The knowledge of the concept of ‘Sustainable Transport’ in itself is a necessary but not sufficient factor for success in the journey to the attainment of sustainability in our transport system. It is necessary that we know why the concept is important and then chart a pathway to its achievement.
As the saying goes, ‘When use is not known, abuse is inevitable’. Therefore, in answering the Why question, I would say that there are three (3) major reasons why we MUST achieve sustainable transport. They are:
- Threats of Climate Change: Transportation accounts for 45 to 50% of total emissions of nitrogen oxides, 40 to 50% of Hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds (HC & VOC), 25% of particulates, 30% of total carbon dioxide emissions, around 5% of total sulphur dioxide emissions, and about 20% of all CFCs emissions. These statistics indicate that if we are to reduce the emissions of these harmful gaseous substances that pollute the air and guide against the threats of climate change, a sustainable transport system is highly inevitable.
- Health implications: A sustainable transport system is one that does not endanger public health. Therefore if we choose a healthy society, and are passionate about mitigating pollution-induced diseases, the way is a sustainable transport system.
- Resource conservation: A sustainable transport system makes use of more efficient alternative fuel vehicles which help in conserving energy. Also in sustainable transport systems, renewable resources are used at below their rates of regeneration while the use of non-renewable resources at below the rates of development of renewable substitutes. The system also encourages reusing and recycling of its components, thereby conserving resources. If we want use the non-renewable resources long enough, then there is need to start conserving them and one way to conservation is a sustainable transport system.
The next obvious question is how do we achieve a Sustainable Transport System?
The first step to achieving this is a total paradigm shift that is, the way we think and live must be changed. This can be achieved through an analysis of the direct and indirect/ cost-benefit effects of our living style on our transportation decisions. An effective model to this paradigm shift is the principle of transportation prioritization. The principle of transportation prioritization is such that trips with higher values have lower cost while trips with lower values have higher cost. By this, people are discouraged from embarking on ‘unnecessary’ trips.
Next up on the steps to sustainable transportation is Community and grassroots actions. Sustainable transport is fundamentally a grassroots movement, albeit, one which is now recognised as of citywide, national and international significance. Notwithstanding the national and international actions, the place of community and grassroots involvement cannot be side-lined. Every level of government and community leadership should take responsibility to ensure that every means of transportation in their immediate community is economically friendly, socially acceptable and environmentally safe.
Lastly on the steps is the need for Research. Research is needed to increase investment in transport by the private sector. There is a need to know the practical approaches to developing national and local level sustainable transport infrastructure plans, models of private sector investment that work, reconciling the availability of private sector finance and worthwhile sustainable transport infrastructure projects and setting out an approach for enhanced project preparation facilities.
In conclusion, if we, as a global village are to attain Sustainability in 2030, then it must be incorporated into every sector of human affairs.
–Project and Research Unit