Sustainable Cities- Taiwan Setting an Example to the West


Introduction: Understanding the General Idea of Sustainability

Sustainability and sustainable transportation is extremely important and prominent in today’s news. According to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, there is an extreme urgency to achieve the seventeen goals by 2030 (Costanza, R, 2016). Most recently, in 2016 the Paris Agreement to fight Climate Change signed 197 countries to commit to strengthening a global collective movement (Abby Muricho Onencan,Bartel Van de Walle, 2018). Sustainable transportation plays a key role in successfully reaching these goals as there is a major link between the emissions of greenhouse gases that are coming from vehicles and/or commercial traffic, as well as, the increasing CO2 levels contributing to climate change (Ramani & Zietsman, 2016). This blog will analyze the factors that make a city’s transportation sustainable. As the term ‘sustainability’ is quite broad; this blog will focus on one sector and define it accordingly. There are many determinants that provide sustainable transportation as there is a significant relationship between sustainable development and quality of life. The implementation of transportation plays an important role in humans’ day to day activities by reforming the way people travel, and in exchange, is a step towards environmental progression. This blog will use the sustainable transportation indicators to demonstrate their roles in developing means to counter climate change. Most notably, this blog will highlight barriers and considerations that planners face when developing such forms of transportation. 


The Components to Sustainable Transportation: 

The  concept of sustainability, rooting from the developed Western world, is seen to be inspired by the pre-existing notion of quality of life. In addition, both the Western world and International Organizations/Institutions believe in an enhanced quality of life. In the article, “Incorporating Sustainability Assessment in Transportation Planning: an Urban Transportation Vehicle-based Approach” by Mitropoulos and Prevedouros, the concept of sustainable transportation corresponds to the quality of life through three different frameworks. These frameworks are smart growth, sustainable growth, and inclusive growth (Mitropoulos & Prevedouros, 2016). Similarly to Mitropoulos’ framework, the authors from the article, “Development and deployment of public transport policy and planning in Taiwan” highlight the different societal factors planners must consider when developing sustainable transportation. Factors such as, accessibility to a bus stop, considering inclusivity when constructing infrastructure, affordability, and security are all introduced and explained throughout the article. To achieve these factors and considerations however, there are sustainable transportation determinants that lead this process towards a system that achieves such inclusivity, efficiency, and environmental friendliness. To illustrate the following points, this blog will apply Taiwan’s transportation system as reference as the country’s transportation system successfully implements almost all aforementioned factors. In the article, “Evaluating sustainable transport strategies for the counties of Taiwan based on their degree of urbanization”, Shiau demonstrates the strengths of the Taiwanese system. As the enhancement of transportation services rise, quality of life increases. 


Connecting Quality of Life to Sustainable Transportation 

Mitropoulos’ framework highlights key aspects, as well as establishes a relationship between sustainable transportation and quality of life by stating, “effective transportation planning accessing and means greatly contribute to improve urban QoL or habitability.” (Mitropoulos & Prevedouros, 2016). QoL is the scale that measures happiness, the feeling of one’s life, well-being, and pleasure experienced. Convenience is a major factor in determining one’s actions. Access to a personal vehicle provides individuals the ability to transport more objects in a shorter period of time in addition to being in the comfort of their own car; arguably more convenient than most public transportation. As a consequence of this convenience, greenhouse gas emissions become extremely high, there is an increased consumption of energy, and as a result, a decrease in QoL (Ramani & Zietsman, 2016). It can then be argued that there is a negative correlation between convenience and QoL. Traffic can be very long and risk long-term consequences for the environment. There are a couple of solutions, EV cable charging cars, electric scooters/bikes, and efficient public transportation. Taiwan’s quality of life is rated to be one of the highest in comparison to the rest of the world and a major determinant is the efficiency and sustainability within their transportation system. There are three innovative growth constructions; smart growth, sustainable growth, and inclusive growth (Wey, 2019). Taiwan practices all three in their infrastructure and planning. In the metropolitan city of New Taipei (Taiwan), there are four modes of transportation and a fifth one being built. All four of these modes reduce environmental impact, use renewable energy, maintains an urban ecosystem and provides diverse forms of transportation (Wey, 2019). 

On a similar note, as QoL considers a quantitative perspective, qualitative factors are also necessary to address. There are secondary factors that must be considered when creating sustainable developments. The focus when looking at the transportation sector must be to work towards a secure, clean, and equitable environment (Shiau, 2013). Some priorities to consider are; improvement of accessibility for non-motorized modes and enhancing accessibility for people with disabilities and/or the elderly. Taipei in Taiwan has a bus system that experiences extremely high volumes. In response to providing accessible transportation for those experiencing disabilities and/or elderly, this metropolitan city provides subsidies to encourage all groups to participate in this collective movement. Taipei’s government created a program for these subsidies called, “Five Year Enhancement Program”; however, research to determine this programs success is ongoing (Wey, 2019). Taipei’s transportation systems are affordable for the public, and include discounted rates for passengers transferring from metro to bus or vice versa. This is critical as it provides an incentive for the public to use transit and lower the use of personal vehicles. Another factor to enhance quality of life through sustainable transportation is through making it secure. Terrorist attacks are becoming every country leader’s fear and the terrorist priorities and strategies are shifting to target bigger crowds. The threat of potential terrorist attacks on public transport has become a worldwide problem. As a result, governments are enforcing measures for all public transport operators to practice and prepare for these situations (Lan et al., 2006). The government plays a huge role to provide its citizens with sustainability to maintain good quality of life, while maintaining its commitment to combating climate change. 


Wey, W.M. (2019). Constructing urban dynamic transportation planning strategies for improving quality of life and urban sustainability under emerging growth management principles. Sustainable Cities and Society, 44, 285.

Challenges to Achieve and Measure Sustainability: 

Urbanization and development increase globally at a rapid rate through infrastructure and transportation; however, it is equally putting a strain on the environment at a dangerous pace. In the article, “Constructing urban dynamic transportation planning strategies for improving quality of life and urban sustainability under emerging growth management principles”, the authors emphasize “the transportation problems generated by urban sprawl produce environmental pollution, consume energy, reduce economic production and lower QoL” (Mitropoulos & Prevedouros, 2016). There are many challenges analysts and planners face to ensure new developments are environmentally friendly, especially within the transportation sector. The first issue at hand, which, if resolved, can lead to an effective system as seen in Taiwan, is the lack of a strong relationship between the public and public transportation (Mitropoulos & Prevedouros, 2016). Through a political lens, it is difficult to ensure governments of all levels are passionate enough about this concern to dedicate a budget to provide sustainable transportation systems. To add, governments tend to fail in considering urban planning as a multi-sector process that truly requires collaborative and collective action amongst many different organizations and movements (Ramani & Zietsman, 2016). Another challenge urban cities face that is becoming more prominent is threats to security. There are many risks in high volume transports that require emergency protocol to prepare for these types of situations. In summary, these are a few challenges cities face to provide sustainable transportation systems. 


The results illustrate sustainable transportation to look like Taipei’s system. Sustainable transportation provides an enhanced quality of life, while performing climate change effective actions. This type of transportation system must factor the challenges and threats that urban cities experience to providing sustainability that is inclusive, secure, and accessible. As the Taipei metro system continues to improve and cater to its population, this transportation system can be a reference to other countries. The UN and many International Organizations are working together to commit to actioning climate change through various sectors and channels. These major changes will create a significant impact to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals; however, policy integration and enforcement need to be applied for these goals to be accomplished by 2030. 



Ramani, T. L., & Zietsman, J. (2016). Sustainable transportation – alternative perspectives and enduring challenges. International Journal of Urban Sciences, 20(3), 318–333.


Mitropoulos, L. K., & Prevedouros, P. D. (2016). Incorporating sustainability assessment in transportation planning: an urban transportation vehicle-based approach. Transportation Planning and Technology, 39(5), 439–463.


Wey, W.M. (2019). Constructing urban dynamic transportation planning strategies for improving quality of life and urban sustainability under emerging growth management principles. Sustainable Cities and Society, 44, 275–290.


Shiau, T.-A. (2013). Evaluating sustainable transport strategies for the counties of Taiwan based on their degree of urbanization. Transport Policy, 30, 101–108.


Lan, L. W., Wang, M.-T., & Kuo, A. Y. (2006). Development and Deployment of Public Transport Policy and Planning in Taiwan. Transportation, 33(2), 153–170.


Costanza, R., Daly, L., Fioramonti, L., Giovannini, E., Kubiszewski, I., Mortensen, L., . . . Wilkinson, R. (2016). Modelling and measuring sustainable wellbeing in connection with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Ecological Economics, 130, 350-355.


Abby Muricho Onencan, & Bartel Van de Walle. (2018). From Paris Agreement to Action: Enhancing Climate Change Familiarity and Situation Awareness. Sustainability, 10(6), 1929.