This is how transport can make Asia’s cities more livable

The ADB publication “Creating Livable Asian Cities” was written with input from all sectors concerned with, and contributing to, the improvement of urban living.

At the publication launch, ADB’s VP Bambang Susantono stated that while urbanization is an Asian megatrend, the success of booming Asian cities does not neatly translate into increased opportunities for urban dwellers. He went on to say that that there is an urgent need to address critical development issues that arise in urban areas, whether infrastructure deficits, increasing pollution or the lack of affordable housing. He noted that the impact of COVID-19 has underscored how unequal urban access is, given how severely the urban poor and vulnerable have suffered. But he also spoke on the solutions that make cities more livable, starting with the sharing of knowledge, the promotion of technical advancements for sustainability and the application of good practices in urban governance.

ADB’s Jamie Leather, Chief of the Transport Sector Group, was also on hand to discuss how sustainable transport is a key priority area for livable Asian cities, but that each city requires a tailored approach in order to achieve sustainable transport goals. But he also offered a general rule of thumb which has distinguished other cities as having sustainable transport systems — if 70% of trips in a city are made on non-motorized transport or via public transport, with the remaining made on private transport, this is the mark of a city based around sustainable transport.

He identified key elements for sustainable transport to contribute to livable cities, including how urban planners must first understand the integral parts that transport plays in urban form i.e. how transport shapes the city’s structure. He added to this by stating that Asia is a place of public transport systems, a region where cities are dominated and dependent on mass transit, unlike the North American model of cities based around private car based trips. Though many Asian cities do suffer under gridlock and heavy traffic, they have begun to respond to these challenges — he cited Bangkok as one city that invested heavily into mass transit and walkable and livable streets to overcome its gridlock.

Beyond these elements, Jamie Leather reported that the research and observations of ADB’s transport sector experts noted several factors and trends that would be having a significant impact on urban mobility, both presently and in the near future.

These were:

Emobility or electric vehicles. Jamie Leather noted that the pace for the transition to eMobility is uncertain, but the transition away from fossil fuel vehicles is happening, with Asia leading in many aspects, including the often overlooked factor of electric 2 and 3 wheelers in particular. He pointed out that 99% of all E-buses in the world are operating in the PRC.

Intelligent transport systems: this broad term covers the intersection of transport management with wireless systems, and creates options for real time monitoring and management of transport systems, from traffic to parking management, to law enforcement. Asia in particular is looking at the use of big data to improve transport efficiencies.

Mobility as a service (MaaS): Jamie Leather noted that public transport should begin to be rethought as a system that provides a service rather than a system that runs to a strict route. MaaS allows for flexible services and people-centered transport choices.

Road Safety in Asian Cities: with growing mobility in urban areas, the safe system approach needs to be implemented. Road safety experts are focused on finding a solution to a uniquely Asian problem — that of fatalities caused by two wheelers.

He wrapped up his presentation by noting that there is no silver bullet for sustainable transport in cities, rather the complexity of the problem requires daily management and daily improvements. He cited the need an institution to focus on all the facets of the urban transport system much like the institutions present in London, Singapore, and Seoul. He advised that with the rapid changes and advancements in technology, city authorities should be embracing new tech, and letting it guide their planning and management in order to ensure that transport systems are meeting the needs and requirements of citizens.

To view the full video of the launch event, watch at the link:

Download the full publication Creating Livable Asian Cities | Asian Development Bank (



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