How can future transport systems be made sustainable and equitable?

sustainable transport

The methods of transportation we currently use are huge energy consumers, which does not help us on the road to reducing emissions. Transitioning to sustainable transport would help us remove toxic greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and adequately reduce our emissions, contributing to overall environmental sustainability.

The need to achieve this transition relatively quickly cannot be understated. Moreover, switching to more sustainable transport systems has benefits for our economies and health too. Read on to explore how our future transport systems can be greened and made equitable. 

What is sustainable transport?

Generally, sustainable transport refers to transport that is eco-friendly in terms of environmental, climate, and social impacts. Elements for evaluating the sustainability of a particular vehicle include the energy source, how many harmful gases it is emitting, and its impact on society. 

Green transport systems positively contribute to the environmental, economic, and social sustainability of the communities they serve. The transportation systems we use day to day have significant impacts on the planet. Road transport has been found to be a major emitter. 

Essentially, sustainable transportation is low or zero-emission, energy efficient, and affordable. It may include alternative-fuel vehicles or fully electric vehicles. Additionally, public transport, cycling, and walking are also forms of sustainable transport. 

The importance of sustainable transport

Sustainable transport refers to individuals taking the impact of their travel on the planet into consideration. This could involve deciding to walk or cycle short distances instead of driving, for example. In addition, using public transport. Green transportation is sustainable transportation in that it is powered by resources which are not depleted when used. This makes them harnessable by future generations.

There are lots of different types of sustainable transport, from electric vehicles and bikes to hybrid models, too. Opting for sustainable transport has many benefits for the planet. Particularly, it improves air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. This is vital for the health of our people and the planet as a whole. Making the switch to green transportation will protect the Earth for future generations and help us lessen our use of fossil fuels which are causing global problems. 

Sustainable mobility allows us to take steps towards sustainable development and ensure a safe environment for all. Additionally, it enhances economic and social development across nations. Reducing emissions will also have huge benefits for the health of our people as well as our society. This is because a culture that embraces sustainable transport will ultimately reduce air pollution. 

Research from the World Health Organization has found correlations between air pollution and heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases. Therefore, if we are to achieve a thriving, climate-resilient future, we need to change to more sustainable transport systems. 

Current global issues in the transport sector

Transportation accounts for more than a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Therefore, this sector is playing a major role in the current climate crisis, and something needs to change. As mentioned above, sustainable transportation looks to reduce the ecological footprint of transport. In saying that, we too must recognise transport is the backbone of most economies. 

It is transport that enables employment opportunities and the matching of goods, services, and amenities with potential consumers. With such a competitive economy, an efficient and reliable transport system that is also affordable to all network users is needed. Additionally, one that does not have adverse effects on ecosystem services or the health of our society. 

The transport industry faces several challenges globally. One of the major ones is the commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the 2030 deadline. Additionally, delivering on targets for electric vehicle market penetration and renewable energy has also proved to be challenging. It is important to note that private car travel has more negative effects on the planet.

These include localised air pollution, waste production, water pollution, ambient noise, and the effects on biodiversity. Urbanisation and global increases in population are also on the rise, which means the demand for transportation systems that can service hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people daily are strong. Moving people is never easy, especially when it comes to sustainability. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has also had an impact on the transportation industry. While restrictions on movement have been lifted, many individuals still select private modes of transportation as opposed to sustainable options like public transport. Another important thing to note is that transportation infrastructure varies significantly across the globe. 

Most of the countries in the developed world have many different transport options. However, these options are not always available in a sustainable or equitable manner. By contrast, the demand for transportation for goods and people is growing each year significantly in the developing world. 

Sustainable transport best practices

Now that you understand the importance of greening our transportation systems, let’s look at some sustainable transport best practices. Developing a sustainable and equitable transportation system is in our best interest if we are to achieve the ambitious climate goals and build a prosperous, climate-resilient society. 

To start, we need to identify what exactly sustainable transportation means for our cities. When planning, it is all about improving the quality of life of residents while helping the environment. Therefore, we need to ask questions about what would best serve the residents while also helping us achieve our environmental goals and green our transport systems. 

Another thing that must be considered is the balance between the planet, vehicles, and humans. Under sustainable transportation, there is a dynamic, healthy, and desirable balance between vehicles, humans and our natural systems. What this means is that making transportation more sustainable and accessible to all goes hand in hand. 

A framework should be created to guide the implementation process and allow for measurement of the impact and successful completion of the milestones. The triple-bottom-line approach is absolutely necessary when it comes to building sustainable and equitable transportation systems. This means looking at society, the economy, and the planet. 

Remember that when transitioning old systems to more eco-friendly ones, it works over a period of time. This time frame allows us to evaluate and monitor progress. Therefore, there should be an implementation date and endpoints for specific plans and programmes. This will help ensure actual changes occur and inform whether we are nearing our goals. 

Sustainable solutions for urban transport planning

The future of sustainable transport looks very promising. Solutions for the future have been shown in many different innovations and initiatives. For example, Copenhagen has installed new bike lanes which strive to protect cyclists in the case of poor weather events as well as accidents. Bike Share programmes are also proving to be an affordable option for getting around North American cities. 

This initiative means people can find bikes 24 hours per day on just about any street corner. Additionally, electric cars are continuing to take off with models like the Nissan Leag using zero-emission technology. What this means is they will not release harmful gases into the air. So the future of sustainable transport is looking bright with lots of alternatives that do not deplete the Earth’s resources. 

Between bikes, public transport, carpools, and electric cars, people in cities have many options to choose from that will be less harmful to the planet. Many cities are also encouraging more walking by enhancing community spaces with pedestrian-friendly features including street art, plants, and benches. This makes the community a bit more interesting for people. 

A number of cities have also adopted the 15-minute city model, which emphasises accessibility and walking. The idea is nothing new, but the trending concept is the exact opposite of traditional planning models. In other words, the 15-minute city does not separate  land uses, and car traffic is less encouraged. 

Ultimately, it integrates various land uses into a cohesive people-centred development to move away from private cars and promote more sustainable methods of transportation like cycling, public transport and walking. Paris and Barcelona are two cities that have already adopted the concept. As a result, these cities have been transformed. The concept benefits the health of populations and helps us fight climate change while ensuring transportation is equitable. 

It is centred around the idea of reducing the need to travel. Many more governments globally should look into this concept and integrate elements of it within their cities to green transport. The 15-minute city improves street life and supports community engagement. This is important for any thriving and prosperous society. 


We desperately need to reduce our emissions to protect the Earth. Transportation is a significant emitter of harmful gases that contribute to a warming climate. Therefore, sustainable transportation offers an opportunity to drastically reduce emissions and meet our ambitious climate goals. Green transport has huge benefits for the planet but also for economic and social development. Numerous countries have already begun implementing initiatives to make their transport systems more sustainable. These approaches have proven quite successful in making transport accessible to all and less harmful to the environment.

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