Traffic Problems Due to the Increasing Reliance on Passenger Cars
Increasing Reliance on Cars
Increasing dependence on passenger cars has caused heavy traffic congestion in the capital city of Korea, costing a significant amount of money for the city. According to The Korea Transport Institute (KOTI), a think-tank for transport and logistics, the cost incurred from traffic congestion across the nation doubled in less than 10 years, from KRW 5 trillion in 2002 to KRW 8 trillion in 2010. Also noticeable is a jump in the number of single-occupancy vehicle, which jumped from 79% in 2002 to 85.9% in 2010.
Meanwhile, despite the wide availability of public transportation in Seoul, driving continues to be a more preferred choice for many. The modal share for cars in Seoul stands at 24%, which is 2.2 times higher than that of Tokyo. The same data reveals that 10.8% of travelers choose to drive even for short distance within 1km.
Car, Main Culprit behind Energy Consumption and Pollutant Emissions
Of the 16,958 TOE of energy consumed in Seoul in 2011, 5,228 TOE (30.8%) came from transport sector, of which cars took up a whopping 55.7%. Cars also account for the greatest portion of air pollutant emissions in Seoul, representing 57.5% while emitting 4-9 times more GHG than bus/subway (198.3 grams per passenger km). The data suggests that cars are the main culprit behind Seoul’s higher fine dust (PM-10) concentration levels than the global average.
Efforts to Address Transport Problems
Having recognized that problems caused by passenger cars should be tackled first if it were to successfully implement its green transportation policies, Seoul has introduced a series of initiatives and campaigns. For example, the Seoul government expanded urban railway while improving its public transportation system to encourage more citizens to opt in favor of public transport. At the same time, a range of programs were introduced to encourage citizens to leave their cars at home, for instance, congestion charge on motor vehicles passing through Namsan tunnels 1 and 3 and the No-Driving Day campaign. In addition, Seoul has been promoting green cars such as electric vehicles (EV). Despite the city government’s multifaceted approach to tackle its transport problems, many are still opt to drive instead of other modes or EV which is still in it is nascent stage.
Leading City of Smart and Green Transport
Green Transport Roadmap
Committed to deliver its goal of making the city’s air clean and pleasant with green transport by 2030, Seoul set specific targets of a 30% reduction of passenger cars traffic volume, 40% adoption of green cars, and deployment of 1,000 electric car fast-chargers. To meet the said targets, Seoul has launched an eco-friendly transport roadmap, which includes strengthening control of passenger car demand and driving practices, introducing green cars, and building infrastructure for green cars.
Tighter Management Scheme for Passenger Car
The Seoul Metropolitan Government is driven to promote green transport, reduce private motor vehicle transport volume, and facilitate green driving habits. To this end, Seoul is applying a tighter control scheme to reduce car use by hiking up parking charges and congestion fees based on the user-pay principle, promoting other modes such as public transportation, walking, bicycling, and car-sharing. Besides the efforts in traffic flow control, the Seoul government is educating its citizens on a more economical and eco-friendly way of driving. Regulating wrong driving practices such as idling car at roadside is one of many measures Seoul is taking to make its city green.
More Green Cars on the Road
Electric vehicle (EV) comes with numerous environmental benefits, making it an essential part of the city’s eco-friendly transport initiative. For instance, fuel for an EV costs 10% less than it does for a car with internal combustion engine while emitting 24% less GHG than a gasoline-powered car of the same engine size. On the back of such advantages, sales of EV is expected to double by 2020 globally, and major countries are making active moves to supply more electric cars in the market. For example, US aims to supply 1 million EV by 2015, the Netherlands 200,000 by 2020, and China 5 million by 2020.
In line with the global trend toward EV, Seoul too is actively promoting EV in the city. By 2020 Seoul is aiming at expanding the share of green cars on the road up to 11%, and EV 1.5%. The longer term targets are 40% of green cars and 20% for EV by 2030.
The city government is adopting a tailored approach to more effectively achieve its ambitious targets. In other words, different programs and plans apply to passenger cars, bus/taxi, and trucks/two-wheeled vehicles.
First of all, as for the passenger motor vehicles, the city government is driven to urge the public sector to shift to EV first to set an example. The Seoul Metropolitan Government plans to employ EV sharing service for protocol cars and incentivize purchase of EV for public-use cars. The moves will help make all public cars green by 2020, and further make all of them run either on electricity or fuel cells by 2030. Seoul will also expand the range of its EV project into the private sector. Study shows that daily mileages (distance traveled per day) has been increasingly on the decline (from 40.6 km in 2002 to 30.5 km in 2010) and the number of single occupancy vehicle is on the rise (from 79% in 2002 to 86% in 2010) during commuting hours. Taking the trend into consideration, Seoul plans to operate a car sharing service with mini-EV for commuters.
Second, Seoul is still in its initial stage in making buses and taxis green. As of now, a small number of electric taxies and CNG hybrid buses are in operation. With further efforts, Seoul aims to introduce electric buses on 266 routes and replace all taxies with green cars by 2030.
Lastly, trucks and two-wheeled vehicles are not excluded in Seoul’s ambitious green initiative. Idling restriction zone (LEZ) will be expanded in inner city area. As with passenger cars, the city government will target the public sector first and expand to the private sector; electric trucks will be introduced to the public sector and later to small businesses and short distance operators. In addition, electric two-wheelers are expected to be introduced to public institutions and universities in Seoul.
Infrastructure for Green Cars
A wide adoption of green cars must be accompanied by convenience and accessibility for users; without sufficient power-charging infrastructure, we cannot expect to see many EVs on the road. Having said that, infrastructure for EV in Seoul is minimal, to say the least, against the expected rise in the EV demand in near future; Currently, there are only 751 slow chargers and 46 fast chargers throughout the capital city of Korea. To tackle the dearth of infrastructure, Seoul will supply public standing-type slow chargers for multiple-unit housings from 2015 to 2020, and later provide home charging facilities from 2020 onward. Much effort will be made to diversify charging point types to meet different needs of EV users so that by 2030 740,000 slow chargers and 1,000 fast chargers can be set up across Seoul. The EV infrastructure expansion will go hand in hand with installations of 15 hydrogen fuel cell chargers as 15,000 fuel cell vehicles are expected to hit the road by 2030.