There has never been a better time to rethink public transport
As the pandemic is gradually brought under control in a growing number of countries and we return to public transport, many cities want take the opportunity to make this option attractive to everyone, including those who can afford to drive and park in cities, and across ambitious investment plans find a solution to congestion and air pollution.
Green public transport policies could play a major role in shaping our post-pandemic future: we desperately need to give up fossil fuels, but even if we started a transition to electric vehicles for private use (responsible for 75% of urban emissions), the emissions produced by transport would be continues to grow up to 16% more by 2050, something totally incompatible with the Paris agreement. And although a good part of these shows are not produced in cities, but by planes, as good as ships and other means of transportation, there is no doubt that cities have become heat islands due to the combined effect of their emissions and global warming. We only have 10 years to halve our carbon dioxide emissions, and that will require some very ambitious and unpopular changes.
Cities around the world have started to prepare for the return of commuters to public transport as more and more people are vaccinated and the perception of risk drops sharply. Paris is gradually decarbonize public transport, Oxford and Coventry are switch to electric buses, Helsinki hopes to distinguish itself as best urban transport city in the world by 2035, Dubai aims 25% of all trips in the city are made by electric robots, while Malaga, Oxford and several Chinese cities are experimenting with autonomous electric buses.
All over the world, cities are trying, with promising results, to maintain the traffic restrictions they put in place during the pandemic, significantly increase cycle paths, remove gas stations from urban areas, and improve the user experience of public transport with easy-to-use applications and payment systems.
It’s all part of the movement of slow cities, which is gaining popularity for its immediate effects on safety and emissions, and which could very well adapt to changes in habits following the end of the pandemic, such as the possible end of peak hours resulting from the greater number of people working from home. Investing in improving and adapting public transport networks is part of a transition that promises not only to reduce car use and air pollution, but also to protect the rights of the most vulnerable. It is estimated that cities could reduce transport emissions by 80%.
But other measures are needed, and they will be more difficult to implement: increase taxes on fossil fuels every year, ban advertising of internal combustion engine vehicles and associated sports competitions as has happened. with tobacco, restrict the movement of these vehicles (starting with the city center but gradually expanding), end of street parking and by providing economic incentives to trade in diesel or gasoline vehicles, as well as by developing infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians, as well as cheap and quality public transport.
Should governments encourage the use of electric vehicles? Yes, in two ways: because they are more efficient and less expensive than diesel or gasoline in the medium and long term. At the same time, their return on investment is better and is the fastest way to help contain the rise in global temperature. Mary Barra can say what she likes, but the solution is not for all of us to go and buy autonomous vehicles; instead, we need to see cars as just another form of public transport, a service, whether public or private.
The end of a pandemic that made us accept huge changes is a perfect opportunity to rethink a lot about the future. And public transport should be one of them.