Urban transport is still poor in developing countries compared with the developed countries. For a sustainable and green solution to the problem, it requires an integrated initiative between different stakeholders and beneficiaries – citizens, policy makers, policy implementers, researchers/experts and donors, writes Polin Kumar Saha
THE importance of greening the transport system is very crucial for sustainable development since commuting is an integral part of our daily lives irrespective of our social differences. Moreover, the troubles that one face in conventional transport system is a critical concern for developing countries. It is particularly concerning for a rapidly growing city like Dhaka. A broad range of sustainability issues including environmental sustainability (global warming, degradation, fossil fuel burning and emissions) and social sustainability (human satisfaction, road safety and health — physical, mental, emotional, spiritual), and economic stability (cost and benefit over environmental and social violations) are also matter of our larger concerns. In fact, the transport sector is responsible for 23 per cent of the global greenhouse gas emission with over 90 per cent of all road transport depending on fossil fuel. Therefore, road transport majorly contributes in the total greenhouse gas emissions. The projection of this trend will increase in future if we don’t become adequately aware and incorporate green initiatives in our urban transport system.
In this current context of urbanisation, what should we do to address the problem? The urban transport is still poor in the developing countries compared with the developed countries. For a sustainable and green solution to the problem, it requires an integrated initiative between different stakeholders and beneficiaries — citizens, policy makers, policy implementers, researchers/experts and the donors. Our experiences show that many technical solutions proved successful in developed countries are not suitable for our cities. In terms of greening the transport system, research shows that we have to review and rely more on non-technical solutions than the technical solutions. Here we can briefly elaborate these two dimensions of transport development in the greening process.
Non-technical review suggests that behavioural or attitudinal changes must be characterised by increasing walking space, cycling and the preferred transit mode. For environmentally friendly cities, these are the vital issues that contribute to the composition of a green transport system. The methodological approaches to work for a green travel style is to incorporate the mood of walking, cycling and transit which make up four strategies mainly: changing the pattern of land use in promoting the space for walking and cycling, giving priority to the public transport, restricting car buying and using, and implementing rules and regulations through good governance. It is true that we have seen already some good policies and strategies on these reviews, but more investigation is needed to assess our limitations and solve the problem by setting up priorities. Some policy areas of interventions include the restriction of private cars, encouraging group transport facilities for schools/institutions, restrictions on private use of car such discourage more than one car for a family, standardise public transport and availability to all classes of citizens, scheduling public transport in accordance with school, college and office schedules. Similar kind of policy initiatives has seen great success in Vienna, Austria. In the period between 1993 and 2014, Vienna was able to reduce car dependency from 27 per cent to per cent.
Contrastingly, in our country we are increasing our dependency on cars. Another glowing example is Vancouver, Canada. In 2007, the city decreased vehicle kilometre driven per person as they increased their awareness and practices in walking, cycling and public transit. The key to the success is a common understanding and changes in land-use policies that encourage an environmentally sound public transport system.
In recent years, environmentally friendly public transit relies on a green transport system for example green buses, bikes, taxis, trains. Green transport reduces people’s dependency on conventional fuel use in their vehicles and decreases pollution in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
Therefore, public transport should be prioritised. The noise and air pollution should be taken into account when designing and implementing public transport system. In our context, the following measures can be taken: electric vehicles, such as electric trains, bikes, buses can be promoted (but the electricity must come from renewable resources); introducing multiple occupant vehicles; introducing hybrid bus, taxies, commuter vehicles; developing road infrastructure including bus bay, footpath, underpass, overpass; introducing large capacity of public transport (big buses, metro, double-decker); introducing auto traffic signals and central monitoring systems for maintaining traffic rules and regulations and reducing traffic congestions through different initiatives. It is also important to shift political rallies, events, exhibition from the centre of the city. Dhaka city often face serious because of VIP movement and VIP offices. It is time that the office bearers take serious note on how their mobility city-wide transport system. For example, the location of Bangladesh prime minister’s office often makes huge traffic congestions. This, in fact proves how ill developed traffic system can harm the public not just economically by wasting their time, but also psychologically.
Taking into account the technical and non-technical measures to improve public transport system, it would appropriate to turn towards green technology and initiatives. A turn towards greening the system would also ensure the sustainability of the transport system. We have indeed many challenges to overcome. However, a coordinated effort between politicians, stakeholders, researchers and transport planners could make it happen. To summarise the issue, we definitely need to restructure and prioritise our transport network that includes walking, cycling, and public transport facilities. Every single step can push us unanimously to identify the improvement of our present situation.
Polin Kumar Saha is a senior research associate and sustainability professional at BRAC Research and Evaluation Division.