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14,400 citizens enjoyed temporary Pedestrianisation of DVRC

Temporary Pedestrianisation of Des Voeux Road Central

14,400 citizens joined, results in a lower air pollutions than neighbouring streets and 92% growth in consumer traffic/

2016-0925-verydvrc-0280

Hong Kong, 25 September 2016 – Today from 10am to 4pm, a 200-metre section of Central’s Des Voeux Road Central (from Man Wa Lane to Morrison Street) transformed into a temporary pedestrian and tram precinct, as Very DVRC – co-organised by Clean Air Network, Walk DVRC (formerly known as DVRC Initiative) and Hong Kong Public Space Initiative; and curated by Very Hong Kong – experimented with over 14,400 visitors the possibilities of public space in Hong Kong, building a major milestone for the initiative which was first proposed in 2000. As results of this temporary pedestrian and tram precinct, air pollutants in Des Voeux Road Central dropped lower than neighbouring streets and benefited surrounding merchants with an 92% growth in weekend consumer traffic, which is usually low at weekends.

Very DVRC inspires the public to recognise the right of way and to reflect on Hong Kong’s car-oriented planning approach through engagement in a wide range of activities curated to explore the possibilities of public space if vehicular traffic gives way to pedestrians. Curated by Very Hong Kong, 47 collaborators brought to the site community activities such as street sports and outdoor cinema, while designers and architects restructured the space with awe-inspiring architectural interventions.

As part of this history-making social experiment, the Very DVRC team conducted on-site measurements at several points to evaluate if a pedestrian and tram precinct on Des Voeux Road Central would improve the air quality of the surrounding area by reducing vehicular traffic. The team measured the average concentrations of Fine Particle PM2.5on Connaught Road Central (CRC), Des Voeux Road Central (DVRC) and Queen’s Road Central (QRC), and found that DVRC’s PM2.5 level was 26.3µg/m3, 41.8% and 40.3% lower than those of Connaught Road Central and Queen’s Road Central, which were 37.3µg/mand 36.9µg/mrespectively.

Table 1 – Average fine particle (PM2.5) levels
measured on DVRC, CRC and QRC
Des Voeux Road Central 26.3 µg/m3
Connaught Road Central 37.3 µg/m3
Queen’s Road Central 36.9 µg/m3
 
The team also measured the vehicular and pedestrian volumes of the aforementioned roads:
Table 2 – Pedestrian and vehicular traffic comparison of DVRC, CRC and QRC
Average hourly vehicle volume (Statistics from a 2014 study by City University) Average peak pedestrian traffic in 15 minutes (Statistics from a 2014 study by City University)
Des Voeux Road Central 0    /       (300) 1230 /  (640)
Connaught Road Central 1285 /    (6750) Not measured
Queen’s Road Central 596  /  (500) Not measured

As indicated by the statistics above, vehicular traffic was partially diverted from Des Voeux Road to Connaught Road Central and Queen’s Road Central. During the event, the average PM2.5 concentration level of DVRC was approximately 40% lower than that recorded at Connaught Road Central and Queen’s Road Central, proving that a pedestrian and tram precinct would help cutting roadside pedestrians’ exposure to PM2.5.

The temporary pedestrian zone also marked a significant growth of pedestrian traffic, which was 1230 in 15 minutes on average – 92.19% higher than the usual 640 on weekends and holidays.

Very DVRC opening ceremony was successfully hold this morning and guests of honor has made speech to the event:

“Very DVRC has undergone more than a decade of negotiation between the government and different parties. We wish the event could happen regularly in the future,” said MR. Ian Brownlee, Fellow Member of The Hong Kong Institute of Planners.

“Very DVRC is a great result achieved together by the government and local parties. We wish the government and citizen could continue to work hand in hand to build a better city to live,” said MR. Raymond Lee, JP, Acting Director of Planning Department.

“The Environmental Department has been devoting to regulate diesel vehicles to reduce air pollution. Very DVRC explores the possibilities of car-free zone, which provides a good reference for the Department,” said MR. Mok Wai Chuen, JP, Assistant Director of Environmental Department.

“Before it happened, pedestrianization seems to be a mission impossible. However with the effort from different parties, it is really not that difficult to put in place. We wish such meaningful event could happen regularly in the near future, “said MS. Maggie Brooke, Founder of Very Hong Kong.

“We would like to sincerely express our gratitude to all visitors today, as well as 300 volunteers, Hong Kong Tramways Limited, HKSAR Government, Very Hong Kong and 47 collaborators, to make this dream come true. We wish the public space could extend to Pedder Street next time and more citizens could participate this event,” said MR. Patrick Fung, Walk DVRC.

 

Guests at Very DVRC opening ceremony (Back roll, from left):
MR. Emmanuel Vivant, Managing Director, Hong Kong Tramways Limited
MR. Kenneth To, Vice President of The Hong Kong Institute of Planners
MS. Maggie Brooke, Founder of Very Hong Kong
MR. Raymond Lee, JP, Acting Director of Planning Department
MR. Francesco Rossini, Initiator of Seat for Sococializing
MR. Ian Brownlee, Fellow Member of The Hong Kong Institute of Planners
MR. To Kam Biu David, JP, Deputy Director Commissioner of Transport Department
MR. Mok Wai Chuen, JP, Assistant Director of Environmental Department
MS. Samathy Woo, JupYeah, Event Collaborator
MS. Kate Lau, Send the Left Food, Event Collaborator
MS. Olive Wong, Send the Left Food, Event Collaborator
Dr. Edward Yiu, Legislative Councilor-elect (for the Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape Functional Constituency)
MR. Allan Zeman GBM, GBS, JP
MR. Eric Schuldenfrei, Associate Dean of Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong

(Front roll, from left)
MR. Stephen Wong, Chairman of Clean Air Network
MR. Patrick Fung, Walk DVRC/CEO of CAN
MR. Paul Zimmerman, Walk DVRC
MR. Kenny Or, Hapi School, Event Collaborator
MS. Veron Sung, Event Collaborator
MR. Ajyum Chan, HKPSI
MR. Chan Ho Lim Joseph, District Councilor
MR. Benson Poon, Walk DVRC

Press Coverages: TVB PearlSCMPHK Free PressThe Standard

SCMP: Feet first: section of one of Hong Kong’s busiest roads to become a car-free zone for one day

The 200-metre section of Des Voeux Road Central will feature stalls, a mini football pitch and art displays – and perhaps encourage the public to want more

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 September, 2016, 7:54pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 September, 2016, 10:34pm
Raymond Yeung

Part of Des Voeux Road Central in the heart of the city’s business hub will be sealed off later this month to showcase the vision of urban planners on how to convert the busy thoroughfare into a pedestrian-friendly public space without crippling traffic or causing major inconvenience to residents.

Organisers hope the event will persuade Hongkongers into supporting their ultimate goal of permanently rezoning the artery into a car-free zone.

The idea has already won the backing of an academic who is an expert on the issue.

Between 10am and 4pm on September 25, the section of Des Voeux Central between Morrison Street and Man Wa Lane will become a pedestrian-only zone. The 200-metre area will feature booths, stalls and a mini football pitch, while open spaces will be set aside for artists to perform or display exhibits.

Trams will still be allowed through but at lower speeds, while 400 volunteers will act as marshals to ensure pedestrian safety.

Patrick Fung Kin-wai, chief executive of co-organiser the Clean Air Network, said one of the biggest challenges was to persuade the Transport Department into granting a temporary traffic arrangement permit. “We had to analyse the traffic impact for whole Central and Western district. We also had to deal with police and the Fire Services Department, who were concerned about the potential blockage of emergency vehicular access to the area,” Fung said.

The group spoke to other stakeholders such as public transport operators, who were convinced the idea would not greatly disrupt their operations. About 20 bus routes will be diverted.

Campaign officer Winnie Tse Wing-lam said the group aimed to eventually make the plan permanent and not just one for weekends, when traffic flow is 40 per cent lower.

“We want to change people’s mindset and we know this is not going to be easy. A lot of roadside vendors we talked to agreed pollution was serious in the area, but they held a general perception that this is part of life,” she said.

Pedestrianising the area will help people interact with each other on the streetsPROFESSOR NG MEE-KAM Professor Ng Mee-kam, director of Chinese University’s Urban Studies Programme, was supportive of the plan. “We have to learn to co-exist,” she said. “I believe people are smart enough to adapt – remember the Occupy Central protests?”

She was referring to the democracy movement in 2014 when protesters blocked roads around the city for 79 days.

“I’m for non-motorised transport and walking experience. Pedestrianising the area will help people interact with each other on the streets, gaining inspiration and boosting our social capital,” Ng said.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as:
Car-free zone experiment steps up a gear in Central

VERY DVRC: 200m Public Space on Des Veoux Road Central Opens on 25th September 2016

Hong Kong, 14 September 2016-Co-organised by WALK DVRC, CLEAN AIR NETWORK, HONG KONG PUBLIC SPACE INITIATIVE and curated by VERY HONG KONG, the 200 metres long VERY DVRC’s one-day public space will take place at Des Veoux Road Central (from Man Wa Lane To Morris St. Sheung Wan), on 25 September 2016 (Sunday) 10am to 4pm. The space is approved under “Temporary Traffic Arrangement” by Transport Department. A wide variety of non-commercial activities will be organized by 47 participating parties for the general public. It spans across arts, sports, culture, environment and urban lifestyle – all the intrinsic elements of a sustainable city.

Mission

In 2015, Walk DVRC, in alliance with communities, professionals and academics, established our vision of transforming the busy and heavily polluted Central area of Des Voeux Road Central into a cleaner and more desirable public space. VERY DVRC addresses to these issues by creatively transforming the current traffic thoroughfare into an innovative urban artery for Hong Kong that opens possibilities for a new kind of catalytic public space, even just for one day. VERY DVRC called for creative event proposals from general public in August and 47 collaborators have been confirmed. 

The events cover from street sports, up-cycling street furniture, swap party and children reading etc.The activity area of Very DVRC was reduced from 1.4km (from Pedder Street to Morrison Street) to 200m (from Man Wa Lane to Morrison Street) because Hong Kong Police Force is concerned about risks to public safety due to the short distance between trams and pedestrians. Very DVRC, however, hopes to resolve this, so that both trams and pedestrians can share the road. We therefore will continue to negotiate with different official departments and Hong Kong Tramways about the arrangements for ensuring public safety.

Activities:

1.    Hapi School: Founded by a group of parents, Hapi School is a popular reading club group dedicated to promoting reading as a way to educate children about nature, humanity and community.

2.    JupYeah: Having organised countless public swap parties, JupYeah will be present to advocate the ‘Consume less. Share better’ ethos by offering a self-service space for general public to share useful goods with everyone in the community.

3.    Magic Carpet: An outreach programming combining documentation of daily life, community engagement and urban design, Magic Carpet transforms a public space into an outdoor cinema, re-envisioning the possibilities of community space.

4.    Eco-Riders: Dedicated to promoting cycling as a means of transport, Eco-Riders plans to organize cycling tours that lead cyclers to enjoy a smooth ride from Des Voeux Road Central to Sai Wan.

5.    City Absurdities Work: ‘+ Furniture’ by CAW is a speculative exercise on actualising the possibilities for Hong Kong dwellers to ‘hack’ onto existing infrastructure to innovate new forms of urban scenarios such as dining along the fences.

6.    Send the Left Food: How would you re-plot of your city if given a chance? Send the Left Food designs modular blocks for you to stretch your creative muscle and create your own pop-up infrastructure.

7.    Social Deck: Des Voeux Road Central was once the coastline of Hong Kong, hence the concept of ‘Social Deck’, which aims to bring water back to urban city life and a catalyst for social gathering to occur.

8.    CACHe: Streets used to be the collective space for everyday life. At the mobile classroom created by the Conservancy Association Centre for Heritage, the general public are welcome to join free workshops and learn about Hong Kong’s intangible cultural heritage.

9.    Beyond Bollywood: The NGO founded in 2015 will engage general public in Bollywood dance performance and interactive activities to facilitate cultural exchanges, connecting people with different origins within our city.

10. People’s Pitch: The ardent football players explore public space and community development by hosting football matches – a perfect way to gather people within the neighbourhood and beyond!

11. Gallery Around the Corner: A community gallery formed by many shops, Gallery Around the Corner is dedicated to exhibiting art pieces by children and ‘artiststo-be’ in public space and bringing art to Hong Kong’s everyday life.

12. Kalacove ‘Past, Praya, Future’: ‘Praya’, meaning next to the sea, refers to the promenade DVRC used to be. Kalacove aims to create a mosaic collage pieced together by the community to see our home city and its history from another perspective.

13. Hug 21: Hug is more than an expression of affection; it releases ‘Oxytocin’, a mediator of antistress, well-being and social interaction. Hug 21 invites pedestrians to hug with their friends, partners and strangers for 21 seconds for a collective documentation.

14. Hong Kong Collectors’ Society: Mr. Lau Kwok Wai from HKCS is an ardent historian and Executive Director of CACHe. He will be present to introduce the history of Hong Kong’s tramways – the historic trail that connects different areas of Hong Kong Island.

(From left) Mr. Benson Poon, Senior Town Planner of planning and development consultancy Masterplan; Mr. Patrick Fung, CEO of Clean Air Network; Mr. Billy Kwan, Curator of Very Hong Kong; Mr. Jeffrey Wong, General Secretary of Hong Kong Public Space Initiative

Very DVRC

Walk Our Imaginations
Des Voeux Road Central | From Man Wa Lane to Morrison Street
One day for only Trams and Pedestrians

A Green Boulevard in Central – WHY NOT?

VERY DVRC addresses to these issues by creatively transforming the current traffic thoroughfare into an innovative urban artery for Hong Kong that opens possibilities for a new kind of catalytic public space, even just for one day.

Do all we can to make the dream come true. It is the collective of individual dreams that shapes the future of Hong Kong.

VERY DVRC is unique space for everyone to realise their dream at the heart of Hong Kong.

Click here for more details!

Office Chairs Race to push for a more walkable Des Voeux Road Central

CAN_Grand Prix (3)

Pedestrians suffer as much as drivers when it comes to congestion in Central.  To address the unpleasant environment and safety issue, Clean Air Network (CAN) and DVRC Initiative co-organised an office chair race on Des Voeux Road Central (DVRC) to advocate improvement measures and the future pedestrianisation of the street for a better and cleaner environment.

 

With office chairs symbolizing the workers who mainly suffer the poor environment on DVRC, the event invites different street users to experience the roughness of the street such as Ted Hui Chi-fung (Democratic Party Member of Western and Central District Council), Nathen Law Kwun-chung (Chairman of Demosistō) as well as different stakeholders of the street such as worker, dog owner and street runner.

 

A recent investigation by DVRC Alliance shows that pedestrians on DVRC are overcrowded in black spots such as the intersections of Rumsey Street, Jubilee Street and Queen Victoria’s Street which marks 955, 495 and 425 pedestrian’s flow respectively per 15 minutes in peak hours. During red lights, part of the crowd is forced to stand on the road. Even when the traffic light turns green, pedestrians are in close contact with vehicles which often stay within the zebra crossings.

 

The alliance has recently expressed concerns for the situation to Transport Department. In view of the recent proposed measures by Transport Department to the district council for widening zebra crossings in the area, the alliance welcomes the move but considers that more measures should be taken to effectively solve the problem of “pedestrian congestion”. As a transport consultancy study shows that the peak pedestrian flow on DVRC reaches 8,000 per hour, the alliance considers the pedestrian space is far from sufficient and urges the government to enhance safety and improve the environment by widening the sidewalk.

 

According to the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines, the standard width of walkway in commercial district should meet the minimum of 4.5m with an additional 1.5m for street furniture and greening.  Nevertheless, certain sections of DVRC are only 2.9 to 3.5m in width that limit the use of walkway from various street users such as the carriages and carts for transporting office supplies and recycled materials.

 

While the traffic flow on DVRC is only 1/10 of Connaught Road’s, the concentration level of PM2.5, one of the air pollutants, is highest among all in Central due to the heavy traffic congestion and street canyon effect. During peak hours the concentration level of PM2.5 on DVRC reaches 55 μg/m3, which is the fourfold of the World Health Organisation’s annual average standard.

 

The alliance comments that with the completion of Central-Wan Chai Bypass in 2018, it’s feasible to transform DVRC into the pedestrian-tram green zone with the rationalization of vehicle’s route so that the clean and walkable city of Central can be realized.

 

Patrick Fung, the CEO of Clean Air Network, said, “Central is in the city’s heart that represents the international image of Hong Kong. However the pedestrian’s safety and the air pollution is far from satisfaction on DVRC. Aspiring to become a sustainable and smart city, the Hong Kong government should take comprehensive measures and policies to improve the roadside pollution, among which the pedestrianisation of DVRC is a crucial one.”

Photos: Game on! @Des Voeux Road Central

Have you thought about – a walking street can serve as a perfect game setting?



Presented by Clean Air Network and Walk in Hong Kong, an exciting, interactive and inspirational gaming/walking tour is rolled out on Des Voeux Road Central.

Stroll, observe and listen to the anecdotes related to the Des Voeux Road Central. Let’s immerse in the present and the past of this street enriched with stories and histories. We will role-play as different stakeholders and take different perspectives to explore the numerous possibilities of the street.

日期:2016年2月27日、3月5日(星期六) Date: 27-Feb, 5-Mar 2016 (Sat)

Government demands technical data on pedestrianizing Des Voeux Road

The DVRC alliance will commence a fund raising campaign to fund the technical research required to support the proposal to pedestrianize Des Voeux Road Central. The applicants have earlier requested the Town Planning Board to defer the hearing of their application and the request for deferment was approved this morning. In late September Clean Air Network, Designing Hong Kong, Friends of the Earth (HK) and The Conservancy Association submitted a section 12A application to the Town Planning Board, to rezone Des Voeux Road Central (DVRC) (between Morrison Street and Pedder Street) from “road” to “Pedestrian Area and Environmentally Friendly Transport System”.   The public and government departments have submitted their comments since. Based on the responses the Planning Department has advised the Metro Planning Committee of the Town Planning Board that “the applicant fails to demonstrate the feasibility of the proposal and that the proposed rezoning would not cause adverse impacts to the surrounding area.”   A paper published by the Planning Department sets out the comments received from the public and the government departments. In summary:
  1. 1,948 supporting views from the public;
  2. 19 objections from the public.
    1. Lack of full planning, environmental and traffic assessment;
    2. Concern over vehicular access and delivery to buildings;
    3. Relocation of bus stops;
    4. Congestion on nearby roads;
    5. Impact on bus traffic; and
    6. Euro 5 and electric buses are unproven technology.
    7. Commissioner for Transport and the Commissioner of Police comment on the lack of technical assessments on the merits and disadvantages including:
      1. Traffic on nearby roads;
      2. Public transport;
      3. Pick-up/set-down of passengers;
      4. Loading/unloading of goods;
      5. Security deliveries to banks;
      6. Rescue operations;
      7. Public order events; and
      8. Construction of new buildings.
    The applicants explained that they are not surprised by the list of questions. “The goal of the application was to start a public debate. The questions raised are reasonable,” said Ms. Sum Yin Kwong, CEO of Clear Air Network.   Mr. Paul Zimmerman, CEO of Designing Hong Kong, explained that the next step is to find money for detailed traffic and transport research, and the consultation of stakeholders including nearby property owners and the bus operators. “We had secretly hoped that the government would adopt the principles of our proposal and invest in the research. Now we will need to raise close to HK$10million to do the surveys, research and public consultation ourselves properly,” he explained.   “We will start the fund raising soon,” Ms. Kwong added. “There is a brief window of opportunity to reorganize traffic flow and bus routes with opening of the West Island MTR line (2014), the South Island Line (2016), the Central-Wanchai Bypass (2018), the Sha Tin to Central Link (2021) and the North Island Line (2026).”  

Press: How expanding pedestrian zones can solve Hong Kong’s congestion and air pollution problems

Calvin Kan
property.postscmp.com

Hong Kong has earned a reputation as an international city with high living standards. However, it continues to be affected by high air pollution levels, congestion, and an overall lack of space. Property consultant Knight Frank suggests that expanding the tram network and pedestrianisation can solve this.

According to the Government, trams provide frequent and affordable services without roadside emissions on Hong Kong Island for approximately 180,000 passengers per day. While only a small portion of the population, many are in the city’s lowest income group. Trams are primarily used for their practical value. The tramway system in Hong Kong began in the early 1900s. After more than 110 years of service, there are now 163 tramcars in Hong Kong, making it the world’s largest double-deck tram fleet still in operation.

Though seen as part of Hong Kong’s heritage, trams can be recognised as transportation for the future. New tram networks have been developed to great success all over Europe, as well as in major Chinese cities such as Shenyang, Suzhou, Beijing, Nanking, and Shenzhen. Hong Kong’s latest tramcars use aluminium for their structure, making them lighter and more durable. This improves energy efficiency. The new engines save up to 25 per cent of energy compared with older engines, with safety improvements added as well. Less noise is generated for more passenger comfort.

As for congestion, new roads won’t work. In fact, evidence shows that taking roads away is what increases quality of life in congested areas without causing traffic problems. Overseas cases demonstrate that 20 per cent to 60 per cent of traffic disappeared where roads were closed or traffic capacity reduced. More significantly, closures did not result in rerouting of traffic as in liquid form, but contracted as if traffic behaved as gas. Fifty years of successful pedestrianisation schemes in Europe show that significant amounts of traffic do not reappear after road closure. A more liveable and sustainable environment is created instead.

Hong Kong’s current vehicular pattern in Central is not sustainable. One might assume that pedestrianisation of a major road in Central will aggravate traffic conditions in the rest of the Central Business District, but the Occupy Central Movement proved the opposite. Commuters used more environmentally friendly modes of transport such as the MTR, bicycles or even walking instead.

Road transport and its associated emissions are major causes of environmental degradation in central urban areas. Transportation policy is therefore crucial for addressing public health concerns by improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emission. Pedestrianisation is shown to positively impact environmental conditions in core urban areas.

In 2009, a portion of Broadway in New York City was pedestrianised for 6 months. Pollutants closely related to traffic emissions including nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) decreased by 63 per cent and 41 per cent respectively. Urban planners and environmental engineers were astounded. As a result of this success, the city government plans to expand the pedestrianised zone and create a permanent zone throughout Broadway.

Hong Kong’s Occupy Central Movement proved a link between roadside emission and the city’s air pollution. It also proved that pedestrianisation would significantly improve air quality. An air quality monitoring station at the Charter Road and Des Voeux Road Central junction recorded levels of 10/10 Air Quality Health Index before the Occupy Central Movement, and improved to 3/10 only three days into the movement. Clean Air Network measurements recorded an average PM2.5 level of 18 micrograms/m3 during the movement, which is far below World Health Organisation’s maximum safe standard of 25.

Studies also show positive economic returns from upgrading pedestrian infrastructure. Benefits include increased retail turnover, rental income and occupancy rate. Pedestrians can shop and view shop-windows more without vehicle safety concerns. Cities with pedestrianised districts attract tourists thanks to lower pollution, pleasant walking environments and amenities such as sidewalk cafes, fountains or other street furniture. These districts become popular destinations for the general public.

In New York, the provision of protected bike lanes at Union Square North led to a 49 per cent decrease in commercial vacancy rates. In Freiburg, Germany, the city centre has remained open only to pedestrians, trams, buses and cyclists since the 1980s. This enabled tram services to run through the commercial area without delay and become citizens’ preferred means of transport. The local economy also benefited, with rents of centrally located stores becoming among Germany’s highest. Since most of the city centre is a pedestrian area, 23 per cent of travelling in Freiburg is done on foot. In Hong Kong, research showed rental rates increasing by 17 per cent after pedestrian investments.

These types of adjustments, can help the Hong Kong Government’s Transport and Housing Bureau achieve major policy objectives. Objectives include promoting the use of public transport services by improving quality and coordination; effectively managing road use, reducing congestion and promoting safety; and continuously supporting environmental improvement measures in transport-related areas.

Calvin Kan is Planning & Development Executive, Land Advisory Services at Knight Frank

Press: Proposal to halt tram service ignites debate

SHINYA ABE, Nikkei staff writer October 20, 2015 7:00 pm JST Des Voeux Road Central, which travels through Hong Kong’s main financial district, is constantly filled with tram cars, buses and cars. HONG KONG — A proposal to end services along a tram route in Hong Kong’s Central District has stirred up a heated debate, with supporters of the idea saying it would ease traffic congestion and critics arguing it would worsen pollution and hurt tourism. In August,a former Hong Kong government town planner submitted a proposal to the Town Planning Board to end tram services along a roughly 1.5km section stretching from Jubilee Street in Central to Admiralty MTR Station along the busy Des Voeux Road Central. According to the proposal, removing the stations and tracks, which take up about a third of the road, would significantly ease traffic congestion in the area. The existing subway system would suffice as an alternative means of transportation in the area, the proposal said. However, critics immediately slammed the idea, saying it would harm the environment and tourism, and an opposition campaign was soon launched. Many opponents are worried that scrapping the service would increase automobile traffic and, therefore, air-pollution levels. One such person is Kwong Sum-yin, 35, an activist campaigning to protect the tram service on behalf of Clean Air Network, a nongovernmental organization. “Placing higher priority on cars in a world seeking more sustainability is anachronistic,” she said. Fighting back Clean Air Network and other NGOs have banded together to publish a counterproposal that calls for not only keeping the tram services, but also designating Des Voeux Road Central a no-car zone accessible only by pedestrians and tram cars. The group also launched a project to study a new design for the road in collaboration with experts from such academic institutions as the University of Hong Kong and Columbia University. Des Voeux Road Central is a major thoroughfare in the Central District — Hong Kong’s main financial district — and is constantly bustling with businesspeople and tourists. On one early September day, a group of about 10 young people unrolled some turf on the sidewalk along the busy avenue. While lounging on the grass, they read books, sang songs and by all appearances had a good time. But their portable-park session was not about having fun; it was part of a campaign to promote the use of trams and create a pedestrian-friendly area. Tram operator Hong Kong Tramways also opposes the removal plan. It says the proposal would not reduce congestion in the area because illegally parked vehicles, not slow-moving trams, are the main problem. Others in the pro-tram camp argue that the iconic 111-year-old tramway is an important tourism resource. The traditional double-decker cars are popular among visitors because of their distinctive looks and ability to offer views of the city from a high vantage point. The 13.5km tramway has been in service since 1904. Known as “ding-dings” for the sound of their bells, the city’s tram cars carry a total of about 180,000 passengers a day on average. The fare is flat and, at just 2.3 Hong Kong dollars (30 cents) for adults, inexpensive. The combination of convenience and affordability has helped the tram survive growing competition from rival transport services, including the modern MTR metro system, which serves roughly the same area. Eric Schuldenfrei, associate dean of the faculty of architecture at the University of Hong Kong, said that when the authorities discuss the proposal, they should keep in mind the possible impact on the regional economy. Official discussions on the issue are expected to start soon.