A green urban transportation future

Globally, the transportation sector, which includes the movement of people and goods by cars, trucks, trains, ships, airplanes and other vehicles, is one of the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG): Transportation produces around 23% of global GHG emissions from fuel combustions and is one of the fastest growing consumers of fossil fuels and the fastest growing source of GHG emissions.

Energy consumption and GHG emissions by urban transportation is growing rapidly due to increased urban populations around the world. An earlier World Bank survey of 17 cities in China revealed that urban transport energy use and GHG emissions have steadily increased by 4-6% per annum in major cities including Beijing and Shanghai.

Low-carbon urban transport options

To reduce urban energy use and GHG emissions, cities need to ensure a wide array of transportation choices including public transport, cycling and walking. Other options for low-carbon transport include support from real-time data on smartphones to ease congestion and sustainable procurement/public spending programs such as Clean Fleets.

Low-carbon transport of the future

Low-carbon transport of the future

Vancouver’s transportation going green

One example of a city greening its transport is Vancouver, which has the goal of making walking, cycling and public transit the preferred transportation options for its residents. The city has set itself a specific target of making the majority (over 50%) of trips by foot, bicycle and public transit and reduce the average distance driven per resident by 20% from 2007 levels.

Lyon’s Velo’v bike sharing scheme

Implementing sustainable transport in the city of Lyon has been a great success, with hopes to move away from car travel completely. Through a collaborative platform and digital information availability, this program has enabled ride-sharing, bike rental and encouraged electric vehicles. Car use in the city has dropped so much that car parks running along the banks of Lyon’s rivers were removed and urban parks were established, increasing urban livability.

A green urban transportation future

Cities have a significant role to play in transforming urban transport, and the transport sector more generally. As cities move to encourage fewer cars on the road, and even ban them from certain districts, urban areas of the future will look a lot less crowded with cars; instead they will be comprised of bike lanes, efficient public transit and urban green spaces increasing social cohesion and urban resilience. Plans to reduce vehicles in urban areas will have overwhelming positive impacts for people, including healthier lifestyles and improved air quality, while environmentally it will lower cities’ GHG emissions.

The take-out

Cities can use a variety of policy options, including action plans and investments in technology, to encourage cleaner transportation options that simultaneously enhance livability and reduce GHG emissions.

By Robert C. Brears* and Lisa Andrews (International Water Association)


*Robert C. Brears is the author of Urban Water Security (Wiley)\

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Author: Robert C. Brears

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