About 44 million people are being added to Asia's urban population every year, equivalent to 120,000 people a day. ADB has estimated that 80% of Asia’s new economic growth will be generated in its urban economies since this is where most jobs and employment opportunities are located. These trends are placing an enormous strain on transport and mobility in urban areas. Motor vehicle fleets are already doubling every 5 to 7 years.
To provide sustainable urban transport solutions, the region needs to address rapid motorization which is a major cause of congestion and pollution. Road congestion already costs Asian economies an estimated 2–5% of GDP every year due to lost time and higher transport costs. The region's cities suffer from the highest air pollution levels in the world, with as much as 80% attributable to transport.
As some large Asian cities are discovering, construction of urban roads will not alone provide a solution. Construction of new roads leads to more purchases of private vehicles which eventually leads to the roads again becoming congested. Moreover, further road building faces severe practical limitations and escalating costs due to the shortage of land in urban areas.
New approaches in urban transport
ADB has pilot-tested various approaches to urban transport operations, including public mass transit systems. While the scope of ADB urban transport operations will depend on DMC needs, the following elements are likely to feature, both individually and in combination in future urban transport operations:
- Public transport systems. These are needed to provide urban populations with safe, secure, accessible, rapid, efficient, and user-friendly transport, and to reduce pollution, congestion, and accidents. ADB support will include bus rapid transit and rail-based public transport systems.
- Non-motorized transport. Integrated urban transport solutions should make provision for non-motorized transport infrastructure together with pedestrian zones and walkways, segregated cycle paths, and bicycle parking and rental programs.
- Integrated urban transport planning. Urban transport plans should be integrated with urban land use plans to support more efficient approaches to planning urban expansion and redevelopment, limit trip lengths needed, make sustainable modes convenient for users, and optimize system integration.
- Demand management. In parallel with improving public transport and non-motorized transport, cities need to use demand management to limit congestion and improve traffic flows by reducing the attractiveness of private vehicle use in busy urban areas. Options range from relatively simple systems, such as charging for vehicle licenses and parking fees, to more advanced computerized road-pricing schemes.
- Traffic management. Traffic engineering and traffic management systems are needed to optimize traffic flows on the available urban transport infrastructure.