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Written by David Jones on April 12, 2017
Buenos Aires has become a popular travel destination for tourists who like to enjoy nightlife with great food and stunning architecture in an atmosphere that combines contemporary culture with the old world. There’s no denying that the European architecture in Buenos Aires can be a vivid experience.
In addition to being a top vacation destination, Buenos Aires is also at the forefront of energy efficient transportation.
Award winning transportation transformation
On January 14, 2014, Buenos Aires, Argentina won the 9th annual Sustainable Transportation Award created by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).
ITDP is a non-profit organization that exists to “design and implement high quality transport systems and policy solutions that make cities more livable, equitable, and sustainable.” Established in 2005, the Sustainable Transportation Award is given each year to a city that has implemented strategies that make transportation more sustainable, including enhancing the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists.
Received by Buenos Aires Secretary of Transportation Guillermo Dietrich, the transportation award recognized Buenos Aires for improving urban mobility, reducing CO2 emissions and improving pedestrian and cyclist safety over the course of a year.
So how did they do it? How did such a large city make so many improvements in energy efficient transportation in just a year?
Buenos Aires overhauls the widest street in the world
The city of Buenos Aires is known for being home to the widest avenue in the word – a 20-lane road called 9 de Julio Avenue. This city street has long been the pride and joy of its residents. And in 2013, the city converted many of those lanes into bus-only lanes for their rapid transit system known as BRT.
With 17 stations along the median down 9 de Julio Avenue, BRT accommodates 11 different bus lines and serves over 200,000 travelers each day. And with covered shelters and free Wi-Fi access, residents have every reason to use this transportation system.
The city also encourages walking and cycling
Additionally, by converting literally dozens of blocks in the city center into a completely different environment, especially for pedestrians, the city promotes a culture that encourages people to walk and ride bicycles instead of driving their cars.
The downtown center has been completely reconstructed with walking paths, seating, bollards, and even intersections that have been completely revamped to give pedestrians priority over cars.
Creating energy efficient and easily accessible transportation for Buenos Aires residents not only improves congestion and the environment, but also makes it possible for tourists to take their time experiencing the beauty and rich culture of the city.
Ecobici – the automated bike share program
When it comes to energy efficient transportation, nothing beats a regular, manual powered bicycle. In 2010, Buenos Aires launched a bike sharing program that started out with three stations and 72 bikes and has now grown to 200 fully automated stations with 3,000 bikes (open 24 hours), making it a main contribution to the city’s excellence in energy efficiency, ultimately leading to a better quality of life for residents.
How the world can learn from Buenos Aires
Transforming a city full of cars and congestion into a sustainable, energy efficient community is no easy task. It costs money, takes time and extensive planning, and residents aren’t always open to change. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Clearly, it can, and if Argentina was able to largely transform its most iconic street – a street residents can be extremely protective over – anything is possible.
Transformation begins from the inside out
For cities that have been slow to convert transportation systems into energy efficient systems, there is a lot that can be learned from the example set by Buenos Aires.
It takes time for cities to develop and implement plans to transform a congested city into an energy efficient city, but you have to start somewhere. So it would make sense to start by implementing a bike share program like Buenos Aires.
If people had easy and affordable access to bicycles in the busy downtown areas of a city, they’d be more likely to use them instead of cars, and get some exercise in the process. Hopefully, we’ll see more of the major cities implementing low-cost solutions, like Buenos Aires, to move in the direction of sustainability.