Israel Environment Bulletin Spring 1996-5756, Vol. 19, No. 2

SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT DEVELOPMENT

by Dr. Eran Feitelson
Department of Geography, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Introduction

Transportation systems play a central role in the economic, social and environmental development of a country. The impact of the transport sector on environmental quality has grown significantly in recent years bringing in its wake increased vehicular emissions, environmental nuisances and consumption of land resources.

One of the causes for the adverse impacts associated with transportation systems may be attributed to changes in land use. The distribution of employment centers and residential areas over larger and larger areas has increased travel times and distances, while the increase in population and economic activity has increased mobility. Changes in economic patterns have resulted in increased travel to a growing number of destinations at more frequent time intervals.

The Goals and Objectives of Sustainable Transport Policy

The goals of Israel’s sustainable development policy in the transport sector include:

Assuring maximal mobility to all segments of the population with a minimum of nuisances, thereby contributing to the goals of intragenerational and intergenerational equity.

Preventing bottlenecks to economic growth through realistic and comprehensive transport pricing (including externalities), thereby increasing economic resources at a minimum of environmental damage.

Minimizing long-range nuisances caused by transportation while assuring that the costs of these nuisances do not harm weaker segments of the population, thereby contributing to intergenerational and intragenerational equity.

In order to promote these goals, the following concrete objectives are proposed:

Minimizing the areas designated for transport facilities in order to preserve the freedom of future generations to make choices regarding their built environment and to prevent damage to natural and landscape resources, and especially to soil and water resources.

Assuring accessibility to opportunities to the entire population, including those without vehicles, in order to promote mobility and reduce dependence on private cars. This should also help reduce the nuisances generated by transportation.

Minimizing the energy consumed by land transport systems by reducing kilometers per traveller and energy consumption of traveller per kilometer. This will diminish future damages and may facilitate better control over the distribution of nuisances in present generations.

Maintaining opportunities for flexibility in the transport system for most travelers and economic bodies, so as to prevent bottlenecks to economic growth.

While these objectives are not necessarily compatible, they should be included among the criteria for assessment and analysis which will be discussed during the formulation of a sustainable transport policy.

Means of Achieving Goals and Objectives

The above-stated goals and objectives may be achieved by the following means:

Treatment at Source

While Israel is not equipped to reduce vehicular emissions by technological means, numerous methods exist for reducing the environmental impacts of transportation:

Car maintenance: Since car maintenance has a clear impact on vehicular emissions, environmental criteria should be included in annual vehicle registration tests.

Scrapping of older vehicles: Since older vehicles in Israel are not required to be equipped with catalytic converters, scrapping of old vehicles should be promoted by encouraging private companies to scrap old vehicles by setting a minimum price for recycled steel, and recognizing scrapping as a way of purchasing pollution credits when such a market exists.

Environment-friendly technologies: The future use of battery-operated cars designed for short distance travel should be encouraged through tax reductions, on the one hand, and gasoline price hikes, on the other hand. Road surfaces and planning measures: On the micro level, quiet asphalt roads which are water permeable and measures for stopping surface runoff from transportation facilities for the purpose of groundwater recharge should be encouraged.

Behavioral Changes

In open market conditions, the private vehicle is the preferred means of travel by individuals, but this preference exacts a high social cost. Means must be found to bring about changes in individual behavior, especially with regard to decreased use of private cars. The measures which may be undertaken to reduce private car use include:

Increasing the Cost and Difficulty of Private Car Use

Raising the cost of private car use: This may be achieved by increasing gasoline taxes, on the one hand, and raising the cost of some types of travel, on the other. The latter may be accomplished through electronic means to identify vehicle movements in sensitive directions and areas. Raising the cost of private car maintenance: The possibility of prohibiting companies from reimbursing drivers for car expenses should be reviewed in order to make drivers more sensitive to taxes and incentives. Increasing restrictions and fees for parking: Parking places at work should be set as a percentage of the total number of employees, employers should not reimburse workers for parking expenses, and the number of parking places in residential areas should be limited (to one per housing unit, for example). Additional parking space would have to be purchased at a relatively high price.

Making Public Transport More Attractive

The attractivity of public transport is a function of duration, cost and convenience of travel in comparison to private car use. These elements may be improved using the following measures:

Granting priority to public transportation: Public transportation should be granted priority at traffic lights, and public transportation lanes, which enable faster travel during rush-hour traffic, should be expanded. Reducing the cost of public transportation: This can be accomplished through subsidizing public transport while increasing the cost of private car maintenance.

Increasing the comfort of public transportation: Frequent renewal of motor and railway vehicles should bring about greater comfort.

Responding to the needs of most market sectors in terms of time and space: Increased opportunities for public transport should be made available in all directions and at all hours. One means of achieving this is through the creation of timed-transfer systems.

Changing User Attitudes

In order to assure broad public support for the above steps, widescale education and information campaigns should be undertaken to emphasize the socio-environmental cost of private vehicle use.

Managing Mobility

In addition to changing attitudes on the individual level, attitudes and mobility patterns on the general level may be changed as well. Employers, especially, can play a central role in this area because they often determine mobility needs, travel times, and transportation alternatives. Managing travel times: The main contributor to rush-hour traffic is the work schedule, and therefore, more flexible working hours can relieve traffic congestion during peak demand hours.

Changing means of transport: Large places of employment may be required to provide shared transportation to all workers.

Changing locations of employment: Restrictions or differential costs may be determined for each site of employment as a function of public transport accessibility. This would provide an incentive for businesses to be located near public transport stations.

Information kits: While most of the information which is currently supplied to consumers relates to traffic conditions, information systems should also provide data on public transport alternatives for every direction of travel.

Physical Planning

Mobility patterns are not only a matter of individual or employer choice, but are also a function of the spatial distribution of activities and modes of transportation. This distribution is frequently influenced by physical planning. In contrast to the traditional view, it is now widely recognized that land use planning should be derived, to a large extent, from transportation policy and not vice versa. This may be achieved by the following means:

Making development conditional on the supply of public transportation: Development density should be a function of distance from public transportation. Thus, an increase in land use density would be conditional on the supply of public transport, and greater density would be dictated in the vicinity of existing or proposed public transportation centers. Land uses should also be a function of public transportation supply. In the Netherlands, for example, new malls cannot be sited in areas which are not accessible by public transport.

Priority to public transportation in planning: During the planning stage for neighborhoods and cities or for transport corridors, special lanes should be allocated for public transport. On the neighborhood level, residential distribution should take account of the accessibility of public transport stations.

Municipal planning on the basis of public transportation: The distribution of neighborhoods, employment centers, building density and commercial centers should be derived from the location of transportation centers.

The Long Range View

In the long range, technological changes at source should be introduced, especially wide adoption of electric vehicles which will enable households to achieve maximal mobility at low environmental cost. However, public transportation will always remain the key to an environmentally sound transport system. Since the competitive level of public transport is a function of long range municipal and national planning, measures must now be taken to adapt the land use system to the public transportation system.

The future transportation system will differ significantly from the existing one. The current system is radial in nature, and is based on relatively long bus routes, which frequently neglect peripheral market segments. The time has come to develop a public transport system which is multidirectional, which is based on several modes of transportation, and which is operated according to a timed transfer system. Buses, trains or minibuses will coordinate their arrival time at each transfer terminal to afford maximal flexibility and fast and easy movement in all directions between all lines.

From the point of view of sustainable transportation policy, the starting point for metropolitan and national planning in the long range should be the establishment of a multi-directional, multi-mode public transportation network, which will identify the main transfer points and will transform them into centers of land use development which will, in turn, both create and attract travel. Accessibility profiles will be prepared for all land uses on the basis of the public transportation network, and the approval of land uses, development densities and parking standards will be a function of these profiles. The transportation planning system will be intimately integrated with the land use planning system.

Summary

Since the link between transportation, environment and land use requires long term evaluation, an institutional system, which includes environmental, economic, and welfare interests as well as local authority representatives, public transport operators and academics, should be set up to accompany the development of a transportation program. Such a system should be sensitive to changes and should be able to update policy according to need. In view of the crucial impact of transport systems on environmental quality, the time for initiating such a system is now.