Through the course of our work, we came across one detailed example of a city of similar size to Victoria (and twice the size of Kelowna) that had achieved impressive results in changing public transportation behaviours.
Beginning in the 1970s, the city of Freiburg, Germany, embarked on a goal to improve the sustainability of all its transport modes. Buehler and Pucher (2011) reported that “over the last three decades, Freiburg’s coordinated transport and land-use policies have tripled the number of trips by bicycle, doubled transit ridership, and reduced the share of trips by car from 38 percent to 32 percent.” In addition, by successfully developing the transit ridership market, Freiburg’s public transit is said to cover 90 percent of its operating budget with fare revenues. This, Buehler and Pucher state, makes Freiburg’s transit system one of the most financially sustainable in Germany.
While we have not audited these claims, Freiburg’s transit success could provide valuable pointers for future plans in British Columbia. Some of the most significant success factors are summarized below. With respect to launching a new direction for public transportation, the Provincial Transit Plan represents an initial stage of the transformation that could occur if British Columbia were to attain results similar to those in Freiburg, Germany.
Freiburg’s success has been reported to be the result of various aspects of their approach and the actions they took to implement their vision. These include:
1. Implementation of Controversial Policies in Stages: Freiburg implemented most of its policies in stages, often choosing projects everybody agreed upon first.
2. Plans are Flexible and Adaptable over Time to Changing Conditions: Freiburg phased and adjusted its policies and goals gradually over time. For example, the initial decision to reverse the plan to abandon the trolley system was made in the late 1960s. In the early 1970s, the city council approved the extension of the light rail system—which finally opened in 1983.
3. Policies are Multi-Modal and Include Both Incentives and Disincentives: Freiburg has simultaneously made public transport, cycling, and walking viable alternatives to the automobile, while increasing the cost of car travel. Improving quality and level of service of alternative modes of transport made car-restrictive measures politically acceptable.
4. Fully Integrated Transport and Land-Use Planning: Policies promoting public transport, cycling, and walking rely on a settlement structure that keeps trip distances short and residences and workplaces within reach of public transport.
5. Citizen Involvement is an Integral Part of Policy Development and Implementation: Citizen involvement and public discourse kept the environment and sustainability of the transport system in the news in Freiburg for decades.
6. Support from Higher Levels of Government to Make Local Policies Work: Starting in the 1970s, the German federal government reduced funding for highways and provided more flexible funds for improvements in local transport infrastructure—including public transport, walking and cycling.
7. Sustainable Transport Policies are Long Term, with Policies Sustained Over Time, for Lasting Impact: Changes in the transport system and travel behavior take time. Freiburg started its journey towards more sustainable transport almost 40 years ago. For example, the initial expansion of the light rail system took over a decade.
Source: Buehler, Ralph and Pucher, John. 2011. “Sustainable Transport in Freiburg: Lessons from Germany’s Environmental Capital,” International Journal of Sustainable Transportation, Vol. 5, 43-70