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LEDS in Practice: Save money and time by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from urban transport

This paper shares two case studies on shifting people out of private vehicles and realizing the benefits of saving money and time, and reducing emissions by using their private vehicles less often.
Burka Anjum


Low Emissions Development Strategies (LEDS) are central to the efforts of developed and developing countries to mitigate current and future greenhouse gas emissions, which if unchecked will accelerate climatic change and further exacerbate existing vulnerabilities, and thereby undermine efforts to adapt to climate change.

As a result of various push-pull factors, including impacts relating to climate change, migration from rural to urban settings (urbanisation) is increasing. This is increasingly exerting pressure on the capacity of cities, requiring interventions in order to maintain the health and security of their growing populations. In parallel to this, economic growth in developing and developed countries alike is resulting in an increased need for, and dependence on, public and private transport. This presents both a challenge and opportunity for cities to mitigate increasing air pollution and carbon emissions. In response to this the Transport Working Group at Low Emission Development Strategies Global Partnership (LEDS GP) has released a series of papers exploring the many benefits of low carbon urban transport (see links under further resources), of which this is one.

Save money and time

People need transport to reach basic services such as health care and education, and to get to their places of work. Promotion of low carbon transport substantially decreases private household expenditure on transport by reducing both fares for public transport (through subsidies and low carbon transport infrastructure) and fuel costs of private vehicles. Commuters also save time as traffic congestion is eased. Savings in both household expenditure and travelling time can potentially increase the productivity and efficiency of commuters at work, releasing more opportunities for the development of the local economy. These savings also help to reduce the vulnerability of individuals by leaving them more time and money for other activities and expenses.

By expanding low carbon transport options and reducing the carbon footprint in daily travel, city governments and residents are able to save valuable time and money. Those resources can be invested to pursue other development goals and strengthen the local economy by increasing demand for alternative goods to transport.

This paper*shares two case studies from cities that have taken action in the transport sector to shift people out of private vehicles. It describes low carbon transportation in Portland, USA and the bus rapid transit system in Guangzhou, China and provides details of the design, implementation and the results of these projects to date. With this shift, the residents of these cities have realized the benefits of saving money and time and reducing emissions by using their private vehicles less often. Similar principles may be applied to other metropolitan areas.

*download from the right-hand column or via the link under further resources.

Key Messages

  • Low carbon urban transport offers a practical opportunity to save people’s time and household income as well as government budgets.
  • Policies that increase access to public transport and shift trips from motorized to non-motorized modes can reduce fuel consumption and congestion on the roads, making the transportation system more energy and time efficient.
  • Public investment in low carbon transport combined with land use planning that favors shorter travel distances can lead to savings that extend beyond the scale, time, and budget of the investments themselves.
  • For example:
    • Low carbon transport patterns save residents of Portland, USA 700,000 tons of carbon dioxide per capita and US$1,314 of individual income annually.
    • With the implementation of a bus rapid transit system in Guangzhou, China, the mixed traffic flow in the corridor has improved with a 20% increase in speed and has reduced emissions by an annual average of 86,000 tons of carbon dioxide.

LEDS in Practice

This paper is one of a series on the co-benefits of low emission development strategies in the transport sector, from the LEDS GP Transport Working Group, World Resources Institute’s Ross Center for Sustainable Cities (EMBARQ) and GIZ. View the others here:

The LEDS GP Transport Working Group provides technical assistance, tools, and training for LEDS in transport systems. The group works to:

  • share approaches and practices for transport and land use planning n provide transport analysis methods and tools
  • offer peer to peer, transport-specific financial training and expert assistance.

Contact: [email protected]

Suggested Citation

Lefevre, B., Eisenbeiß, K., Yadav, N. and Enriquez, A. (2016) Save money and time by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from urban transport. LEDS in Practice. Low Emission Development Strategies Global Partnership.

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