The transport network in Hong Kong is one of the most well-developed networks in the world leading to a flourishing transport sector. However, the transport sector is also the second largest air pollution source in Hong Kong. Therefore, improvements and changes are necessary to lower carbon emissions. A research team led by Professor Leung Yee, Director of the Institute of Future Cities at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has conducted a comprehensive research on low-carbon transport practices and policies with the objective of formulating a strategy for Hong Kong’s future low-carbon transport system initiatives.
The research project, titled ‘Best Practices and Strategies for Low-Carbon Urban Transport System’, consists of literature review, questionnaire survey and in-depth interviews in which the research team investigates the feasibility of adopting other countries’ successful initiatives and gauges the opinions of Hong Kong’s general public and experts on low-carbon policies. The team interviewed around 1,200 people to gather information on their travel behaviour, car ownership and driver’s license and their opinion on transport strategies and policies. Moreover, in-depth interviews with transport professionals, government officials and non-governmental organisation representatives were also conducted to find out their opinions on low-carbon transport policies and their proposed solutions to deal with traffic congestion and air pollution and evaluate the barriers and possible solutions to low-carbon transport within the individual, private and government realms.
Acceptance on low-carbon transport strategies
The research team compares the opinion of the general public and professionals and finds out that they have relatively different views on the effectiveness of various low-carbon transport policies. Nearly half of the public either strongly agree or agree on implementing a vehicle quota system, whereas only 13% of professionals are supportive of this strategy. When asked about the most effective strategy in reducing carbon emission, the public believe that subsidizing public transport and electric vehicles are the most effective strategies, whereas increasing parking fees and increasing First Registration Tax is the least chosen ones. The professionals think that implementing fuel tax and subsidizing electric vehicles are the most effective strategies. However, increasing First Registration Tax is the least popular among professionals. When consolidating the opinions of the professionals and the public, the most popular strategy for both groups is to subsidise electric or hybrid vehicles. Increasing First Registration Tax is least likely to be regarded as the best strategy.
The professionals and the public hold different views on the Electronic Road Pricing System when comparing various recommendations. Around 80% of the professionals either strongly agree or agree with this strategy (The remaining 20% are neutral). On the contrary, only 43.6% of the public is supportive of it (20% are neutral and 30% oppose it). It shows that it is still necessary to enhance public understanding of the Electronic Road Pricing System although more of the public are supportive of it. Furthermore, both public and experts are very supportive of imposing stricter regulations and heavier fines on vehicle pollution.
Transport infrastructure of Hong Kong has room for improvement
Compared with other cosmopolitan cities with similar demography, Hong Kong is relatively safe for pedestrians. However, it still lacks the infrastructure to provide the pedestrians with abundant space and comfortable conditions. Despite the government’s promotional efforts, there is still room for Hong Kong to improve its cycling facilities and to persuade residents to consider cycling as a sustainable transport mode, since currently Hong Kong’s cycle tracks are mainly used for recreational purposes. Additionally, Hong Kong has not yet applied the latest information technologies, such as real-time data, into its parking management system, nor are flexible travel modes such as bike sharing and car sharing systems available to the public. Moreover, the government needs to promote the use of electronic vehicles, implement electronic road pricing and introduce smart parking management schemes to enhance the efficiency of the transport system and lower the carbon emission in the transport sector.
The research team proposes the following recommendations:
- Increase and improve urban space and infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists to encourage active travel. The government should adopt a program similar to Singapore's ‘Green Man Plus’ which provides extra crossing time at intersections for the elderly and handicapped individuals. Automatic pedestrian detectors can be installed at major intersections to facilitate safe street crossings;
- Extend the MTR network, improve the level of service and the intermodal connection and provide public transport a higher priority in right of way to maintain a high level of ridership;
- Deploy more strategically located electric vehicles charging facilities to encourage easier accessibility and the adoption of electric vehicles. In order to combat air and noise pollution and to reduce society’s dependency on petrol and diesel fuels, the government should launch generous incentives for electric vehicles, such as a congestion charge waiver program, extending first registration tax exemption period, reserved parking, and subsidies for electric vehicles;
- Implement the Electronic Road Pricing System to reduce traffic congestion and roadside pollution;
- Experiment with bike sharing and car sharing programmes to provide more travel choices to individuals;
- Share transport-relevant data on an open informatics platform to bolster people/companies to develop suitable applications to encourage informed travel behaviour. Hong Kong should implement a strategic parking scheme similar to the SFpark system of San Francisco that uses smart phone applications and real-time data to guide drivers to available parking spaces, and adjust the parking fees in accordance with the real-time amounts of parking space, thereby improving the traffic congestion.
Professor Leung said, ‘In order to achieve an active and healthy lifestyle, it is imperative that low-carbon policies and strategic plans are developed for Hong Kong’s multi-modal transport system to encourage sustainable urban growth.’