Sustainable transport is at the heart of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development and the 17 Sustainable development goals. An efficient public transport system connects people, communities, and societies while building new markets and enhancing the overall quality of life. It describes the impact of different modes of transport and systems to put in place to improve transportation planning.
What makes a sustainable transport solution?
A sustainable transportation system is one that allows the basic access and development needs of individuals, companies, and society to be met safely in a manner consistent with human and ecosystem health. In more detail, sustainable transportation means that it is affordable, operates fairly and efficiently, offers a choice of transport modes, and supports a competitive economy, as well as a balanced regional development.
A good transit system also limits emissions and waste, uses renewable resources, and uses non-renewable resources below the rates of development of renewable substitutes. Sustainable transport has three pillars namely; environmental, social, and economic. The transport sector has the potential to improve the lives and livelihoods of billions of people such as improving health, quality of life and also to stabilize climate change.
The downside of our traditional transport systems
Transport systems are responsible for around 26 percent of world energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, with about three quarters coming from road vehicles. High energy consumption levels are rampant in the manufacturing sector as well as in the transport system. Higher energy consumption results in more mining of mineral resources that leads to environmental degradation. This is where electric transport systems come into play.
Promoting ecosystem health through sustainable transport
Electric vehicle technology has the potential to reduce transport CO2 emissions (and hence improving air quality), depending on the source of electricity. To achieve sustainable transportation, the adoption of technology is a must. We need to be open to new technology innovations in order to provide better services, plan road systems, regulate traffic, etc. Automated vehicles have the potential to transform public transport by tackling challenges such as road safety, climate change, and air pollution. The new electric vehicles lead to a reduction in fossil fuel consumption, besides improving urban mobility.
Sustainable transport solutions for human health
Sustainable transport practices are the key to protecting and promoting human health. For example, a lack of adequate physical activity is estimated to be associated with about 900 000 deaths per year in Europe, where about 20-30% of adults are estimated to be obese. Walking and cycling could help integrate physical activity into daily life. Walking and cycling are easily available to almost everybody, can effectively replace short car trips, and can be more readily integrated into people’s busy schedules as part of daily lives.
Road traffic injuries are the leading causes of death and often result in severe disability which may last for one’s life. An advantage of Walking and cycling over using public transport is that there is a reduced risk of acquiring airborne diseases like the recent corona virus. This is because there are fewer contacts between people who use bicycles or walking than those in public transit. There is therefore a need to balance between these transportation options. For instance, in Paris, 53% of trips are made by walking, 3% by bicycle, 34% by public transport and only 1% by car. However, things might be different following the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important for people and companies in the transport business to understand how urban mobility might look like after lockdown for proper service offering and positioning in the market.
Government support is paramount
Sufficient funding is a prerequisite for the achievement of sustainable transportation. The global investment needed for transport infrastructure is estimated at between USD $1.4 and USD $2.1 Trillion per year. There’s great importance for national governments to empower cities and address outdated laws that prevent many cities from utilizing local tax revenues or borrowing money on their own or accessing funding from international organizations to support sustainable transport solutions.
Currently, only 4% of the 500 largest cities in developing countries are rated creditworthy by international financial markets. Innovative user charges and other fiscal instruments can both raise revenue and manage transport demand, shifting demand from the private motorized vehicle options to walking, cycling, and public transport; and freight from exclusively road to multimodal solutions combining road, rail, and waterways.
In conclusion, sustainable transport is a driver of sustainable development and a means by which people can access what they need to live free and fulfilled lives. The government plays a major role in the implementation of sustainable transport solutions in that it can encourage certain adoptions by reducing taxes. A balance in the transit system is advisable in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Financing decisions must be based on a holistic understanding of the nature of transport investments, their consequences, and the full range of innovative funding options. Technologies using clean fuels and clean energy are a high priority, and when considering the scale of the health and climate challenges, it is imperative.