- To accommodate the population movement and to meet increasing demands from a diverse group of constituents, government is re-examining current transportation systems to determine how to accommodate a growing and socioeconomically diverse population, while seeking to minimize environmental pollution and urban congestion. Within this context, sustainable transportation approaches, such as public transit and comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian networks, become a critical part of a city’s growth strategy and its ability to effectively meet the needs of its residents.
Sustainable transportation options can serve to attract and accommodate the varied needs and desires of urban residents, and are often part of a long-term strategy that includes the integration of various systems, both across geographies and modes of travel. A sustainable transportation system is one that allows the basic access and mobility needs of all individuals to be met safely; is affordable; provides multiple transport options and supports both public health and a vibrant economy; limits emissions; and minimizes consumption of non-renewable resources.
Transportation Challenges describes environmental, social and economic challenges associated with establishing a sustainable transportation network such as:
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Transportation is a part of greenhouse gas emissions.
- Fossil Fuels: Non-renewable fossil fuels, such as coal, petroleum (oil), and natural gas were used in the transportation system increasingly that impact to the decreasing of these natural resources and fluctuations in the price of fuel violence.
- Renewable Energy: Alternative fuel vehicles are becoming more commonplace, for city departments and otherwise, as gas prices continue to rise. However, reliable access to renewable energy options to power current and future transportation demands continues to remain a challenge.
- Funding: Across the country local governments are struggling to maintain and repair aging transportation infrastructure such as roadways, highways, and bridges. Cities that support multi-modal transportation options must often decide how to allocate financial resources to both ensuring the safety of existing transportation infrastructure while also supporting new options such as public transit, complete streets, and increased connectivity. Federal funding sources often have rigid parameters on the type of transportation projects the money can fund, which may limit or exclude multi-modal transportation options.
- Demand Management: Regardless of how many or what types of multi-modal options a local government decides to invest in, one of the biggest challenges is being able to meet the demand by consumers at various times of the day. While public transit helps to alleviate peak level traffic on roads, transit agencies still face the challenge of ensuring that public transit infrastructure is flexible enough to accommodate various passenger loads throughout the day. Similarly, local governments often face the challenge of pricing transit options appropriately so that maintenance costs are covered while keeping fares affordable for users.
- Spatial Mismatch: Although people are moving back to cities in high numbers, at a local and regional scale there is often a disparity between where residents can afford to live and where employment opportunities and various amenities are located. As a result, many residents experience long commutes in personal vehicles (contributing to traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions), or via public transit that may or may not be fully integrated into a multi-modal transportation network that provides convenient access to areas outside of the immediate downtown corridor. This spatial mismatch can be a significant challenge for local governments attempting to meet the travel demands of an increasingly socioeconomically diverse and multi-generational population.
- Commuting Costs: Commuting costs are often a deterrent for residents who would typically use public transit options. In some cases, commuting by car is cheaper than using public transit. Additionally, if multi-modal systems are not fully integrated, traveling by public transit could take more time than driving.
- Human Health: Human health is impacted by emissions, especially for the very young, elderly and those who already suffer from respiratory disease. While the government has been successful in reducing emissions from transportation and other sources, exposure to air pollution, as well as sedentary behavior encouraged by automobile travel, can exacerbate respiratory illness, anxiety, and produce indirect health effects such as obesity and heart disease.
- Public Safety and Education: Cities that offer multiple modes of transportation for residents often face the challenge of ensuring that all road users are safe, comfortable and knowledgeable about the multi-modal transportation system. The first component is that bicycle and pedestrian networks may not be easily visually marked, increasing the rate of fatalities when sharing the road with automobiles. Additionally, a lack of knowledge about how to navigate the road with various types of users also has a large impact on safety.