Navigating a sustainable future with rail and TODs
As the world looks to Glasgow for the COP26 conference on climate change, we’ll be discussing some of the changes our industry needs to make and reflecting on the COP debate on the AECOM Blog. Join the discussion on social media by following us on Twitter and LinkedIn. Find more information in our special COP26 edition of our “Future of Infrastructure” report: https://infrastructure.aecom.com
Southeast Asian cities have seen rapid growth over the past few decades. In some cases, accelerated expansion came with inadequate planning, leading to pollution, economic disparity, traffic congestion, insufficient affordable housing and unreliable public transportation. Cities like Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Jakarta and Bangkok have started reversing that trend by investing in mass transit systems to decongest roads and reduce carbon footprints, and the complex, logistical challenges are apparent as these are busy urban centers.
Despite these challenges, investing in well-connected transport systems or transit-oriented developments (TODs) needs to continue if we are committed to building resilient cities and collectively addressing climate issues.
Transit and TOD developments depend heavily on government policies and large financial commitments. But the climate science is clear: we cannot remain complacent or hesitant when it comes to building a more resilient world. At AECOM, we’re incorporating Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) principles in everything we do – and recommend the same for new development planning.
ESG factors for success
To do this successfully, five considerations are key:
- Building such massive infrastructure takes time and money and public stakeholders now want to see greater transparency and care in its development. ESG is becoming a more important aspect of Southeast Asian projects and a vital factor in obtaining funding. While many clients in the Southeast Asia region have yet to include ESG into their key performance indicator (KPI), owing to misunderstandings about additional expenses, ESG principles must be instituted today to ensure future relevance and resilience.
- Citizens who are mobile have an advantage when it comes to new job and economic opportunities compared to those who are hampered by geographic barriers and distances. Building TODs close to cities with affordable housing areas would open up opportunities by allowing more people to live closer to these better-paying jobs.
- Before TODs can be properly integrated into the city’s fabric, planners must also look at efficient and sustainable public transportation systems. Electric rail systems, for example, emit much fewer greenhouse gases compared to the cars on the road. Rail technology has also evolved to incorporate renewable sources of energy such as hydrogen-powered trains which promise zero carbon emissions.
- Transit/TOD projects bring with them socio-economic benefits from the planning and constructing phase, creating jobs and opportunities across a spectrum of fields and sectors. In AECOM’s experience, working on the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transport project in Malaysia presented our team an opportunity to utilize our global network and experience in incorporating Building Information Modeling (BIM) into the construction process. An industry first on such a massive scale in Malaysia, this created a positive trickle-down effect, promoting greater efficiency, accuracy and significant dollar savings in the long run.
- Think about building TOD communities that feature not just retail and entertainment options, but also green public spaces. TODs that encourage walking and cycling can reduce the environmental concerns associated with excessive car use. Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo are excellent showcases of how rail and TODs improve mobility and efficiency.
Conversations on infrastructure growth that lead to action must keep going and should be guided by ESG principles. By adopting more efficient and sustainable transportation solutions, we can give our cities a better future.