With reference to transport management in urban areas, discuss the extent to which sustainability can be achieved (40 marks)
Sam Larlham 13AMA GEOG3: World Cities
With reference to either waste or transport management in urban areas, discuss the extent to which sustainability can be achieved (40 marks)
Sustainability refers to meeting the needs of current and future generations, whilst preserving the environment. The management of transport in urban areas has become a more pressing issue in recent years, due to increased car ownership (for example: in the UK there are now 30 million more cars on the roads than there were in 1950) and a greater awareness of greenhouse gas emissions leading to climate change. The differing natures of transport management in LEDCs and MEDCs will be shown, whilst also considering the role of policy and transport integration in stimulating public participation, which in turn leads to sustainability.
A country’s level of development and wealth can greatly influence its approach to transport management. In MEDCs, it may be important to consider financial incentives when aiming to generate public participation, as money is likely to be the common denominator when compared to LEDCs, where more crude measures, say, livestock, may be used as a means of exchange. The UK is an example of an MEDC that attempted to use money to incentivise use of more sustainable public transport modes, through the introduction of the London Congestion Charge in February 2003. This is a fee paid by motor vehicles upon entering central London, which applies from 7am-6pm on weekdays and is set at £10 per day. By 2007, Transport for London estimates that the charge led to roughly a 5% annual decline in the use of chargeable vehicles, which, whilst demonstrating a positive effect, was not great enough for the scheme to be considered successful in achieving environmental sustainability.
One reason behind this was a lack of financial integration with alternative modes of transport. In this case, the main alternative mode was rail. In order to be integrated, it was important for this option to be made cheap in comparison to the charge, as well as equally convenient. However, a lack of available parking at train stations meant that this mode was more expensive (stations on the outskirts of London charge up to £6 for a day’s parking) and poorly integrated with regard to convenience. Therefore, it appears that either the congestion charge was set too low, or policy makers did not make efforts to make rail travel more affordable and/or convenient. As well as this, the charge has yet to be raised in the past 10 years, despite consistent inflation (making £10 much cheaper in real terms); therefore the system is not integrated with the economic climate, and will become less effective over time unless changes are made. However, given that this was in central London, questions could be raised as to whether financial motives were likely to be effective in changing people’s attitudes. Given that the area affected by the charge is predominantly wealthy, it may be the case that convenience and efficiency are far more important to people’s attitudes than money; hence many were willing to pay £10, as the car was the most convenient mode. Therefore, it appears that for sustainability to be achieved, transport management must seek to make systems as integrated and convenient as possible in order to foster public participation, regardless of the level of development.
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A contrasting approach in an LEDC was seen in Mexico City, which also aimed to reduce car use. This was a scheme known as “Don’t Drive Today” whereby the area’s residents were assigned, by number plate, a day where they were prohibited from using their cars. This scheme begun in 1990 and was recently extended to include Saturdays, as the city focussed on lower air pollution to avoid health issues such as a higher incidence of respiratory disease. The scheme is estimated to reduce the number of cars on Mexico City’s roads by 20% on a given day, reducing annual CO2 emissions by 300,000 tonnes. Again this does not suggest a high level of public participation, which can be explained by a lack of integration in two ways. First, the scheme was not integrated with the national traffic laws, which, as in many other countries, allow one individual to be the registered owner of more than one car. As such, many people would simply buy a cheap second car (with a different license plate), allowing them to use a car on their day of prohibition. This shows that the scheme needed greater policing to avoid people finding loopholes, which would have been expensive and not economically sustainable. Second, the scheme (like London) showed a lack of integration in terms of alternate modes. Despite an improvement of the inner city Metrobus, no improvements were made to trains and or buses running routes from the city outskirts to the centre, meaning that in many cases residents had no choice but to use a car as alternatives were inconvenient and inefficient. Given Mexico’s level of development, it is likely that they will experience an urban sprawl in the future; therefore in the long-term it becomes even more important to have a far-reaching and integrated transport system to avoid the same problem. This again shows how a high level of integration is vital in encouraging public participation in sustainable transport schemes.
Freiburg is a German (and therefore MEDC) ‘eco-city’ which attempted to achieve a well-integrated transport system in its management. In doing so, they targeted a fall in car use to help become a more sustainable city in terms of air pollution and the use of non-renewable resources. One method of doing so was to incentivise bicycle use. This was done using the ‘bike and ride’ scheme, a 500km network of cycle lanes which created links with public transport systems as well as providing roughly 9000 bike parking sites in Freiburg, showing high integration levels. Furthermore, roughly 90% of residents now live in a 30km/h zone, a traffic calming measure that has made urban cycling safer, demonstrating integration with other transport policies. This integration meant that using a bicycle became as convenient, if not more, than using a car, and as such car use fell by 23%. As well as this, Freiburg modernised its tram system by connecting all the major city districts as well as building links with the Breisgau-S-Bahn regional rail system. This meant that the inner-city rail system was far better integrated and accessible, with 65% of people living in the catchment area of a tram stop, and over 70% using the service on a regular basis (which could also be linked with the cheap monthly travel cards that are available). The above evidence suggests that Freiburg’s transport management meets human needs in terms of convenience, and by reducing the use of polluting modes it preserves the environment. This shows how effective public transport integration can be far more successful than financial motives in achieving sustainability, as Freiburg has encouraged a much higher level of public participation than in other MEDCs, namely London.
Although Freiburg was fairly successful in achieving integration and public participation with regard to public transport, it was less so than Curitiba, in Brazil. Curitiba is often called “Brazil’s ecological capital” and is one of the country’s fastest growing cities in terms of population; therefore their method of controlling transport was very significant in order to prevent congestion and pollution. The decision-maker behind this management system was Jamie Lerner, who declared ‘people matter more than economics when designing a city’, suggesting that he valued the attitudes of local people in his decisions and aimed to meet human needs, thus making Curitiba more sustainable. Curitiba’s success could be attributed to near full integration in its transport system. Lerner’s vision was based mostly on the use of public buses in order to achieve sustainability; this method was 500x cheaper than an underground subway system, suggesting economic sustainability. The cheaper costs also meant that prices were lower, allowing low-income households to use the service (with transport making up only 10% of their annual spending, this meant social sustainability) and encouraging public participation.
Curitiba’s bus system features colour coded buses and routes, with some running from outer regions into the city, and others around the suburbs or through the city centre. Each type of route was connected to one another, meaning people could get from rural areas to the CBD in a series of quick, efficient bus journeys, making Curitiba’s system unrivalled in terms of its integration and convenience. As such, there is use as high 4000 people per bus per day, including 75% of commuters, showing very high levels of public participation.
Another way in which Curitiba’s transport management is sustainable is in terms of its integration with its waste management. The Green Exchange is a programme that allows outskirts slum dwellers to recycle in exchange for food and bus tickets. This again allows the poorest residents to access the transport system, boosting participation as well as social sustainability through meeting human needs. As well as this, the integration between transport and wastes incentivises the use of both, meaning that Curitiba has one of the highest recycling rates in the world as well as one of the lowest air pollution rates, therefore integration is again shown to increase public participation, which in turn allows environmental sustainability. As such, it is clear that Curitiba has achieved economic, social, and environmental sustainability almost entirely due to its level of integration.
Therefore, it seems that the role of transport and policy integration is paramount in the extent to which sustainability can be achieved, as shown by Curitiba. When comparing LEDCs and MEDCs, there are few discernible differences in the successes and failures of their management schemes: London and Mexico City were unable to achieve sustainability due to a lack of integration, whereas Freiburg and Curitiba were more successful when to opposite was true. However, one key difference between the two levels of development is to do with changes to transport systems over time. In terms of infrastructure changes, LEDCs may be at an advantage as they are still urbanising, and so can construct modern and integrated infrastructures in their cities with sustainability in mind. In contrast, MEDCs such as the UK experienced industrial revolutions over a century ago and as such have Victorian age railways, for example, meaning that the mode is less likely to be efficient and sustainable. In conclusion then, LEDCs are more likely to achieve sustainability, as they can tailor city planning to meet human needs, rather than simply change transport policy, thus allowing a fully integrated transport system that stimulates public participation.