Sustainable Urban Transport

Did you know that every time you take the bus or train or cycle, you are helping the environment? They might seem just like fun or alternative ways to travel, but by choosing to take these to school or to visit a friend, you are reducing greenhouse gas emissions. What is sustainable urban transport? What is the importance of it? How can it be implemented in urban areas? Let’s take a closer look! 

Sustainable Urban Transport Sustainable Urban Transport

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Table of contents

    Sustainable urban transport importance

    As the climate continues to change and greenhouse gas emission rates increase, there is an essential need for sustainable practices to reduce our negative impact on the environment. During the 2012 United Nations conference on sustainable development, it was declared that transportation and mobility were central to sustainable development.

    As part of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, a pact was formed to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees through the sustainable use of factories, transport, and resources. Therefore, greater emphasis has been placed on the importance of sustainable transport, especially within urban environments. What is the meaning of sustainable transport?

    Sustainable transport is transport that does not rely on the world’s natural resources, e.g., coal, oil, and gas. This can include public (electric buses, trains, trams) and private/personal (bikes, electric cars, pedestrians) forms of transportation.

    What is the meaning of urban sustainability?

    Urban sustainability is the process of creating an urban space that will not harm the environment through the management of natural resources

    Another reason sustainable transport, such as cycling or electric buses, is important is that they improve air quality. Public transportation generally releases significantly less greenhouse gas emissions than cars, which, combined with reduced atmospheric pollution, improves air quality in cities. This improves the quality of life for people living in cities and benefits the environment.

    As a result of the climate crisis and increasing greenhouse gas emissions, more people are urged to rethink their choice of transportation to help the environment and preserve it for generations to come.

    Sustainable urban transport planning

    As a result of urbanisation, urban areas are heavily car-orientated, heavily relying on individual, private transportation, with air pollution becoming increasingly more common. Numerous factors must be considered when planning to implement sustainable transportation and mobility schemes in urban areas.

    FactorExplanation
    CostUsually, on public transport, a monthly, weekly, or daily fee is paid, whereas cars, insurance, and fuel is only paid for yearly or every few weeks.
    ConnectivityTransportation must have good, frequent connectivity, with direct routes, even with some more remote locations.
    FlexibilityPublic transportation is generally less flexible with set schedules and routes, whereas private transportation is more flexible.
    SpeedOften cars and other personal forms of transportation are faster than buses, making them more attractive forms of transport.
    Health effectsCycling and walking are clean modes of transportation that have significant health benefits. Air pollution remains to be the top environmental risk to human health in the UK.

    Table 1

    Another major factor to take into consideration is how to minimise transport’s effect on the environment. On average, transport contributes 27% of all greenhouse gas emissions, especially through congestion. To make transport more sustainable, transport planners must also consider land-use planning as well as making the transport system more efficient, so there is less congestion.

    Sustainable Urban Transport, Congestion, StudySmarterFig.1 - Congestion in the urban area of Jalan Asia-Afrika, central Bandung, West Java, Indonesia

    In order for sustainable transport to be implemented successfully, the transport planner also needs to ensure that the needs and wants of the car-user are met and that citizens have the option to choose freely from multiple transport choices.

    Sustainable urban transport strategy

    As the population is expected to grow to 9 billion by 2050, with the majority of people living in urban areas, sustainable urban transport will become increasingly important in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is critical to consider ways in which sustainable transport schemes can be implemented in urban areas, and how they will benefit the environment and the increasing urban population in the future.

    In the UK, as part of the future of mobility grand challenge the urban mobility strategy has been proposed with the UK named the world leader in mobility innovation. This scheme aims to shape the future of urban mobility in a sustainable and safe way and is already having an impact on people’s mobility choices today.

    Sustainable urban transport system

    In order for sustainable urban transport initiatives to be implemented successfully, an effective system must be put in place. To create a safe and efficient system for sustainable urban transport, certain guidelines, and principles, like the ones listed below, must be examined.

    The following principles are outlined as part of the UK’s urban mobility strategy, which aims to make transport more sustainable and quicker by reducing congestion and carbon emissions.

    1. New transport must be designed safely and securely, with people’s safety made the top priority in transport.
    2. Mobility innovation must benefit every part of the UK and be available to everyone in society.
    3. Mass transportation remains to be fundamental as part of an efficient transport system.
    4. New transport must be designed to release zero emissions and reduce to achieve climate change goals.
    5. Mobility innovation must reduce congestion through the highly efficient use of limited road space, such as through sharing rides.
    6. Walking, cycling, and active travel must be promoted as more efficient and healthier options for short urban journeys. This will also improve air quality and reduce congestion.

    One sustainable urban transport system is the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) corridor in Curitiba, Brazil, or the bike sharing scheme in London, which we will look at further.

    Sustainable Urban Transport, UN Sustainable Development Goal for sustainable transport, StudySmarterFig.2 - UN Sustainable development goal- Sustainable transport 11.2

    Sustainable urban transport examples

    Sustainable urban transport systems are implemented across the world such as in Curitiba, Brazil, and London which offer highly efficient and alternative modes of transport. Let’s explore these case studies further!

    Curitiba, Brazil

    Curitiba is a city in the state of Paraná, Brazil, with a population of approximately 2 million in 2020. In 1968, the urban master plan was implemented in Curitiba, which featured the world-renowned Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system. This rapid transport system transports 2 million passengers daily, with over 80% of the population using the BRT daily. How does this system work? Let’s take a closer look.

    Sustainable Urban Transport, BRT in Curitiba, Brazil, StudySmarterFig. 3 - BRT system in Curitiba, Brazil

    In Curitiba, there are designated bus lanes, with the BRT using bendy buses to carry 2 million passengers a day. The bus stops are designed to reduce waiting times with people entering the bus at the front, whilst people exit the bus from the middle and back. This system also helps to manage urban land planning with skyscrapers, tall buildings, and urban growth only allowed to occur alongside bus routes, reducing the stress on the green belt.

    A green belt is an area of open or green land around the outskirts of the city where building construction is restricted.

    This system is also accessible for everybody with the bus fare staying the same along the routes with the bus stops never being more than 400m away. Tickets for the BRT, as well as food tokens, can also be earned through the city’s efficient recycling scheme, which is an initiative to encourage residents to manage waste more sustainably.

    London, UK

    In London, the government has been encouraging its citizens to use public transport such as the underground and bikes to reduce traffic congestion in the city and improve air quality. By 2050, the government is aiming to make the tube system carbon-neutral, with the underground and overground systems consuming the most electricity in London.

    Sustainable Urban Transport, London Underground, StudySmarterFig.4 - London underground system

    In the underground, the biggest loss of energy is the use of brakes to slow the trains down, hence why the underground gets so hot. Therefore, newer trains are equipped with regenerative braking systems, which allows them to reuse the lost energy and provide this back to the train. The excess warmth provided by the tube is also used to heat homes, which is a project currently underway at Islington station and along the Northern Line.

    The bike sharing scheme, or “Boris Bikes” is another form of sustainable transport as people can self-hire these bikes around the city and cycle around London. This is especially popular among tourists who visit the city, with an electric scooter system also in place. The majority of buses and taxis in London are also electric or operate on biofuels to reduce their impact on the environment.

    Sustainable Urban Transport, Boris Bikes, StudySmarterFig. 5 - Boris Bikes in London

    Sustainable Urban Transport - Key takeaways

    • Sustainable transport is transport that does not rely on the world’s natural resources such as coal, oil, and gas.
    • Sustainable urban transport is important because it helps to improve air quality and releases significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions, which is better for the environment.
    • Cost, connectivity, flexibility, speed, and health effects are all factors that need to be considered when planning to implement sustainable urban transport schemes.
    • New transport needs to be designed safely and securely, with the environment in mind, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and be accessible and beneficial to all who use it.
    • A real-world example of sustainable urban management is the BRT system in Curitiba, Brazil, and the sustainable practices of the bike sharing scheme and electric buses, taxis, and tubes in London.


    References

    1. Fig.1: Congestion in urban areas (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Traffic_congestion_Jl_Asia_Afrika_Bandung.jpg) by ErwinFCG (https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:ErwinFCG&action=edit&redlink=1) Licensed by CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)
    2. Fig. 2: UN Sustainable development goal- Sustainable transport 11.2 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:United_Nations_sustainable_development_goal_11.2_sustainable_transport.png) by European Union (https://ec.europa.eu/info/legal-notice_en#copyright-notice) Licensed by CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/deed.en)
    3. Fig. 3: BRT system in Curitiba, Brazil (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Linha_Verde_Curitiba_BRT_02_2013_Est_Marechal_Floriano_5977.JPG) by Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz) (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Mariordo) Licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)
    4. Fig. 4: London underground system (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lancaster_Gate_tube.jpg) by Tom Page (https://www.flickr.com/people/73422480@N00) Licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en)
    5. Fig.5: Boris Bikes in London (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Barclays_Cycle_Hire,_Euston_-_IMG_0789.JPG) by Rept0n1x (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Rept0n1x) Licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)
    Frequently Asked Questions about Sustainable Urban Transport

    Why is managing transport important for urban sustainability?

    On average, transport is the biggest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, releasing about 27% of total emissions, especially through congestion. As the population also is expected to grow to 9 billion by 2050, with the majority living in urban areas, sustainable urban transport will become increasingly important in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    Why is sustainable urban transport important?

    Sustainable urban transport is important as the climate continues to change and greenhouse gas emission rates increase, there is an essential need for sustainable practices to reduce damage to the environment. Both transport and mobility are central to sustainable development, with sustainable transport such as bikes also used to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions. 

    What are 5 features of a sustainable city?

    Here are 5 features of a sustainable city

    • Access to public resources 
    • Urban renewal actions such as the renovation of public areas
    • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions 
    • Ethical consumption 
    • Recycling, reusing and reducing waste 

    What is the meaning of sustainable transport?

    Sustainable transport is transport that doesn’t rely on the world’s natural resources such as coal, gas, and oil. This can include both public (buses, trains, trams) and private (Nikes, electric cars, pedestrians) forms of transportation.

    What is the meaning of urban sustainability?

    Urban sustainability is the process of creating an urban space that will not harm the environment through the management of natural resources 

     

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    TRUE or FALSE: Public transportation releases significantly more greenhouse gas emissions than cars.

    TRUE or FALSE: Sustainable transport improves air quality.

    What factors need to be considered when planning to implement sustainable urban transport? 

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