Transport is responsible for a significant proportion of carbon emissions in the UK; 27%, according to the latest Government figures, of which 91% came from road vehicles, with cars and taxis responsible for two-thirds of that.
But what is the most effective way to reduce these emissions? And how could changes impact on other issues such as air quality or congestion? These were the questions asked of a study of five cities in Ireland – Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford – which took place over 2020 and 2021.
From a national policy perspective, the most effective way to cut carbon from transport and improve the urban environment turned out to be 15-minute-cities or neighbourhoods. A concept being pioneered in Paris and adopted in other cities – although the UK is a bit behind – the idea is that people of any age or ability should be able to get to work, shops, leisure, healthcare within a 15-minute bike ride or walk.
The challenge with the 15-minute neighbourhood is that it requires significant changes to national and local planning policy and cannot be implemented in the short term. However, the study of the Irish cities, conducted by consultancy Systra on behalf of Ireland’s Department for Transport, also looked at a huge range of possible measures for reducing road traffic that could be deployed at a local level.
The raft of 28 local measures examined in the study are grouped into four categories: fiscal measures, parking and traffic management, behavioural change, technology and communications. And each measure is rated in terms of its positive or negative impact on carbon, congestion, air quality and urban environment. The assessment of each measure also includes evidence drawn from best practice in cities around the world.
So, for example beefing up the electric vehicle (EV) charging network was given a score of +1 (on a scale of -3 to +3) for carbon reduction, +2 for air quality but -1 for both congestion and urban environment. Promoting car sharing schemes scored +1 for congestion, carbon and air quality and 0 for urban environment. School streets and safe routes to school scored +1 for congestion, carbon and urban environment and +2 for air quality.
Of course, not all measures will work in every town or city. And each location will have different problems that it needs to tackle. But this report, Five Cities Demand Management Study, which can be accessed online (see link below), would certainly make good initial reading for any authority which is looking to make changes to its transport planning and policies.
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Credit: 15 minute city by Prof. C. Moreno, Paris Sorbonne IAE, Illustration by Micaël