Monday, March 19, 2012

Reduction of CO2 emissions of transport by reorganisation of urban activities

by Michael Wegener

It is generally believed that the private automobile has been the primary cause of the expansion of cities over wider and wider areas. However suburbanisation was not caused by the car but has been the consequence of the same changes in the socio-economic context of urban life that were also responsible for the growth in car ownership: increase in income, more working women, smaller households, shorter work hours and a consequential change in lifestyles and housing preferences towards quality of life, leisure and recreation. Under these conditions, the car and low fuel prices brought low-density suburban living within the reach of not only the rich, with the result that for the last thirty years the growth of cities has occurred primarily in the suburbs. Offices, light industry, services and retail started to decentralise later following either their employees or their markets or both taking advantage of attractive suburban locations with good accessibility, ample parking and lower land prices.
However, while this deconcentration process clearly reflects the preferences of the majority of the population, its negative side effects are more and more becoming apparent: longer work and shopping trips, increasing rush-hour congestion and less and less acceptable levels of noise, air pollution and traffic accidents. In particular the high energy consumption of transport in lowdensity cities has become an issue of growing concern. The fear of diminishing fossil fuels and the threat of long-term climate changes due to greenhouse gases have sharpened the awareness that present energy prices do not nearly cover the environmental and social costs of energy use and that the level of energy consumption in affluent countries represents a gross unfairness against developing countries which can never be allowed to rise to the same standards. At the United Nations conference on the global environment in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 many governments pledged to substantially reduce their use of fossil energy and emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). The German government promised to reduce CO2 emissions from all sources by 30 percent compared with 1987 by 2005. As transport represents a major share of primary energy consumption, serious attempts to lower the energy use of urban transport are necessary to achieve this goal.

Major subsystems of the Dortmund model. Taken from the above paper: Paper presented at the seminar of the Special Interest Group Transport and Spatial Development of the World Conference on Transport Research (WCTRS) in Blackheath, Australia, in December 1993. Published in: Hayashi, Y., Roy, J., eds. (1996): Transport, Land-Use and the Environment, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 103-124.

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