Heavy traffic is chocking Seoul’s city center as cars, taxis and tourist buses fight for road space. The large amount of pedestrians has to stick to narrow, inconvenient sidewalks. Cycling is nearly impossible on the road. But now, it is going to change: The city center is going to become the first Green Transport Promotion Zone of Korea.
What is a Green Transport Promotion Zone?
A Green Transport Promotion Zone (녹색교통진흥지역) prioritizes sustainable transport. Measures include the establishment of pedestrian zones, bicycle infrastructure (paths, racks and bicycle parking) and better facilities for public transport users. The city can restrict or charge drivers for entering the zone. In addition, electric vehicles, a Suncheon-like PRT or even a tram could be introduced.
For the concept of these zones the Korean government looked at Germany’s eco-zones, Britain’s low emission zones and Paris’ mobility master plan. The city was also motivated by the Paris Agreement at the COP21, where countries decided to put efforts into limiting the increase of global average temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In April, Seoul sent their application to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT). A month later MOLIT accepted the application and appointed Seoul’s city center as Korea’s first Green Transport Promotion Zone.
Hanyang Doseong, Seoul’s City Center as Promotion Zone
Seoul designated the area within the fortress walls as the promotion zone. It covers parts of the two districts Jongno-gu and Jung-gu. The total area is 16.7 km2 large. It is an area with heavy traffic throughout the whole day.
A main argument besides the heavy traffic is the lack of space for pedestrians. Currently, only 27.2% of the street space in Jongno is for sidewalks and pedestrian areas. For comparison, Manhattan in New York has 45.8% sidewalk space or London’s Oxford Street gives 50.4% to pedestrians.
This area has currently four large projects: Seoul Station 7017, Sewoon Sangga, Namsan Cable Car and the Sejongno History Park. The city center is one of the main areas for Seoul’s public bike sharing system Seoul Bike. And most importantly, the city center is the top destination for tourists. Thus, it is important to improve the environment and reduce traffic inside the fortress walls.
The implementation plan consists only of 37-page report. The Seoul Metropolitan Government developed measures according to the principles of A (Accident-Free), B (Barrier-Free), C (Congestion-Free), D (Disorder-Free) and E (Emission-Free). In total there are 29 measures, divided into the eight categories. Here’s an overview of measures in the green transport promotion zone:
- Equal road space
– Establishment of a standard for a ‘Seoul-type’ space use
– Reorganization of street space with a focus on transit and pedestrians
– Better use of unused space on streets or sidewalks
- Raising the convenience of walking
– Building a multi-dimensional pedestrian network
– Expansion of the official area for the improvement of the pedestrian environment
– Construction of diagonal crossings
– Introduction of guidelines and better maintenance of walking infrastructure
For example, the improvement of pedestrian environment looks like this:
The red line shows how pedestrians currently have to walk from S to E. In the future, there will be more pedestrian crossings and unmarked but elevated road crossings.
- Safe city center
– Lowering of speed limits on side streets and bicycle-priority streets
– Improvement of areas with a high occurance of traffic accidents
– Better walking environment wihtout obstacles for weak traffic participants
– Expansion and maintenance of bicycle infrastructure
– Promotion of personal mobility
- Shared traffic environment
– Increasing density of Nanum cars (Seoul’s car sharing)
– Expansion of shared parking spots
– Expansion and improvement of public bike sharing
- Create faster traffic through public transport
– Better network for public transport
– Improvement of public transport user’s experience (bus information systems, more vehicles etc.)
– Maintenance of transfer facilities and provide more information
- Pleasant and smart city center
– Develop themes for subway stations
– Carry out more projects with LOUD
– More transport information (road situation, parking and walking)
– Expansion of public WiFi on public transport
Usually, all subway stations have a similar design. An exception is the Gyeongbokgung Station (Line no. 3) that has a museum inside the underground station:
We are going to see more themes and a variety of subway station designs in Seoul.
- Clean and clear city center
– Improvement of the regulations for eco-zones (restriction zones of cars with high pollution levels)
– Provision of more electric car-sharing vehicles
– Expansion of more public electric vehicles
– Expansion of infrastructure for electric vehicles
- Reduction of private cars
– Better parking demand management and enforcement of parking laws
– Enlargement of congestion charging zone
– Construction of road and rail infrastructure for traffic passing through the center
The goal is to realize more space for green transport, a higher share of bus, subway, walking and cycling, less cars, lower emission levels and zero traffic fatalities. The promotion zone is expected to have the following effects:
|Space for Green Transport (km2)||0.43 (31.2%) (2015)||0.58||0.87|
|Modal Share of Green Transport (%)||68.3 (2013)||70||75|
|Modal Share of Cars (ten thousands per day)||80 (2013)||74||56|
|Air Pollution (ton per year)||5,036 (2012)||4,532||3,198|
|Traffic Fatalities (people per year)||8 (2014)||5||0|
The amount of cars within the Green Transport Promotion Zone will be reduced by 30% and air pollution will be reduced by 36.5% until 2030. The space for pedestrians will increase by 60%. It is an important step to a more people-centered urban development.