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How can transport engineering assist 'green mobility' in urban areas?

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Transportation
Wordcount: 2443 words Published: 29th Nov 2021

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This report will explore the several practices that transport engineering can support green mobility in urban areas, where transport engineers play a key role on how to utilise these practices to increase sustainable modes of transport. A number of case studies are considered in this report where transport engineering is in place to support sustainability and the potential expansion of urban areas to assist green mobility.


A sustainable transportation system can be defined in many ways;

The EU Transport Council has defined a sustainable transport system as a system that:

  • Allows the basic access and development needs of society to be met safely and in a manner consistent with human and ecosystem health and promotes equity within and between successive generations.
  • Is affordable, operates fairly and efficiently, offers choice of transport mode, and supports a competitive economy, as well as balanced regional development.
  • Limits emissions and waste within the planet's ability to absorb them, uses renewable resources at or below their rates of generation and uses non-renewable resources at or below the rates of development of renewable substitutes while minimising the impact on the use of land and the generation of noise.

Whereas, The Geography of Transport Systems describe sustainable transport into three main categories where the development is based on transport modes, infrastructures and operations:


A reduction of the environmental impacts of transportation is a likely strategy for sustainability. Transportation contributes to harmful emissions, noise and to climate change. About 15% of the total greenhouse gases and 22% of the CO2 emissions are attributed to transportation. However, as vehicles are becoming more environmentally efficient the global fleet of vehicles is increasing as well. An improvement of the land use impacts of transportation, especially the impacts of infrastructure construction and maintenance, is also a strategic goal to achieve. Transportation systems are also a generator of wastes (vehicles, parts, packaging, etc.) that must be reduced, reused and recycled.

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Transportation is a factor of economic growth, development and employment. It requires materials for modes and infrastructure and energy for operations, which can be used more efficiently. Transportation should also have a fair pricing strategy, meaning that users are bearing the full costs (direct and indirect) of their usage of the transport system. A transport system where competition is fair and open is likely to promote modal choice and efficiency. In a system where transport is a public or private monopoly, price distortions and misallocations of capital are created, which on the long run are likely to render the system unsustainable.


Sustainable transportation should benefit the society. It should be safe, not impairing human health and should minimize disturbance on communities. Access and equity are also two important principles as transportation should promote the access to goods and services for as many people as possible.

Transportation has a significant importance in everyday life, from daily commutes, transportation of goods and access to vital services. However, now that our carbon footprint, the UN sustainable development goals and the Paris Agreement at the forefront of our minds, how can transport engineering assist with green mobility?

Case Study – Congestion Charging

Congestion Pricing, also known as congestion charging, is essentially charging a fee for entering a predetermined zone/area, ideally to reduce congestion, generate revenue to fund the expansion or improvement of infrastructure, improve air quality and monitor demand, so that controlling the congestion does not increase the supply. This can be applied to roads, airports, railways and even canals at busy times. The implementation of congestion pricing on urban roads are currently limited to a number of cities including London, Singapore, Stockholm, Milan and Gothenburg. There are plans for New York to apply congestion pricing to its city and proposals in Hong Kong, Manchester and San Francisco.

These predetermined zones and infrastructure necessary to implement these systems could not have been adopted without transport engineers. As the transport data collection and analysis is needed to monitor and control traffic in specified areas, new traffic control to implement the congestion charging and intelligent transport systems to run the systems on vehicles entering and exiting the area via inductive loops, sensors, adaptive gantry signs and automatic number plate recognition.

London is an example of congestion charging where the congestion charge area is shown in Figure 1. This is to influence people to use public transport or reduce congestion at a certain time of the day to avoid negative externalities, hence aiding green mobility.

Figure 1: Congestion Charge in Central London (TfL May 2018)

Another example is in Singapore. Due to its dense urban environment and to improve the pricing for congestion charging, Singapore uses a real-time variable pricing system. The system uses transport and traffic engineering principles where it uses traffic data collection to analyse traffic flow and congestion each hour. The reason for this is to accurately determine traffic conditions and vary the pricing in respect to the congestion, allowing better overall traffic management and air quality in the dense urban environment.

Case Study – Cycle Highways

Like congestion charging, cycle superhighways also known as bicycle highways, bike freeway or fast cycle route are primarily built to relieve automobile traffic congestion and pollution, as well as health benefits for society with increased exercise. Countries around the world including Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and United Kingdom have apply this cycling infrastructure to their respective cities, encouraging and developing sustainable urban transport using sustainable modes of transport such as electric automobiles, bicycles, e-bikes, walking and other forms of small wheeled vehicles.

A cycle highway is a high-quality functional cycling route that focuses on encouraging long-distance cycling. It can be made up of cycle lanes, cycle tracks or routes separate from the existing road infrastructure. Variations and alternative names given to cycle highways include superhighways and bicycle roads. Cycling superhighways should focus on promoting long or longer distance cycling where cycling lanes are separated from the existing road infrastructure for safety and well connected for accessibility to different regions, businesses and residential areas.

To integrated, create and utilise the cycle superhighway, knowledge from the transport engineer is vital to secure an efficient and effective network in an urban environment and support green mobility. Like congestion charging, it requires fundamental traffic engineering knowledge, data collection, transport modelling and elements of traffic control, especially since these networks must integrate with current road networks and public transport networks.

On the other hand, cycle superhighways have a few limitations. To maximise the utilisation of cycle superhighways, it must maximise the positive effects that it will have in the local area, therefore cycle superhighways can only be built in major cities where the positive effects make a difference socially, economically and environmentally. Due to the magnitude of a cycle superhighway project, it requires a significant amount of funding, time, maintenance and human resourcing. This is due to the new construction of pathways or repurposing disused paths or reconfiguration of existing road networks.

London and Copenhagen are huge example of using cycle superhighways. This system was introduced to London and Copenhagen in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

Figure 2: Map of Cycle Superhighways in London (TfL)

Figure 3: Map of Cycle Superhighways in Copenhagen (Supercykelstier)

Case Study – Bus Rapid Transit

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), also known as transit way or busway a bus-based transit system which is designed to improve efficiency, capacity, reliability and cost-effective services on existing or new road networks. The system runs on dedicated lanes with stations in certain areas usually in parallel to the centre of the road.

As the bus rapid transit includes qualities like a typical metro system or light rail system, it is considered more efficiency, reliable and easier than the traditional bus system where it avoids delays and traffic. There are certain features that enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of the BRT systems including junction priority, dedicated track and guidance, integrated design of infrastructure, Low or no emission source of fuel and close proximity docking allowing accessibility for all passengers to board or leave the bus.

The BRT systems promotes green mobility by encouraging the general public to use public transport which will elevate the congestion of automobiles and other public transport in urban environments, where some BRT systems strongly use low to no carbon emission propulsion which is sustainable economically, socially and environmentally.


Every Civil Engineer who is a member of the Institute of Civil Engineers must fulfil the code of conduct where they must approve to the following statement, 'All members shall show due regard for the environment and for the sustainable management of natural resources.' As a society we are under immerse pressure to make the essential changes to prevent further sustainable damages in the social, economic and environmental aspect. Hence, transportation and traffic engineers play a fundamental role in creating designs to promote green mobility now and in the future.

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Sustainable systems of transportation currently and for the future is crucial especially with the growing global population and international agreements to improve sustainability for the world. The principles of transportation and traffic engineering will and should provide green mobility for people, goods, information and energy through reducing congestion to increasing smarter technologies applied to new or existing systems. Nevertheless, this is only possible with collaboration and communication with all parties involved such as local governments, engineering firms and authorities.

Future transport engineers and designers should be aware of the design life and purpose of their configurations and plans, as it is key to consider the economic, social and environmental values today and foreseeing issues that may come in the expansion of the urban environment while promoting green mobility.

Sustainable transport must be in accordance with safety standards and must consider financial limitations where must be aligned with the budget given but without damaging the current and future local economy. It is necessary that transport engineers collaborate with authorities, other firms and governments to successfully achieve sustainable goals and utilise as much as possible for a successful sustainable transportation system to be implemented.

Transportation and traffic engineering principles and practices can be utilised for the encouragement of green mobility and sustainability from implementing intelligent systems that support green mobility across urban areas, traffic analysis and data collection sensors improving signal times to integrated transit hubs that can support any fore coming demand. Transportation engineering is currently desirable for this dynamic state in the world's sustainability where certain design through the technical knowledge of transport engineers to promote the green mobility movement.


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