Asia trip spotlights sustainable transit practices


Thanks to an invite by the Transportation Research Board and funding from the Federal Transit Administration, the City of Asheville was one of a handful of cities represented in a recent trip to India and China to study principles of sustainable public transportation and environmentally friendly mobility in those countries.

Transportation Planning Manager Mariate Echeverry was one of only 14 people nationwide selected to make the trip in April. With Strive Not to Drive week currently underway, Echeverry reflected on the trip, what she learned, and how it could play a part in Asheville’s transportation strategies.

The purpose of the tour was to study principles of livability and sustainability in five cities in Asia: Ahmedabad and Delhi in India and Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai in China, and learn how those cities are using public transportation to improve the quality of life, create greener and more livable communities and reduce congestion, air pollution and fuel consumption.

The group also met with government and university officials and experts in the field to ask questions and hear presentations on emerging and cutting edge transit techniques in the face of dramatic population increases.

“It was impressive to see such a level of commitment to provide high quality public transportation that is reliable, convenient, safe, attend the demand, and is fully multi-modal.” Echeverry said of the trip. “Everywhere we visited, they have decided to make public transportation – transit, bikes, and pedestrians – a priority and they are working towards improving the infrastructure.”

Echeverry said she thought the City of Asheville’s ongoing efforts to become more sustainable and transit friendly contributed to its selection to participate alongside larger transit and transportation agencies like Seattle’s King County Metro, the Chicago Transit Authority, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Boston DOT, and the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The City of Asheville is currently planning changes to its transit system and City Council has set goals to reduce the city’s carbon footprint. The city was also recently awarded a U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Department of Housing TIGER II grant to set the design parameters for a comprehensive transportation system and “livable communities” initiative in the East of the Riverway Sustainable Multimodal Neighborhood initiative.

Echeverry said many of the strategies she saw on the trip had potential to play a part in Asheville’s transportation future, including integrated land use/transportation planning, multimodal approaches to transportation where cars, buses, bikes and pedestrians share the space equally, and a bike-share program that encourages more riders by making bike usage more convenient.