Today's transport sector is predominantly based on combustion of fossil fuels, making it one of the largest sources of both urban and regional air pollution and greenhouse gases. Furthermore, it is the cause of other environmental and social ill effects, ranging from loss of land and open space to noise-related nuisance, injuries, and deaths arising from accidents. Yet, the movement of goods and people is crucial for social and economic development by enabling trade and providing opportunities for employment, education and leisure. We therefore need to move towards sustainable mobility.
Many countries/ cities in developing countries still have a high share of public transport and non-motorized modes inurban areas but these two modes are losing it shares because of its inability to cope with the demand for transport in par with economic and population growth. The challenge is sustain the high modal share by continuously improving the existing systems.
Improvements in public transport sector provide the largest opportunity for avoiding future transport emissions and an optimal development pathway for the transport sector. The overall benefits of transport sector to human well being can be achieved with the provision of right technological options and investments on infrastructure and, complemented with appropriate policies and regulatory framework. An efficient and clean public transport system has low specific energy consumption and emission per passenger/ goods per kilometre travelled/transported. Public transport (buses, light rail, metros, and trains) uses less space for transporting goods and services as opposed to private vehicles – creating an optimal land use management for social and economic activities while protecting the environment. More importantly, it provides equitable transport services to a large segment of the population especially the underserved population.
In keeping up with its broader mission as custodian of the global environment, UNEP promotes the integration of environmental considerations into transport-related decisions at all levels, ranging from global to personal. The overall objective is to bring about a shift to both transport systems and approaches to mobility that are less disruptive to the environment.
Promoting public transportation systems falls within UNEP’s strategy on mode –shifting that is to promote a shift from private motor vehicle use to public transport and non-motorized transport in urban areas through better planning and infrastructure. This involves :
- Rethinking transport systems, promoting inter-modality and encouraging the use of the most energy efficient mode of transport, i.e., wherever possible switch from air to rail, from the personal vehicle to public transport or non-motorized transportation;
- The diffusion of cleaner technologies and the deployment of relevant policies that drive them to reduce environmental impacts
- And, mobilizing investment in mass transit technologies, in particular Bus Rapid Transit systems.