Please note: After several successful years, the Open Minds blog will be closing. For further details, please visit our FAQ

Currently showing: Climate/natural disasters > Pollution

24 Jul 13 17:50

The first time I came to live and work in Zurich, I was amazed by the city's first-rate public transport system. First off, there are the trams that take you to just about every corner of the city.

Then there are the buses. Not just the regular, one-piece kind but also bi-articulated buses that literally snake around corners. I think they're all the more amazing because these are hybrid vehicles. They draw their power either from overhead electric cables or can switch to diesel when necessary.

And if that weren't enough, there are electric trains that can zoom you around Lake Zurich and beyond in the blinking of an eye. They are state-of-the-art, ultra clean and run on time.

So what's my point? Well, you would think that given this kind of transport system, people wouldn't need their cars so often. But it would seem the opposite is true. Not only are the city's streets clogged with normal sized cars but with the big, flashy gas-guzzling kind as well. In my view, it is paradoxical that a city – and indeed a country – that is so environmentally conscious doesn't do more to curb the use of private vehicles in town.

In Seoul, it's quite a different story because what the city authorities have done is to introduce a once-a-week "no-driving day program". Amongst many benefits, the ban on private cars has cut C02 emissions substantially and improved the air quality. This, in turn, has benefited the health of residents, saving the city of Seoul millions of dollars annually.

The Seoul model is voluntary program where people choose one day a week as a no driving day. People taking part are given incentives, such as discounted petrol, free parking and car washing, to use public transport on the selected days. Participants are encouraged to take part as often as they can. Those participating just three times a year, for example, have their incentives removed or diminished.

To help combat global warming, couldn't Zurich and other cities around the world take a leaf out of Seoul's book? I think they should.

To find out more about the Seoul model and what other cities are doing to strengthen their resilience for the future, visit:

C40 Cities: Seoul Car-Free Days Have Reduced CO2 Emissions by 10% Annually

Seoul's Weekly No Driving Day program is improving air quality, congestion and saving energy. Every year, two million cars stay off the road – decreasing traffic volume by 3.7%. CO2 vehicle emissi...

Category: Climate/natural disasters: Pollution, Other

Location: Seoul, South Korea

1 Comment

Tomer Lanis - 30 Jul 2013, 8:57 a.m.

Hi Richard, I support your idea. Indeed, during my first 5 years in Switzerland I didn't own a car, as commuting is most convenient with the public transport. At the same time, I am afraid that the comfort/efficiency of public transport can't replace the status/identity symbols of driving around town with a flashy sport car or an off-roader. The power of financial incentives is very limited as well, although I believe that a prohibitive "Congestion tax", similar to the one successfully imposed on London drivers, could make a difference in Zurich as well, if the congestion was to become as bad. Comparing to any other city of similar size, I actually think the traffic in Zurich flows quite well.

If you would like to leave a comment, please, log in.