to southern Brazil's Paraná state capital Curitiba by local urban development NGO Sociedad Peatonal, where Ghidini holds the position of VP of technological and scientific affairs.

"Our idea, however, has been discarded by the city in place of a costly subway construction project and we're still trying to find out why," said Ghidini.

The BRT plan involves gradually reducing the price of bus fares until they reach zero and, in Brazil, this could be paid for through real estate taxes IPTU and ITBI or by taxing gasoline or ethanol used exclusively by automobiles, according to Ghidini.

We already have examples of this in Arlington, Virginia, he added.

Finally, the engineer pointed out that we must keep in mind that public transportation solutions should be developed in cooperation with urban planners in growing real estate markets. City officials need to recognize the added value of property located next to high-capacity public transportation centers and should push their political will to get things done, Ghidini said.


Budgeted at 4.56bn reais (US$1.96bn), Curitiba is planning to tender a 35-year concession to build and operate the city's new subway, Metrô de Curitiba. Called the linha azul, or blue line, the metro will span 17.6km with 14 stations. The tender launch is expected this month.

A consortium led by local infrastructure group Triunfo Participações e Investimentos (TPI) has developed studies for the project.


Paris pollution hits life-threatening level

             Free public transport comes to the rescue as thick smog chokes Paris. 

Thomson Reuters, CBC News, Posted: March 14, 2014

Air pollution in Paris has hit health-threatening levels over 80 per cent higher than in London and Berlin as a sunny spell reaches western Europe, prompting the city to curb road speeds and offer free public transport.

Charges were also waived for the city's pioneering cycle and electric car-sharing schemes this week as a visible haze hung over the streets of the French capital.

European Environment Agency (EEA) figures for Thursday showed there was 147 microgrammes of particulate matter (PM) per cubic metre of air in Paris compared with 114 in Brussels, 104 in Amsterdam, 81 in Berlin and 79.7 in London.

Background pollution — the outdoor air quality experienced by the average citizen — topped the 100 maximum measurable index level in Paris on Thursday, data from pollution watchdog airqualitynow.eu showed, making the French capital the only European capital in the "very high" level zone. The index stood at 81 in London, 76 in Berlin and 61 in Madrid.

Bike-sharing services, buses, underground trains and other forms of transport will remain free over the weekend. (Jacques Brinon/Associated Press)

Paris is traditionally more susceptible to poor air quality than other main western European capitals, with only Athens scoring worse according to World Health Organization (WHO) annual averages collected in 2008.

Fiscal support for diesel over gasoline in motor vehicles and heavy private vehicle traffic have been cited as causes.

The near-absence of wind and temperatures about 10 degrees Celsius above seasonal averages were also a factor this time, according to Meteo France data.

'Pollution causes deaths'
EU environment officials noted that pollution hot spots elsewhere in the world are far worse.

"While the current levels in Europe do pose a significant risk to health, peak levels can be up to 4-5 times higher in Asian cities like Beijing," an EEA spokesman told Reuters.

"Nevertheless, the levels of PM pollution encountered in the currently affected European regions would also be classified as pollution episodes in Asian cities," he said.

Three environmental groups worried over the recurring spikes in French air pollution this week filed a lawsuit "against x" - where the person or body deemed responsible is difficult to ascertain - for "endangering the lives of others."

"We know pollution causes deaths. Emergency departments are full of people with breathing problems, that's why we decided to file a complaint," said Nadir Saifi, a member of Ecology Without Borders, one of the groups filing the suit.

Rush to bikes, car-sharing

City of Paris officials argue the situation would be much worse had the government not introduced the popular bike- and car-sharing schemes now being replicated in cities such as London.

The use of Autolib cars had jumped by 46 per cent on Thursday compared to the week before, Paris transport councillor Julien Bargeton said, while Velib cycle use had risen by 72 per cent.

Charges for these services and buses, underground trains and other forms of transport will remain free over the weekend.

Speed limits were also reduced by 20 kilometres an hour and authorities in the Ile-de-France region around Paris took all but the most essential public vehicles off the roads.

Warnings from authorities to avoid physical exertions did not deter Parisians from enjoying the warm weather, however.

"My lungs are already polluted by cigarettes, so I don't really care," Sophie Boisseau, 29, told Reuters at the terrace of the Biscornu cafe near the stock exchange in central Paris.