Rising population

Rising population and correspondingly increasing consumption are the two major after effects of rapid and spiraling growth that has occurred after industrial revolution. As a consequence of this rapid consumption world has come to face a number of critical issues that have hold attention of general people, business community, politicians and scientists (Pirages, 1996). These issues relate to the sustainability of present pattern of consumption and its short term and long-term effect on natural resources, environment, and climate of earth.  The present pattern of consumption has created many social, economical, environmental, and climatic and resource problems that include rising levels of pollution, global warming, ozone layer depletion, loss of global forest cover, melting snow caps, species extinction and depletion of vital energy resources, all of them putting question mark on the ways human society has opted to develop over past 100 years. In fact trends emerging from all over world within past couple of decades suggest that the present model of growth and development is unsustainable (Sustainable Development, 2006)

To remodel, reorient and direct the random and blind rate of growth the concept of sustainable development is launched. According to World Council on Economic Development sustainable development is defined as the development that meets the requirements of present generations without compromising with the abilities of future generations to meet their requirement (Definition, 2007). To attain this optimization of present and future well being, scientists and economists have suggested a development path that dispenses with negative externalities embedded in the present system to reduce environmental damages, over utilization and depletion of natural resources (Policy Brief, 2001). This would help to prepare a resilient and dynamic society with sufficient capacity to deal with any potentially adverse future situation.

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Transportation constitutes one of the most important dimensions of sustainable development. The entire modern structure of transportation is based on the utilization of energy provided from fossil fuels. This sources of energy, although extremely desirable due to its high heat content, is also non renewable, limited and under imminent threat of exhaustion. As the gasoline-based transportation is virtually the carrier of entire set of human activities across planet, its impending exhaustion presents world with economic and social problems of extreme magnitude. This paper shall study the important policy changes and alterations in present transportation model to help achieve goals of sustainable development in a time bound and efficient manner.

Sustainable Transportation

Transportation plays two important roles in the economy. First it is a complete industry in itself, with various component industries as its part to create the whole structure and second it is the backbone of various other industries and economic activities (OECD, 1998). Transportation affects prospects of sustainable development at many places. The extraction of fossil oils and their consumption in internal combustion engine causes pollution, smog, acid rains and lead to increased concentration of carbon-dioxide in atmosphere; transportation network and road construction cause additional damage to natural environment and contribute in climatic change; the waste generated through transportation, fuel waste as well as industrial waste add toxic and harmful waste to environment (OECD, 1998). Therefore transportation has become the prime focus area in the quest of sustainable development.

The sustainable model of transportation attempts to integrate the entire scope of transportation with real needs of human movement and renewed energy sources that does not pose dangers of depletion, or add to environmental pollution (Pirages, 1996). Sustainable transportation strategies include the vital dimensions of operations management, pricing policies, use of clean fuels, improvement in vehicle operation technologies, and integration in land use and planning in transportation infrastructure (Deakin, 2003). The implementation of these strategies requires combined operations at national and regional levels and need to channel efforts at government, business, scientific and community levels (ibid).

Guidelines and principles

In devising the guidelines for transportation to make it sustainable and environment friendly, the following issues emerge as areas of prime concern (Guiding Principles, 1996)

Access: Transportation is the principle form through which people can access places and goods, contributing prominently in social and economic development. The integrated strategic direction involve a) demand management- Optimizing transportation needs and requirements of society. It includes curtailing unnecessary transportation requirements through use of better communication technology and packaging technologies and redesigning urban landscape. b) diversifying options: it includes providing people with greater number of options through which they can meet their transportation needs.

Equity: It defines the need for government and communities to institute transportation policies that ensures social, regional and government equity by striving to attend to transportation needs of all the sections of society.

Health and Safety: The sustainable design of transportation system shall include measures that make it conducive for physical and mental health of people and social and community well being.

Responsibility at individual level: The safety of climate, natural environment and resources concern every one and hence it’s a collective as well as individual responsibility of people to safeguard them

Policy intervention for sustainable development

It is widely recognized at policy level that modifying the present transportation framework on sustainable paradigms would be more convenient and cost saving, rather than completely replacing it with a new framework that might be unable to perform at satisfactory levels. The various  policy options to make the existing model of transportation sustainable are broadly categorized as a) regime optimization and b) regime-shifts (Hoogma, Kepmp, Schot and Truffer, 2002). The distinctions assigning the different technologies in either of the two categories are somewhat vague and they are constantly being worked and assessed. The vital trend to emerge so far out is that there are potential technologies and innovations that can be used for both regime optimization and regime shift. The current transport regime considered exclusively for policy and technological intervention is land transportation system, with its huge impact on environment, society and economy.

Various strategies for sustainable transportation, as categorized by Deckins (2003), are,

Vehicle and Fuel Technological Changes: The only practical solution to the problem of growing fuel scarcity and harmful level of pollutants ejected  technological innovations in energy field that can reduce dependence on petroleum oil by providing alternative and sustainable sources of energy. It shall serve two immensely useful purposes that are a. minimizing U.S dependence on foreign oil and b. preventing the environment from damages associated with use of petroleum oils and products. The certainty of oil exhaustion has inspired efforts from both government and corporate sector to research and develop the new fuel technologies as a providential measure for survival, growth and progress in forthcoming days of oil crisis.

Past decade has seen great move on technological researches in alternative fuels. Various new techniques and models have already been introduced in the market to test their viability and capacity to successfully replace petroleum as chief source of energy. Most of these innovations are specifically aimed at transportation sector because it is the  chief consumer of petroleum oil and as principle cause of increasing oil imports. Due to distinct requirements of different sectors in transportation, there are various technologies. Passenger vehicles, public transport vehicles and freight transportation carry specific needs that are difficult to be met by a single alternative fuel technology.  Some of the major and most popular of these technologies, where majority of research and development has taken place, are (Aldrich, 1996) Hybrid Vehicles, electric vehicles, use of ethanol as fuel, fuel cell vehicles, use of hydrogen as fuel and vehicles operated by solar power.

Road vehicle operations improvement: The management of road vehicle transportation has significant bearing on sustainable transportation. It consists of areas such as-a) traffic flow improvements that involve measures of improving traffic signal timings, ramp metering, flow metering and removal of bottlenecks to improve the efficiency. The net benefit is reduction of time, better fuel efficiency and smooth transportation; b) Transport system improvement with thrust on constructing smart highways, smart vehicles, accident management and scheduling arrangements; c)educating drivers on appropriate fuel conserving techniques as well as traffic guidelines to help them utilize the system better; d) Improving management techniques in logistics and fleet management.

Demand management: To optimize the transportation system according to exact requirements of people, so as to minimize the waste and maximize benefits, it suggests measures as such a) modal substitution where transits are redesigned and improvements are made for walking and biking purposes that provide incentives to people for using alternate mediums of transportation; b) substituting trucks by rails that is environmentally cost effective and involves less consumption of fuel and emission of harmful gases while improving efficiency; c) telecommunication improvements or transport telematics that involve technological systems that are either follow either driver oriented approach or centralized management oriented approach by introducing traffic automation that are vital from safety and efficiency point of view (Hoogma, Kepmp, Schot and Truffer, 2002). The major tools of this measure include telecommuting, tele-shopping, teleconferencing, distance learning and use of information technology in transportation and traffic management.

Use of public transportation and mass transit system: Mass Transport System

Apart from introducing alternative fuel and technologies to replace and minimize fossil fuel consumption, another area where fuel consumption can be easily reduced is creating a more robust and functional public transport and mass transit system. It is cost effective and time consuming to redesign the existing public transport system, especially in major cities, to cut down fuel consumption by reducing number of vehicles on the road. While airplanes are already a popular and heavily used long distance intercity mass transit system, there are many available areas of intervention in short distance intercity and intra-city transport to provide fast and reliable transit facilities while simultaneously reducing traffic, freeing up space on roads and parking and moderating fossil oil consumption.

The transportation system , excluding freight transport, is presently divided in two broad categories a. privately owned individual all purpose vehicle transport system and b. public transport system consisting of buses, trains, trams, and metros under the control and maintenance of public administration and public transport companies ((Hoogma, Kemp, Schot and Truffer, 2002, 36-37). Public transport system is usually characterized by low cost, fuel-efficient transit system capable of carrying large number of people on a fixed route (ibid). It has been felt over time that a sustainable and efficient fuel policy needs to incorporate advanced public transport system as one of its key focus area.

Additionally the light rail and bus services can be expanded to cover specifically high traffic and downtown areas of major cities. An integration of public transport and private vehicle system can be achieved by providing sufficient parking space at stations and depots of public transport system. It would encourage people to use their private vehicles to access public transport system, resolving one of major issues of limited accessibility involved with mass transit system.

Inventing new strategies for sustainable transport development

Sustainable development, by its definition, is development that has capacity to meaningfully continue itself without negatively affecting any chance of its failure or degeneration. Therefore sustainable transportation, according to this parameter, requires to incorporate measures and policies that help to grow along with changing dynamics of transport network and fuel technologies. These strategies include (Deckins, 2003)

Land use and community development: It includes such activities as preservation, rehabilitation, redevelopment and redesigning of cities and suburbs with high population density. It also include additional measures such as infill in cities and suburbs, reusing of brownfields, recycling buildings, and improving the quality of life through close location of workplace and residence.

Consumer response to sustainable strategies: The major issue is to integrate consumers interests in sustainable strategies and technologies. Consumers should view these measures as crucial for creating a long term sustainable transportation plan that is adaptable for new vehicle and fuel technologies, technological upgradation and increased use of automation system, information technology and communication networks.

Another major strategic intervention is about urban planning and transportation planning. It deals with concentration of urban growth, limiting urban sprawls and providing strategies for mixed land use that make intelligent urban structure and land use policies. It would help to mitigate transportation requirements by moving destination and source closer. It also recommends prioritising pollution prevention strategies and encouraging pedestrian and cycling movements as alternative to motorized mode of transportation (Guiding principles, 1996).