The way we move about our cities has a major impact on the environment. It affects the air quality, water use and even how much fossil fuels we need to produce energy for travel. Thankfully, there are many ways to make our urban transportation systems more sustainable. In addition to promoting walking and cycling, cities can invest in greener buses and trains, offer convenient electric car charging stations, and create more safe bike paths.
Sustainable Transportation is the practice of planning, designing, constructing, operating and maintaining transport systems that are environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. This means that transport systems should not only be able to serve mobility needs, but should also support the goals of other sectors involved in sustainable development such as reducing environmental impacts, improving health and safety, strengthening economic growth, and providing access for marginalized populations.
A growing number of people around the world are turning to eco-friendly transport options such as public transit, bikes and riding their own or borrowed motor vehicles. This is especially true in densely populated areas where the cost of land is expensive and access to jobs and amenities may be limited. These new methods of transport are viewed as more sustainable because they can reduce congestion, lower pollution levels and help preserve our planet’s fragile ecosystem.
Cars are responsible for the majority of emissions in the transportation sector. Passenger cars produced about 58 percent of the sector’s total carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2019. Emissions from trucks and buses account for another 25 percent of CO2 emissions. Other forms of transport emit less CO2, including maritime, rail and air transport.
As the demand for Sustainable Transportation grows, more agencies and governments are taking action to integrate these practices into their decision-making process. They are also working to identify and promote the most effective ways of integrating sustainability into their existing operations. A Guide to Sustainable Transportation Performance Measures (2011) was developed to assist transportation agencies in using performance measures to incorporate sustainability into their decision-making processes.
In the future, we need to think differently about how our cities grow and expand. Cities must be able to sustain themselves and the natural environment, and they must find new and innovative ways of doing so.
If you haven’t already, consider buying a vehicle that runs on electricity instead of gas. This can have a huge impact on your personal carbon footprint, as electric cars are far more efficient than regular vehicles. If you can’t afford to buy an EV, look for second-hand models to minimize your impact even more. New EVs require minerals and precious metals to manufacture, so if you can find a used one that has been well maintained, it will have produced less emissions than a brand-new model.
Traveling by train, bus or ferry over long distances produces the least amount of CO2. An article in Forbes praised modern railroads for their efficiency, noting that a rail trip can move more than a ton of cargo 400 miles on one gallon of fuel.