Sustainable Cities: Zurich, Switzerland

After visiting Portland and Bogotá in North and South America, we cross the pond to Switzerland and the city of Zurich. Rated by Dutch architecture company, Arcadis, as the most sustainable city in the world, Zurich leads the way in their environmental index, ranks very high economically, and is about average in the social index used by Arcadis.

The city of Zurich has a multicultural population of 380,500 and is the most populated city in Switzerland. It is located in North of the country and is only a few hours from the major European cities of Paris, Milan and Munich by train.

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Environmentally, Zurich leads the way for cities around the world and a key reason for that is sustainable transport in the city. An important factor in creating more sustainable cities is reducing the dependence on the car. Improving public transport networks that are cheap and efficient for the those living in the city and the surrounding suburbs is just one aspect that needs to be addressed. Making it less convenient for cars to travel in and out and around the city also reduces the dependence on cars.

The city of Zurich has a very efficient public transport system that makes it easy to move around. There are bus or tram stops every 300m in the city and trains that regularly transport people in and out of the city and to other European cities. Public transport is also affordable for the city populations making it attractive for people to use over private transport and is a model that other cities can use to shape effective public transport systems.

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Zurich has a cap-and-trade scheme on car parking within the city. For every new car park space that is constructed, one must be removed, meaning that there can’t be any more parking spaces than there currently are now. With the disincentives for the use of cars in Zurich combined with the efficient and affordable public transport, the need for the car is reducing.

Economically and socially, Zurich is also doing amazing things. There are numbers of innovative businesses that are attracted to the city because of a greater quality of life for those living there. The combination of high levels of productivity and low non-wage labour reduces the costs of production compared to other cities around the world.

Zurich is a city that is leading the way in sustainability and still aims for much higher. The sustainability initiatives that are ongoing in this Swiss city provide lessons that cities around the world can learn from despite the much smaller population to some of the global cities of the world today. Zurich is just one example of how cities can realistically aim and achieve a sustainable future.

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