Mitigation to Climate Change (Mobility)
City/Region : Donostia / San Sebastián City Council , Spain

San Sebastián is a medium-sized city with more than 186,000 inhabitants. It is a tertiary, tourist city, eminently commercial, with strong emphasis on services and congresses. In recent years, San Sebastián has moved into a leading position among European cities, largely because of its commitment to science, technology, sustainable development and culture. Its designation as European Capital of Culture in 2016 confirms this pledge.

For the last 25 years, the city has been enforcing a strong integrated mobility policy in favour of pedestrians, bicycles and public transport. This includes promoting active modes of transport, including the introduction of innovative measures, as well as integrated strategies to increase the number of people walking, cycling and using public transport, while simultaneously reducing the use of cars. The city has also worked to create more people-friendly spaces. These measures have a significant impact on the policy fields of energy, transport, and environmental sustainability. By reducing on-street parking and returning public space to the people, the city is an even more attractive place to be.

Agendas addressed
Urban mobilityWater resources and air qualityClimate change
Public spaceLocal economies and employment
Pathways followed
  • Ensure equal access to municipal services
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Promote social innovation supporting inclusion
  • Capitalise on local economy and production
  • Create and close local value chains
  • Pursue a shift towards a circular economy
  • Wisely select and apply smart technologies
  • Accelerate sustainability and innovation through public procurement
Donosti City Council (2016) / Bidegorri Loiola

Donostia / San Sebastián overlooks the sea with three beaches and a small port, and is surrounded by mountains. This relief divides the city into low-lying and hilly areas. The main public transport services, pedestrian and cyclist facilities are located in the low-lying, flat areas of the city. About 50% of the population lives in the low-lying areas and the other half lives in the hilly areas. The main economic activities are trade and tourism.

In Action

This case study aims to examine the process to implement two mitigation lines of action (under the goal of “moving towards zero-emissions transport”): 1) “fostering intermodality and means of transport with lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions”; and 2) “replacing the use of oil derivatives”. These are implemented through the following actions: “creating and/or expanding the bus, tramway, train and underground networks by introducing a single ticket for inter-urban and municipal public transport throughout the Basque Country”, “fostering the development of sustainable mobility plans at urban, supra-municipal level and in the different business centres” and “spreading the use of means of transport with lower GHG emissions (electric vehicle, natural gas vehicle, bicycle, etc.) by means of future economic support and of future positive discrimination measures such as exempting non-internal combustion vehicles from paying parking charges, cutting the mechanical traction vehicle tax, etc.”

In line with these goals, the main measures pursued in recent years that will continue in the coming years are are listed below:

  • Pedestrians, bicycle and public vertical transport: creation of pedestrian and coexistence areas, creation of soft pedestrianisations, creation of new lifts, mechanical ramps and scalators, creation of new bicycle lanes, creation of new bicycle covered and guarded parking areas, creation of micro hubs promoting the use of cargobike deliveries, promotion of the public e-bike sharing system, promotion of the bicycle in general through different campains, campaigns targeting vulnerable groups, etc.
  • Public transport: creation of exclusive bus lanes, increase of frequency and commercial speed of public transport, improving the accessibility to public transport, better information for users and cleaner vehicles, introduction of the underground in the city, launching of a new (smartphone) application where the different types of public transport in the city are catalogued: buses, public bicycle and taxis.
  • Use of clean vehicles: We have eight electric bikes in the fleet of the municipal mobility agents and municipal guard. We also have four electric vehicles in the fleet of the maintenance department. We will create new charging stations throughout the city. We are working within a European project to manage aid aimed at taxi drivers so they can buy electric cars. The public e-bike sharing system uses exclusively electric bicycles and has 125 bikes in use.

Public transport

The city of Donostia / San Sebastián is working to enhance the use of public transport  by creating exclusive bus lanes, increasing the quality (including the frequency and commercial speed) of public transport, making it more accessible, and providing better public transport information for users, as well as introducing cleaner vehicles.

The municipal public transport operator, Dbus, is strongly committed to the environment commitments with constant improvements in the efficiency of its fleet and the increasing use of less polluting motors and fuels.

In terms of vehicle emissions, all Euro 0 and Euro 1 vehicles have disappeared and 90% of the fleet comply with at least the EURO 3 stage, including 11% of the fleet in the Euro 6 class. These are the cleanest buses available using diesel technology and are comparable to natural gas vehicles (GNC). Dbus has recently added 13 new, less-polluting buses with Euro 6 technology to its fleet, replacing buses using Euro 1 technology.

The latest evidence of the fleet’s constant renovation was the addition of the 100% electric bus manufactured by Irizar in close collaboration with Dbus. Irizar’s i2e electric bus is the first vehicle of its kind manufactured in Europe, and guarantees the elimination of contaminant gases and noise to the environment.

Today Dbus operates three fully electric vehicles and 20 hybrid buses. Next year they will introduce four more buses (a mix of electric and hybrid), which will make a quarter of the total fleet electric or hybrid.

Last year the city introduced an exclusively electric and hybrid bus line (line 26) which will lead to a fuel savings of 25-30% and an estimated emissions reduction of 22 tonnes CO2 per year and vehicle.

  • The city centre and peri-urban areas are more pedestrian friendly as a result of the actions taken
  • The city has been supporting last mile delivery using cargobikes since 2010
  • The bicycle has been the official vehicle of the city for the European Capital of the Culture 2016
  • The public transport operator, Dbus, added three fully electric vehicles and 20 hybrid buses to its fleet
  • In 2016 travel by public transport totalled over 28 million trips, representing a 1% increase compared to 2015.
  • According to the cyclist count made from April to October 2016, there are an average of 20,449 daily bicycle commuters in the city, a 4% increase in cycling trips compared to 2015. During 2016, more than 1,330 metres of road were conditioned to improve cycling conditions. 1,580 metres of segregated bicycle routes were installed, while 250 metres corresponding to sections of pedestrian preference have been removed. Segregated tracks for the safe transit of cyclists make up 64% of the length of the city's roads, the stretches in which pedestrian paths run alongside are 12%, and the roads to motor vehicles reach 24%, a space that is gradually increasing. In total we have 74,5 km of bicycle lanes.

The transport sector accounts for 25% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Spain and almost 40% of emissions from diffuse sectors. By road, road represents almost 95% of emissions, while the contribution of other modes of transport is much more minority.

The measures we are carrying out from the city council are aimed at reducing emissions that have developed in the transport sector:

Measures to promote modal shift in passengers and goods
The aim is to transfer passengers and goods from the most inefficient mode of transport, such as the road, to other more efficient modes, such as passenger and bicycle transport in the case of passenger transport. With the improvement of the fleet of buses, promotion of the bicycle, introduction of areas 30, of pedestrian zones, promotion of the use of public transport we achieved little by little this objective.

Measures to promote alternative fuels in transport
They highlight actions aimed at promoting fuel / propulsion modes with lower levels of CO2 emissions per unit of energy consumed in transport, such as the electric car, the hydrogen battery, biofuels or biomethane. With the introduction of hybrid and electric buses in the bus fleet, the promotion of the use of sustainable vehicles, aid to the purchase of electric vehicles for taxi drivers and urban distribution of goods, introduction of electric bicycles in the fleet of mobility agents and so on, we achieved this goal.

Challenges and lessons learned

The main lesson learnt is that the city has to set ambitious and long-term goals but, at the same, it must work in the short term with visible actions that help transform citizens’ daily habits into more sustainable ones.



ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability
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