Surprisingly, last week the Seoul Metropolitan Government published their vision for transport in 2030. This is going to lead the direction of transport planning in Seoul for almost two decades. The picture shows how the measures are divided: 1. people (red), 2. sharing (blue), 3. environment (green)
I’m going to introduce to you the most important ideas of each part and in the summary I’ll try to point out the most important problems which might hinder the realization of this vision.
The first part sets priority on pedestrians. More space for pedestrians are going to be made, even more pedestrian zones or zones where private cars aren’t allowed to enter at all. Some of these areas are going to become “car-free villages”. Pedestrians-first means also that the traffic lights are going to be in favor of pedestrians and more information tables or street-signs for pedestrians are some among many other possible measures.
The bicycle should become a mode of transport and Seoul will promote daily use of bicycles. Bike paths are going to be improved and extended and safety is going to be improved, too. Bike-sharing services are going to spread all over Seoul. The inner-city driving speed is going to be reduced from 60 to 50 km/h. If a traffic death occurs, the investigations will be more detailed and in the best case, the investigations should identify the cause and provide suggestions of how to solve it.
If we think about people, we shouldn’t forget about disadvantaged people. The municipal government of Seoul wants to build facilities for easy access of subway and train stations. All buses are going to be replaced by low-floor buses and there are going to be special taxis for handicapped persons.
The intention is to make public transport more efficient. The vision also contains the GTX, an express-train for the Seoul Metropolitan Area. Seoul has to be better connected with cities in its surrounding. Everybody should be able to reach a subway-station within ten minutes. It’s unclear what they mean by “within ten minutes”. Is it ten minutes by car? By foot? Until 2030 the subway system and buses will be very old. The vehicles have to be replaced by new ones and adjusted to the needs of the citizens in 2030. The average speed of buses on the bus-only lanes is currently at 20 km/h, which is relatively fast. Until 2030 the speed of buses should be over 25 km/h in average.
Sharing is of course also about car sharing: In twenty years, there should be 1,200 car-sharing stations in Seoul. That will be three times as much as now. Another popular topic related to “sharing” is shared space. Hereby, Seoul orientates on the Netherlands and London’s great transformation of certain streets. Seoul needs more “complete roads”. These are roads which feature all transport methods from pedestrian, cycling, public transport and cars.
The third focus is on environmental issues. As you know, transport is one of the biggest polluters and hence it is important to change something. Seoul plans to reduce “useless transport” how they call it. Useless transport is here private vehicles. Road-usage taxes are going to be a new burden for car-drivers. At the same time capacity of public transport will be increased and all buses and trains should have zero emissions. To reach this goal, for instance all buses have to be replaced by electric vehicles. The vision also introduces “solar ways”, streets which produce electricity through solar energy. I heard that for the first time and I doubt that such technology already exists (or that it is feasible). Seoul wants to enhance participation for transport development through SNS, public polls, online platforms and so on.
According to a summary of the vision of 2030 the most important measures are the following:
- space for pedestrian to double
- city-wide bike-sharing service
- high safety for all modes of transport
In my humble opinion, I believe that it will be already a big success if Seoul is able to accomplish just 10 % of the goals. The problem is that with a new mayor the direction of development may change. To accomplish such goals, the current mayor would needs to be reelected (that’s what he also wants). Still then it would be very difficult because the administration needs political will and support from the citizens as well as the national government. Let’s not mention the high costs of some of the projects. In the future budget will be more constrained and creative ways of financing have to be found. Therefore it is important to understand this vision is rather showing what direction transportation planning in Seoul should pursue.
The city government works on various visions for the future of Seoul. We talked about Seoul’s 100 year-plan and the vision for a pedestrian-friendly Seoul. For me it feels like plans for a pedestrian-friendly Seoul have been more concrete and that we can expect them soon to be realized. However, the vision for 2030 is different: 2030 is in terms of urban development close but in terms of legislative periods, it is unimaginably far away. Until then we are going to see several new Seoul city mayors and Korean presidents.
To sum it up, this visions send out a clear message: We (Seoul) want to reduce car dependency and we want to make all sorts of public transport more comfortable (including walking and cycling).