European metros occupy seven of the top ten spots in the latest Sustainable Cities Mobility Index. Zurich, Paris and Prague are the highest-placed European cities – second, third and fourth, respectively – due to their established infrastructure, efficient metro systems and commitment to green technology, according to the 2017 ranking compiled Arcadis and research firm Cebr.
Asian cities also score highly, taking three of the top ten spots, with Hong Kong ranking first thank to its innovative and well-connected metro network and high share of trips taken by public transport.
“Modern metro systems, large airports and low usage of private vehicles help boost the rankings of developed Asian cities such as Seoul and Singapore,” the Sustainable Cities Mobility report says. “Other Asian cities would score higher were it not for damaging levels of urban pollution and emissions.”
North Americans are handicapped, of course, by their high car usage, with New York City the highest-ranked metro (23rd overall) thanks in large part to its heavily used metro system operating around the clock.
Middle Eastern cities face mobility challenges, the researchers say. Limited public transport networks hold back cities like Kuwait and Cairo, while high levels of air pollution and emissions hamper cities across the region.
“Riyadh, Amman and Jeddah are the three lowest scoring cities on the Index, owing to limited public transport networks and low environmental scores due to high levels of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.”
However, Dubai is clearly making strides here with its ambitious smart city initiative and planned use of self-driving road and air cabs.
São Paulo is the only Latin American city in the Index to feature in the top 50. However, the capital cities of Lima and Mexico City are two of the highest performing globally when it comes to the share of trips taken by public transport.
Cape Town is Africa’s best-performing city, while Cairo sits in the bottom 10 cities globally, performing particularly poorly on environmental factors.
The data demonstrates that the wealth, size or age of a city does not necessarily equal sustainable urban mobility. “This is clearly demonstrated as we compare wealthy cities like Hong Kong (1st) with Los Angeles (72nd); massive urban centres like London (7th) with Jakarta (89th), and some of the earliest developed cities like Paris (3rd) with Cairo (94th),” according to the report.
"Cities are in part defined by their distinct urban mobility; installed to traverse their unique topographies and urban realities including density, demographics and design,” says John Batten, global cities director at Arcadis. “Whether it's London's Tube, the Los Angeles freeways, Hong Kong's MTR system, Sydney's ferries or Amsterdam's bicycles, the prevailing urban transport system of a city is a distinguishing feature that enables the mobility of residents, travelers, goods and services – providing the foundation for economic growth.”