Sustainable Transport System: Case Study of Seoul, South Korea
The lecture “Sustainable transport system/ sustainable places- which comes first” was delivered by Alan Wann.
He questioned before he starts the lecture,
What do we mean by sustainability?
What might a Sustainable transport system look like in places of different sizes of cities or towns?
and showed diverse good examples of countries that have a good sustainable transport system.
Sustainability meant “using natural renewable resources” originally but it has had a broader meaning in the present day. In terms of development, it is defined as that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” in his words.
Sustainable transport commonly known as Green Transport relies on renewable or regenerated energy rather than fossil fuels to minimize the environmental negative effect. Good examples of sustainable transport can be said walking, cycling, and sailing.
The European Union Council of Ministers of Transport defines a sustainable transport system as one that 1. cares for and satisfies ecosystem health and human needs for development, 2. offers fairly, economic, and efficient transport modes with balanced regional development, and 3. Minimise environmental impacts in terms of emissions, waste, and noise.
There are 3 main modes of transport or travel in our life. The first is Walking. However, most people do not walk more than a mile it takes an average of 18 mins therefore, it is not a common transport mode for the long journey. For a longer journey than a mile, cycling could be a better option. In the UK, only 4% of people use a cycle every day to move and it is mainly an average of 23mins travel while the Netherlands take part in 43%. Then we can question why the Netherlands people cycle more than the UK people. There could be many reasons but in terms of urban design, the Netherlands is a compact country. In many cases of daily life, the distance from one place to another is not far and manageable distance by cycling. The third mode of transport is public transport such as but, metro and train because it carries many people at once compared to a private car. In the UK 59% of public transport journeys are made by bus. However, except in London, UK people are relying on a private car more than public transport (61% of trips by private car).
Public transport is the best option for a long journey compared to cycling and walking, it is a good option that can replace a private car. How can we increase the number of public transport users and in contrast decrease private car users?
As a transport system is one of the key components to creating sustainable places, they need many things that can support the traffic system, for example, the density of a city, the design of the city and road, and regulations.
I am trying to investigate my country, South Korea’s public transport system and the usage of public transport, especially in Seoul, which is the capital of South Korea.
The use of public transport in South Korea
The South Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, And Transport investigates the main purpose of public transport usage, work (commute) and leisure take part in big proportion (28% and 27% each). 68% of S. Korean use buses, and 32% use a metro (fig. 1). However, according to the data about the transport used to commute specifically, still most S. Korean use a private car (60%) more than public transport (29.4% of bus or metro) even if the main purpose of public transport is to commute. But interestingly, Seoul people use public transport (53.2%) more than private cars (35.25), which is the opposite result of other cities in S. Korea (fig.2). If you look at figure 3, you can see the high satisfaction about the public transport system in Seoul (Positive: 59.1%, Normal: 32.6%, Negative: 8.2%), it is much higher percentage compared to average satisfaction (Positive: 35.2%, Normal: 40.0%, Negative: 24.9%).
According to figures 2 and 3, you can see the satisfaction and the amount of usage go together. Therefore, I will look at the Seoul transportation system to find out why citizens satisfy the public transport system and decide to use public transport rather than private cars.
Seoul Public Transport System
The main public transport in Seoul is a bus, metro, and train. The city has been trying 1. to offer good sharing transport resources with rail-centred mass transit and faster public transportation system, 2. to create people-centred transportation that encourages walking and cycling with reducing traffic fatalities, and finally 3. to achieve environmentally conscious transportation through minimizing unnecessary travel demand and having eco-friendly efficient transport (Seoul Metropolitan Government, n.d.). As the number of passenger cars in Seoul grew by 1,314% (in 2009) since the 1980s, Seoul tried to manage the demand for public transportation (PT) through the increase of the supply of public transit, and did reform the PT system in 2004. In 2010, electric buses were introduced, and a transit mall was constructed in 2014.
PT System Reform (2004)
1) Reorganization Of Bus Routes & Addition of Colour Code
Seoul changed some problematic bus routes (too many curves or redundant long-range) to a more efficient way with the increase of connection between mass transits, adding colour-code to buses depending on the bus lines (Blue, Red, Green, and Yellow). It increased the efficiency of passengers.
2) The Exclusive Median Bus Lane System with Bus Stops
The original bus lane was the outside of car roads, but it has been moved to the middle of the car road with a bus stop, and buses are given priority on the road (fig.4). It increased the 30% of bus speed, the median bus stops increased the passengers’ fast transit from one to another bus with safety.
2. Integrated Transit Fare Card System (Integrated Transit Fare System + Rechargeable Transportation Card)
The government established the integrated transit fare card system, people only need a single transportation card to take a bus, metro, and taxi anywhere in the country through the T-money system (rechargeable transportation card), it charges depending on the total travel distance rather than independent fare (fig.5). In addition, the transportation card can be used to pay in stores such as public sports facilities, shopping, medical, and recreation. It reduced the burden of traffic fees and increase convenience at the same time.
3. Electric & CNG (Compressed natural gas) Buses with low-floor buses for the transportation-vulnerable
Most diesel buses have been changed to CNG or Electric buses to improve the air quality of Seoul, and low-floor buses are added more for the transportation-vulnerable.
4. Bus Management System (BMS) & Bus Information System (BIS)
through the GPS and BMS. BMS collect bus movement and checks the intervals of bus operations in-real time through GPS, that information is used to improve punctuality. In addition, using the data, they offer a digital board at all bus stops that show the estimated arrival time, the present location of the bus and occupancy level in real-time for passengers. Also, they can check it by smartphone application and website.
Seoul is a very high-density city and public transport lines (bus, metro, and train) are spread over the whole city area. Also, bus, metro and train stations are near each other. Furthermore, the public transport transfer system and fare system are well-integrated. Digital systems are applied to transportation, which increased the overall passengers’ convenience. Those made the increase of the public transport usage.
The author Hyelim Lee combined her own experience in her lived city(maybe, I’m not very sure) Seoul to present what is the component of the transportation system and how is the using frequency in transportation tools. It seems that people in Seoul often use public transports in communting because of the PT system Reform(2004) and The Exclusive Median Bus Lane System with Bus stops. These two reformed policies make the Seoul become more convenient to use public vehicles in replace of private cars. In addition, unifying price in bus system will further the rationality of taking the bus in daily time. It indicates that the more developed city, the more it is necessary to optimize the urban system rationally. When people come to a bus stop, they hope to see the information more clearly like shift information. Digital board perfectly satisfies this requirement. Also, it is important for disabled people to design a low floor to solve their difficulty.
However, not every city is similar to Seoul. We have Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, like this kind of developed area in my country: China. They rely on private cars because of huge populations in their country and it is very heavy in communting time. They don’t want to squeeze the bus which is called Crowdlies. Due to this, we are experiencing traffic congestion every day in rush hour, even it will take us 1 hour to stay in the 100-meter road, like Beijing, Shanghai. Thus, in low-population city, I understand and I know it is easier to improve and fix the transportation system in urban areas, but how can we solve the traffic problem in high-population city. Even in America, they have the car culture in several cities like Detroit because urban planning and city size decides the developing regulation. Can we subdivide the urban areas? To more arrange the city and create the convenient transportation system or guide people to use public vehicles? Can we research the new energy to promote it into our all means of transportation? (Actually we are doing this, like new energy cars and buses, petrol-eletric hybrid car) This could be rising to sustainable and environmental problem, but all of these changes will affect our daily time, including the choices, conveniences and satisfactions. Anyway, I just want to discuss and put forward these puzzled questions.
Written by Yihan He(Jason)
Thanks to this article, I got an overview of the sustainable transportation system in South Korea. The transit system in Seoul, which is discussed in the article, is a very good case study that can provide lessons for other large developing cities in Asia. The city of Seoul has used measures such as adjusting bus routes and lanes, designing for accessibility, and improving management systems to successfully allocate convenient transportation to people who take public transportation out of the city, thus promoting a greater preference for sustainable transportation.
What is remarkable about the Seoul case is that, in addition to reforming the bus system itself, Seoul has also implemented a series of successful urban designs, the most representative of which is the Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project, in which the city removed the viaduct covering the Cheonggyecheon river and used the reformed bus system to divert the existing traffic. The city removed the viaduct over the Cheonggyecheon river and diverted the traffic flow with a reformed bus system. After the removal of the viaduct, the traffic congestion in Seoul was effectively reduced rather than increased. At the same time, the Cheonggyecheon river has been ecologically improved and turned into an attractive waterfront recreational park.
For a long time, sustainable policies have been difficult to promote around the world, and it seems that people subconsciously oppose environmental protection and urban development to each other. The case of Seoul’s public transportation system inspired me that a sustainable transportation system is dependent on the city and its residents and that a successful sustainable transportation system does not hinder the development of the city and its residents, but rather serves them better. A successful sustainable transportation system does not hinder the development of the city and its residents, but rather serves them better. Therefore, we should take into account the local human and natural environment when designing and planning, and adopt appropriate strategies to create a win-win situation for both urban development and the ecological environment.
 HWANG K， BYUN M， LAH T, et al. Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project: Conflict Management Strategies[ R]. Sejong City: The Korea Transport Institute,2016.
The case study of Seoul’s sustainable transport system is an interesting and informative look at how it has successfully implemented and integrated various forms to promote sustainable transportation. For example, it’s interesting how they have changed the layout of their roads to increase the productivity of buses. I especially like how they have encouraged the use of public transportation, Seoul has implemented several initiatives, including reduced fares for off-peak travel and the use of smart cards, which make it easier for people to pay for and transfer between different modes of transportation and offer discounts. Overall, this blog provided some interesting aspects that the UK could implement in order to ensure people are more satisfied with their public transportation.
The reason why the Netherlands has such a high use of cyclers is due to its history and how it gave birth to its biking culture. The Netherlands’ cities were congested with cars by the 1970s, just like most European cities. There were 100 automobiles per 500 people in 1970 because of a sharp increase in car ownership. It was fatal because Dutch streets, many of which were built during the Middle Ages, were not intended for this kind of traffic. Nearly 500 of the more than 3,000 fatalities caused by cars in 1971 were children. This gave rise to the Stop de Kindermoord movement (Stop the Child Murder). The public outcry over such high fatality rates also happened at the same time as the 1973 oil crisis, during which some OPEC members reduced oil output and imposed export embargoes on specific nations. These two incidents taken together were sufficient to convince the Dutch government to abandon its previous policy of car-centric urban design (euronews, 2022).
The Netherlands’ flat terrain is another factor that contributes to biking’s practicality and convenience as a form of transportation. Bike riding is also a safe and convenient option for individuals of all ages because of the nation’s extensive network of bike paths and infrastructure, which includes designated bike lanes and traffic signals for cyclists (As Easy As Riding A Bike, 2013).
Looking at what Seoul and the Netherlands have done, the UK needs to do significant changes in how they approach sustainable transport and implement it within their designs.
As Easy As Riding A Bike. (2013). Why do the Dutch cycle more than the British? [online] Available at: https://aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/why-do-the-dutch-cycle-more-than-the-british/#:~:text=Climate%20cannot%20be%20a%20reason,Netherlands%20%E2%80%93%20has%20considerably%20more%20cycling. [Accessed 9 Jan. 2023].
euronews. (2022). Cycling nation: The secret to the Netherlands’ biking success. [online] Available at: https://www.euronews.com/next/2022/09/17/the-worlds-cycling-nation-how-the-netherlands-redesigned-itself-as-a-country-fit-for-bikes [Accessed 9 Jan. 2023].
I’d like to appreciate Hyelim Lee for creating this post, which gave me a solid understanding of Korea’s public transportation system. According to the report, Seoul residents are pleased with the quality of the city’s public transportation system, and they use public transportation more frequently than private automobiles. It is my opinion that the reform of the transportation system that has been accomplished in Seoul is something that megacities all over Asia, and even large cities all over the world, can learn from and profit from. Hyelim’s description of the reorganization of the PT system in particular.
Through the implementation of innovations and changes in infrastructure, management techniques, management agencies, and operational models, the city of Seoul has effectively increased the efficiency of its transportation operations. This substantial upgrade is a critical component in the continued development of Seoul’s public transportation system.
Cities such as Beijing and Shanghai in China, where urbanization is accelerating, have taken initiatives to ease traffic congestion, which is seen as one of the most important social concerns, in order to ameliorate the situation. These actions were taken to improve the situation. Limiting the number of automobiles on the road, implementing a policy of shaking license plates, constructing subways, and so on are all instances of interventions that have been implemented; however, these interventions do not fundamentally address the issue of traffic congestion. Putting people first should be the fundamental purpose of efforts to develop environmentally friendly transportation networks, with the ultimate goal of creating a green travel area for locals. akin to what Seoul accomplished in the renovation of the Cheonggyecheon River, which includes restoring the ecosystem of the Cheonggyecheon River inland, promoting economic development along the river, and providing a better livable environment for the city’s residents.
Other cities can learn from Seoul’s experience with implementing transportation reform by improving transportation infrastructure, making travel easier, encouraging people to travel in environmentally friendly ways, and making full use of public transit systems.