Skift Take

Cities have become better connected by public transportation and pollution has decreased in the past decade suggesting, that city planning will only improve with future innovations.

Electric City, the 2012 edition of LSE Cities’ conference series, takes place today and tomorrow at the London School of Economics and Deutsche Bank’s Alfred Herrhausen Society.

This year’s event is focusing on the different ways in which urban societies across the globe are being influenced by technological and environmental change. You can watch a live video feed from the conference here.

The conference publication includes a wealth of detailed graphics covering topics including transport, energy consumption, pollution and urban planning, as well as a visualisation-rich case study on London.

Below is a selection of the maps and charts on show, along with a summary of some of the most interesting patterns that emerge:

Proximity to public transport

Hong Kong’s residents are the best-connected, with over 40% living within a 500m radius of a rapid transit station. The city also scores highest for commuting, with over half its places of work less than half a kilometre from a station.

Stockholm scores second highest in both categories, while New York and London are third for residents and commuters respectively. Los Angeles scores lowest for each category, with less than 5% of its residents living within 500m of a station.

How people travel

Of the six cities shown, London has the highest proportion of trips made by car, at 39.8%. Public transport accounts for 34% of journeys, while walking (23.7%), cycling (2%) and motorcycle trips (0.8%) make up the remainder.

New York scores highest for public transport, with almost three in every five commuter trips made by taxi, bus, rail or metro.

Hong Kong fares best for walking, with 44.7% of journeys made on foot. Copenhagen leads the way for cycling, with one in five trips powered by pedals.

How cities change

Portland’s CO2 emissions per capita have halved since 1993.

Copenhagen’s energy consumption per capita has fallen by around 20% since 1993, with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per capita dropping at a slightly faster rate.

Singapore’s population has risen steadily, and TransMilenio, its public transport system, has seen passenger numbers double since its 2001 launch. Despite its growing population, traffic incident fatalities have more than halved since the late 1990s.

Cycling in Hong Kong has been booming in the last 20 years, and is one of the factors that have contributed to its falling CO2 emissions per capita.

Around the year 2000 London’s technology sector really took off, and employment in the digital economy has increased by almost 50% since 1997. Taking inner East London as a standalone region, high tech employment has nearly doubled in 15 years.

Mumbai’s rapid population growth is symptomatic of nationwide trends, and has come at an environmental cost, with CO2 emissions per capita for India as a whole increasing at a faster rate than the port city’s population. Peak electricity demand in Mumbai has also rocketed upwards, increasing by over 75% in ten years.

Berlin’s population has remained relatively constant since 1993, but a decreasing reliance on non-renewable energy across Germany as a whole has improved its environmental credentials. The capital’s CO2 emissions per capita have dropped by over 30% in 18 years.

Vehicle ownership in Sao Paulo is booming, but traffic speeds during evening rush hour have fallen since 1993, suggesting its road network is struggling to cope with congestion.

Unpacking London: energy & pollution

Three quarters of London’s energy consumption is fueled directly by oil and gas, with the vast majority of the remainder generated by fossil-fuel-powered electricity. Just 2.1% comes either direct from waste and renewables or from renewably-generated electricity.

London’s CO2 emissions per capita are higher than the world average, but lower than those of comparable developed cities New York and Portland, as well as Singapore.

Landfill is gradually being phased out as a method of solid waste management, but still accounted for roughly one third of the total in 2011/12. Incineration and recycling/composting also make up around a third each.

London’s air contains more than 2.5 times as much NO2 than the EU standard – still slightly less than Paris – but is well below the EU’s recommended ceiling for particulate matter. PM10 counts in Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam are all higher than that of London.

NO2 levels closely follow London’s road network, with Heathrow Airport and the M14 standing out as particularly high.

Unpacking London: transport, tech and planning

Since 1993 car travel has decreased faster in London than across the UK as a whole, and average annual distance traveled per person in 2011 was roughly half of that for the country overall. Bus, tube and overground travel continues to grow, with distance traveled on public transport approaching the same level as car miles.

Cycling has taken off in London, with the number of cyclists in the capital trebling since 1985, and overtaking that of both New York and Stockholm. Berlin remains ahead of London on this nominal measure, and at 13% has one of the highest proportions of cycle trips a share of all journeys.

London’s office space is well served by public transport links: almost 1m cubic metres was built between 2004 and 2011 within 500m of a station, with no new office construction more than 2km from a public transport hub.

The City of London has seen more new office space than any other part of the capital, while the bulk of retail and leisure floorspace has gone to the Olympic Park and surrounding area.

Shoreditch has the highest density of IT jobs in the city, followed by Holborn and parts of the City of London. Despite its strong performance in the digital economy, London has slower broadband speeds (both download and upload) than European neighbours including Berlin, Paris and Copenhagen, as well as Tokyo and Seoul, whose speeds are several times faster.

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Tags: cities

Photo credit: The map shows residents' proximity to rapid transit stations. The Guardian /

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