Battle Against the Fumes

Along with the population, the battle for a sustainable future is moving to the cities. Air pollution is one of the most essential issues affecting the urban environment, and increased traffic is making it exponentially worse. New applications of digitised transportation access will play a growing role in sustainable urban mobility.

Matevž Smole
Feb 13 · 5 min read

Along with the population, the battle for a sustainable future is moving to the cities. As mentioned in our previous article, urbanisation is already affecting the quality of our lives in many ways.

As of 2016, 90% of urban dwellers have been breathing unsafe air, resulting in 4.2 million deaths due to ambient air pollution.¹

Air pollution in particular is one of the most essential issues affecting the urban environment, and increased traffic is making it exponentially worse.

Looking at historical information, global traffic congestion is up 23% since 2008.² On a more local level, traffic congestion increases the rate of vehicle emissions and degrades air quality, and some studies have shown higher rates of disease and mortality for drivers and people living near major roadways.³ The stress of being stuck in traffic has even been linked to an increase in domestic violence.⁴

Commuting Takes Its Toll

One of the most comprehensive studies on the impact of traffic congestion discovered that London drivers commuting to work spent 74 hours in traffic⁵ in 2017 — that’s almost two weeks of full-time work!

In an analysis of over a hundred cities and towns across the UK, researchers established that the direct and indirect costs of congestion for all drivers totalled more than £37.7 billion in 2017, meaning an average of £1,168 per driver.⁶ In Germany, costs amount to approximately 1,500 EUR per year.

The graph below shows the numbers of peak hours spent in congestions and percentage of a driver’s total drive time (peak and non-peak hours) in congestion in ten most congested cities in wider Europe:⁷

How can we solve these problems?

Is Investing in the Road Network the Answer?

According to a theory that has become known as the ‘Downs-Thomson paradox’, the answer may very likely be ‘No’. In fact, improvements in the road network that affect public transportation can make congestion even worse by shifting investment away from the public transport system. This leads to a phenomenon called induced traffic, which is a contributing factor to (sub)urban sprawl: rapid unplanned urban growth which is often regarded as unsustainable.⁹

Urban sprawl

Smart Cities: A Better Alternative?

One of the ideas for lowering pollution and achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals aimed at Sustainable Cities and Communities¹⁰ is the so-called Smart City Concept. With the use of digital technologies, its goal is to create sustainable economic development and a high quality of life by improving areas like mobility and environment.

Smart City technology allows city officials to interact directly with both the community and with city infrastructure in order to monitor how the city is evolving. Officials use Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to enhance the quality, performance, and interactivity of urban services, reducing costs and resource consumption and increasing contact between citizens and government.¹¹ This helps ensure everyone has a role in the sustainable growth of their city.

Sustainable Urban Mobility

Sustainable Urban Mobility aims to reduce traffic congestion in cities by using innovative technology and big data solutions, resulting in more effective traffic management and improved commuting habits.

Given limited city budgets and increased awareness of the role of smart technologies in optimising the performance of existing transportation infrastructure, support for these technologies across all forms of transportation is expected to increase in future years.¹²

New technologies can help urban environments sustain growth and improve efficiency for citizen welfare and government efficiency. Smart mobility technologies can help people access and exploit multiple transportation options and make the most of available transportation alternatives. New applications of digitised transportation access will play a growing role in sustainable urban mobility.¹³

When it comes to improving urban mobility, it is important to include citizens, local businesses, public services, and governing bodies as stakeholders. Policies that target sustainability can be successful only if they are genuinely embraced by citizens.¹⁴

It all comes down to creating effective policies that engage and motivate citizens to help achieve the goals of their urban environment by incentivising positive changes in their behavior.

How do we achieve a proactive stance and engage daily commuters? What methods can we use to achieve this goal?

Stay tuned for our upcoming series of posts to find out more!

Sources

[1]: UN. Sustainable Development Goals. (link)

[2]: TomTom. Traffic Index 2017 News Release. (link)

[3]: Zhang K., Batterman S. Air pollution and health risks due to vehicle traffic. Sci Total Environ. 2013;450–451:307–16. (link)

[4]: Beland L.-P., Brent D. The stress of sitting in traffic can lead to more crime. (link)

[5]: INRIX. 2017 Global Traffic Scorecard. (link)

[6]: INRIX. UK Traffic Scorecard News Release. (link)

[7]: INRIX. 2017 Global Traffic Scorecard. (link)

[8]: Wikipedia. (link)

[9]: Batty M., Besussi E.; Chin, Nancy (November 2003). “Traffic, Urban Growth and Suburban Sprawl” (PDF). UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis Working Papers Series. 70. ISSN 1467–1298.

[10]: UN. Sustainable Development Goal 11: “Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. (link)

[11]: Wikipedia. (link)

[12]: Dia H. The Smart Future of Urban Mobility. (link)

[13]: Lenz B., Heinrichs D. What Can We Learn from Smart Urban Mobility Technologies? IEEE Pervasive Computing, Volume: 16 , Issue: 2 , April-June 2017.

[14]: Kazhamiakin R., Marconi A., Perillo M., Pistore M., Piras L., Avesani F., Perri N., Valetto G. (2015). Using Gamification to Incentivize Sustainable Urban Mobility; 10.13140/RG.2.1.2622.2166; page 1.

Green City Protocol

Developing sustainable urban solutions for the cities of today.

Matevž Smole

Written by

Green City Protocol

Developing sustainable urban solutions for the cities of today.

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