How cities around the world fight traffic congestion, air pollution

Heavy traffic on a smoggy day in New Delhi.
Heavy traffic on a smoggy day in New Delhi.PHOTO: AFP

From Jan 1 to 15, New Delhi will trial a plan to improve air quality in the pollution-hit city by allowing private cars on the roads only on alternate days based on their number plates.

Violators face a 2,000 rupee (S$43) fine.

But the plan has attracted controversy as it exempts female motorists and top dignitaries, with critics arguing that everyone should be included in the effort to reduce pollution.

With air pollution and traffic congestion key concerns in many cities around the world, we take a look at how five cities have come up with creative solutions to combat these problems.

1. Beijing, China

Cars stuck in traffic amid heavy smog and thick fog in Beijing. PHOTO: REUTERS

The Chinese capital's road space rationing policy was implemented after a successful pilot to improve air quality during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Car owners, depending on the last digit on their license plate numbers, are barred from driving in the city on one day out of a work week. Offenders risk incurring a 200 yuan (S$43.50) fine if caught.

2. Murcia, Spain

An artist's impression of a tram passing through a district in Murcia. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/TRANVIA DE MURCIA

The government offers its residents lifetime passes on the city's tram system in exchange for giving up their cars.

A campaign called Mejor en Tranvía (Better by Tram) was launched in 2011, which also included putting the traded-in cars on public display and slowly disassembling them.

3. La Paz, Bolivia

A Mi Teleferico cable car passing overhead the city. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/@MITELEFERICO

The world's highest urban cable car, owned by state-run company Mi Teleferico, opened in May 2014 and connects the country's capital to the nearby city of El Alto.

The cable car - each car can carry 10 passengers - has cut the commute between the two cities to under 10 minutes. Two more lines are being built in the hopes that they can further reduce road congestion.

4. Zurich, Switzerland

A "cap and trade" was implemented in the city to shrink the number of parking spaces available.

Besides freezing the existing parking supply in the city centre, the government stipulated that when a new parking space is built off-street, an on-street space must be removed. These spaces are then converted into community spaces or bicycle lanes.

5. Mexico City, Mexico

Ranked as the second worst city (after Istanbul) in a traffic congestion index by navigational products firm TomTom, the city's Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation recently proposed a novel aerial carriage system.

It resembles the cable cars found at ski resorts, and features compact two-seater pods hanging from an elevated rail network that brings passengers directly to their destinations.