Below are excerpts from two recently released reports on transport.

The first, Towards a Zero Carbon Vision for UK Transport, from a UK based team, offers a pathway to a reduced carbon scenario for the UK transport sector based on a variety of strategies already in place in Europe. The plan does, in my view, have a significant hole in it by virtue of the fact that it states that “It must also be emphasised the MI Scenario for road and rail transport depends on the decarbonisation of the electricity supply system. A detailed analysis of policy pathways leading to such a decarbonised electricity supply in the UK is outside the scope of this study.” Electrification of rail and road transport is one of the key planks in this plan although it does also address accessibility, and modal shift to walking, cycling and public transport.

The second report has been produced for the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and addresses the links between public health and public transport. I was interested to note that the UK manages to buck the trend for transport mode split versus national Obesity rates. There must be something else going on in the green and pleasant land! – SO

Towards a Zero Carbon Vision for UK Transport

John Whitelegg, Gary Haq, Howard Cambridge and Harry Vallack, Stockholm Environment Institute
In 2006, the transport sector accounted for approximately 24 per cent (130 million tonnes) of the UK’s domestic emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) the majority of these emissions (92 per cent) coming from road transport. The 2008 Climate Change Act, commits the UK to reducing GHG emissions across the economy by at least 80 per cent (in comparison to 1990 levels) by 2050.

In its recently published Carbon Reduction Strategy for Transport, the Department of Transport (DfT) recognises that effective decarbonisation of the transport sector will play a large role in achieving this goal. This DfT strategy document also recognises that complete decarbonisation is unlikely to be possible for aviation and shipping due to the greater technical challenges although by 2050 “these modes will have seen a transformative improvement in efficiency”.

Despite the difficulties envisaged by the DfT study in decarbonising the UK transport sector, it is possible to make significant progress towards the desirable future of a zero carbon transport system by 2050. There are no technical, financial, organisational or other obstacles that would put this objective out of reach though a willingness to move boldly and decisively in this direction has yet to be demonstrated…

The MI (maximum impact) Scenario [in this study] represents a radically different Britain by 2050, where the UK transport sector emits close to zero CO2. A wide range of measures known to reduce CO2 emissions from transport were examined to see the extent to which these measures can have a maximum impact on the transport sector and realise the vision of a zero carbon transport sector in the UK.

These measures are grouped into in four categories (Spatial planning, Fiscal, Behavioural and Technology) and the impacts of each assessed separately in order to allow their relative efficacy to be assessed. For passenger and freight railways, a single technological intervention only is applied: complete electrification of the UK rail network. Biofuels are assumed to have only a minimal role given they are usually considered to be far from ‘carbon neutral’ and have been associated with adverse land-use issues and other drawbacks identified in the Gallagher review (Renewable Fuels Agency, 2008).

Under the MI Scenario assumptions, road transport will be completely carbon neutral by 2050 due to a combination of reduced demand (approximately 75 per cent from spatial, fiscal and behavioural measures) and a whole-scale shift in technology to PEVs and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, both of which will utilise decarbonised UK electricity supply. Clearly, a carbon neutral electricity supply would be much more likely to be able meet the increased needs of a road transport sector almost entirely composed of PEVs and/or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles if total demand is also drastically reduced. The measure causing the greatest reduction in demand is the annual increase in fuel costs due to the re-introduction of a fuel price escalator.

Summary of CO2 emissions for BAU and Maximum Impact (MI ) ScenariosSummary of CO2 emissions for BAU and Maximum Impact (MI ) Scenarios

Emissions of CO2 from aviation have been reduced by 56 per cent when the 2050 MI Scenario is compared with the 2050 BAU. CO2 emissions in 2050 under the MI Scenario are also 11.2 million tonnes less than the baseline 2005 figure. This represents significant progress in bringing aviation into line with the implications of the UK national commitment to an 80 per cent reduction by 2050 on a 1990 base. The scale of reduction achieved is still not enough but it has been produced by the full application of all available measures. It is clear that a combination of those measures that reduce demand such as air fare increases, no additional runways, modal shift to railways (including High Speed Rail) and video substitution would deliver a considerably greater reduction than could be achieved by advances in aircraft technology and air traffic management alone. It follows that a reduction in CO2 emissions from aviation of this scale could not be delivered by a policy that encouraged technological solutions alone whilst allowing demand to continue o grow. Any expansion of airport capacity through building new runways would have the effect of supporting year-on-year increases in demand and therefore does not form part of this MI Scenario. Indeed, there would be no need for any new runways under a policy designed to maximise CO2 emissions reductions from aviation through a demandled reduction strategy as assumed in this MI Scenario.
(August, 2010)

Evaluating Public Transportation Health Benefits

Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute
This report investigates ways that public transportation affects human health, and ways to incorporate these impacts into transport policy and planning decisions. This research indicates that public transit improvements and more transit oriented development can provide large but often overlooked health benefits. People who live or work in communities with high quality public transportation tend to drive significantly less and rely more on alternative modes (walking, cycling and public transit) than they would in more automobile-oriented areas. This reduces traffic crashes and pollution emissions, increases physical fitness and mental health, and provides access to medical care and healthy food. These impacts are significant in magnitude compared with other planning objectives, but are often overlooked or undervalued in conventional transport planning. Various methods can be used to quantify and monetize (measure in monetary units) these health impacts. This analysis indicates that improving public transit can be one of the most cost effective ways to achieve public health objectives, and public health improvements are among the largest benefits provided by high quality public transit and transit-oriented development.

Summary of Findings

  • High quality public transportation (convenient, comfortable, fast rail and bus transport) and transit oriented development (walkable, mixed-use communities located around transit stations) tend to affect travel activity in ways that provide large health benefits, including reduced traffic crashes and pollution emissions, increased physical fitness, improved mental health, improved basic access to medical care and healthy food and increased affordability which reduces financial stress to lower-income households.
  • Traffic casualty rates tend to decline as public transit travel increases in an area. Residents of transit-oriented communities have only about a quarter the per capita traffic fatality rate as residents of sprawled, automobile-dependent communities.
  • Public transit reduces pollution emissions per passenger-mile, and transit-oriented development provides additional emission reductions by reducing per capita vehicle travel.
  • U.S. Center for Disease Control recommends that adults average at least 22 daily minutes of moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, to stay fit and healthy. Although less than half of American adults achieve this target, most public transportation passengers do exercise the recommended amount while walking to and from transit stations and stops.
  • Neighborhood design features that support transit, such as walkability and mixed land use, also support public health. Of people with safe places to walk within ten minutes of home, 43% achieve physical activity targets, compared with just 27% of less walkable area residents.
  • The United States has relatively poor health outcomes and high healthcare costs compared with peers, due in part to high per capita traffic fatality rates and diseases resulting from sedentary living. Public transit improvements can improve health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.
  • Inadequate physical activity contributes to numerous health problems, causing an estimated 200,000 annual deaths in the U.S., and significantly increasing medical costs. Among physically able adults, average annual medical expenditures are 32% lower for those who achieve physical activity targets ($1,019 per year) than for those who are sedentary ($1,349 per year).
  • Many physically and economically disadvantaged people depend on public transportation to access to medical services and obtain healthy, affordable food.
  • Current demographic and economic trends (aging population, rising fuel prices, increasing health and environmental concerns, and rising medical care costs) are increasing the value of public transportation health benefits.
  • A growing portion of households would prefer to drive less and rely more on walking, cycling and public transit, provided these alternatives are convenient, comfortable, safe and affordable.
  • Conventional planning tends to overlook and undervalue many transportation-related health impacts. More comprehensive evaluation can better integrate transportation and public health planning objectives.
  • When all impacts are considered, improving public transit can be one of the most cost effective ways to achieve public health objectives, and public health improvements are among the largest benefits provided by high quality public transit and transit-oriented development.

(June, 2010)