Minnesotans For Sustainability


Home ] Up ] Feedback Please ] Table of Contents ] Search MFS ] MFS News ]

Sustainable Society:  A society that balances the environment, other life forms, and human interactions over an indefinite time period.







Technology & Production Systems


Road Transport and Road Building

Sandy Irvine & Alec Ponton*


In terms of policy and investment, mobility today means the motor car. Over the past 40 years, the number of cars around the world has increased tenfold to over 500 million. If the rest of Asia were to achieve the same ratio of cars to people as Japan (not high compared to America), the number of cars in the world would double.

By 2025 in the UK there could be between 70% and 110% more vehicles on the roads than there are today, giving Britain more cars per head than present-day Los Angeles which is already suffocating from exhaust emissions. As the number of road vehicles has increased, new roads and car parks have been built to cope with the increasing demand.

Between 1980 and 1990 the length of the motorway system was increased by 20% while the road network as a whole grew by 5%. New roads and road maintenance cost the country around 2.4 billion per year at present.

In the EU as a whole, freight transport has risen from 581 billion tonne-kilometres in 1980 to 826 billion in 1990. This increase is the result of the cheapness of transport, the strategies of industrialists and others to put more freight on the roads as part of their cost cutting operational reforms (just-in-time transport) and the reductions in journey times as more motorways, bridges and tunnels increase the opportunities for sending freight by road.

These trends are all manifestations of the deliberate creation or generation of freight traffic as part of a drive to increase economic activity and improve the international competitiveness of the European Community. Production is being centralised at fewer sites over time thus reducing the total employment in any economic sector. Transport systems are so cheap to use that it is profitable to reorganise distribution and manufacturing on continental scales.

Very powerful and well funded interest groups are pushing for new transportation links in Europe. The European Commission wants to build 12,500 km of new motorway standard roads while the International Road Federation has plans for a new motorway completely encircling the Mediterranean; the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development are funding new motorways throughout Eastern Europe and the ex-Soviet Union.

To date, Britain's Department of Transport has catered simply-and ruthlessly- for the needs of road builders and car manufacturers. Whereas the rail network is managed by other bodies, the DoT is directly responsible for road planning and construction. Not surprisingly, criteria used in public enquiries are rigged, discounting many environmental and human factors. Often it is quite devious, disguising plans for a whole new cross-country road in the form of a series of seemingly innocuous bypasses and little link roads. Whether its recent merger with the Environment ministry will make much difference remains to be seen.

Greener Transport Systems & Traffic Management

To move in a more sustainable direction, transport policy needs to be guided by a totally new set of priorities. Avenues for study include the nature of general principles for a sustainable transport strategy.

The following are offered for debate:

  • People before machines (e.g. abandonment of the current road-building programme, slower speed limits, longer crossing times at pedestrian lights);
  • People-powered machines before other machines (e.g. massive switch in transport expenditure to cycle provision);
  • Public transport before private vehicles (e.g. discrimination in favour of buses and trains; phasing out of indirect tax perks for car drivers and increased charges on goods vehicles, using savings and new revenue to cut public transport fares, provide more staff on buses, stations, and trains etc.); and
  • Local needs before those of external and through traffic (e.g. preferential treatment for local residents).

Another area for research is the kind of legislation needed to set appropriate standards for all new vehicles on energy efficiency, safety, and noise pollution, including, perhaps, maximum speeds and engine sizes. In the long run, however, a sustainable society probably may have to phase out private vehicle ownership in favour of rental schemes. A quick reconsideration of current trends, outlined above, shows that this 'utopian' option might be the only viable one available.

At the same time, broader social and economic changes could reduce the need for so much movement of goods and people. For example, planning controls could be used to stop out-of-town retail and office development, most of which is based on widespread car usage. More flexible working arrangements and a shorter working week might not only create jobs for the unemployed but also reduce congestion. A ban on car advertising could be one, albeit controversial, way to undermine the cult that currently surrounds the motor car. An energy tax would make massive inroads into excessive transportation. In the meantime, special purchase taxes on petrol guzzling vehicles could be used.

Furthermore, individual organisations could give a lead. More sustainable alternatives to present practices, such as subsidised business cars and free car parking, include:

  • New vehicles to be purchased on the basis of maximum fuel efficiency and possession of appropriate emission control technology;
  • Reduction of car mileage rates for business travel, with one rate regardless of engine capacity;
  • Provision of loans or subsidy for staff wishing to purchase a travel pass;
  • Provision of changing and shower facilities in large organisations (e.g. for cyclists), plus secure cycle parking facilities; cycle mileage allowances; and
  • No increase in provision for car parking.

General transportation

Bendixson, T. Instead of Cars Pelican, 1977. An earlier but unheeded call to change direction.
Bowers, C. Europe's Motorways: The Drive for Mobility. The Ecologist, 23(4), 1993: 125-131.
Bray, J., The Push for Roads: A Programme for Economic Recovery London: Alarm UK & Transport 2000, 1992.
CPRE. Tranquil Area Map. CPRE, 1993. 2 maps SE & NE England showing the loss of rural tranquillity due to road developments & increasing traffic.
CPRE. Driven to Dig-Road Building and Aggregates Demand. CPRE, 1993. Exposes the link between destructive increases in aggregate extraction and the expansion of the road network.
CPRE. Rules of the Road. CPRE, 1992. CPRE critique of planning procedures.
CPRE. Wheeling Out of Control. CPRE, 1992. Short CPRE position statement.
CPRE. Concrete and Tyres-Local Development Effects of Major Roads: the M40. CPRE, 1992. Case study of how the immediate and direct environmental impacts of road building are made worse by follow-on building developments.
CPRE. Where the Motor car is Master-How the Department of Transport Became Bewitched by Roads. CPRE, 1992.
Davis, R. Death on the Streets. Leading Edge, 1993.
Freund, P. & G. Martin. The Ecology of the Automobile. 1993.
Garb, Y. The Trans-Israel Highway. Earth Island, Spring, 1997: 28. Motorway madness in the Middle East.
Grieco, M. The Impact of Transport Investment Programmes on the Inner City. Oxford Transport Studies Unit, 1988. How road schemes can damage the inner city economy by exposing it to competition from outside.
Hamer, N. Wheels Within Wheels: A Study of the Road Lobby. RKP, 1987.
Johansson, J., et al. Blueprint 5: The True Costs of Road Transport. Earthscan, 1995.
Kay, J. Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America and How We Can Take It Back. Crown Publishers, 1997.
Nadis, S. & J. Mackenzie. Car Trouble. Beacon Press, 1993.
Newman, P. & J. Kenworthy. Cities and Automobile Dependencies: an International Source book. Gower, 1989.
Noss, R. The Ecological Effects of Roads or the Road to Destruction. Wildlands Centre for Preventing Roads, 1995.
Renner, M. Rethinking the Role of the Automobile. Worldwatch Institute, 1988.
St. Clair, D. Motorization of American Cities. Praegar, 1986.
Sachs, W. For the Love of the Automobile: Looking Back into the History of Our Desires. Univ. California Pr., 1992.
Tunali, O. A Billion Cars: The Road Ahead. Worldwatch, 9(1), 1996: 24-23.
Whitelegg, J. Time Pollution. The Ecologist, 23(4), 1993: 132-134. A major consumer of time is the machine designed to save time, motor transport.
Williams, H. Autogeddon. Jonathon Cape, 1991. No punches pulled polemic with much startling information and striking pictures.
Wilshire, H. The Wheeled Locusts. Wild Earth, Spring, 1992: 27-31. The costs of off-road vehicles.

References: Air Transport

Barret, M. Aircraft Pollution: Environmental Impacts and Future Solutions. WWF (UK), 1991.
Scanlon, J. Behind the Contrail Curtain. Earth Island, Summer, 1997: 36. Atmospheric pollution from aeroplanes.
Smith, G. Oil Spills in the Sky. Earth Island, Summer, 1997: 34-35. Resource depletion, pollution, noise and climatic change due to jet flights. A panel spotlights the dirtiest planes.
Teffort, J. Runaway Madness. Real World, 13, 1995:16. Attack on Heathrow expansion plans.

Rail Transport

CPRE. How Green is Your Railway? High Speed Railway Construction and the Environment-Lessons from Europe. CPRE, 1992. Many people see railways as the way forward yet they can have some bad environmental impacts.
Lowe, M. Back on Track: The Global Rail Revival. Worldwatch Institute, 1994.
Thornton, R. D. Why the US Needs A Magalev System, Technology Review, Apr., 1991: 31-42. The case for magnetic levitation trains.

Greener Transport Systems & Traffic Management

Ballantine, R. Richard's New Bicycle Book. Oxford Illustrated Pr., 1988.
American Public Transit System. Mass Transit: The Clean Air Alternative Washington, DC: American Public Transit Association, 1989.
Cyclists Touring Club. Costing the Benefits of Cycling. Godalming: CTC, 1993.
FoE. An Illustrated Guide to Traffic Calming. FoE, 1990.
FoE. Less Traffic, Better Towns FoE. 1992.
Kelbaugh, D., ed. The Pedestrian Pocketbook: A New Suburban Design Strategy. Princeton Architectural Pr., 1989.
Lowe, M. The Bicycle: Vehicle for a Small Planet. WorldWatch Institute, 1989.
Lowe, M. Alternatives to the Automobile: Transport for Liveable Cities. WorldWatch Institute, 1990.
Nieuwenhuis, P, et al. The Green Car Guide Green Print, 1992. Though the explosive growth in the sheer number of vehicles will devour, if unchecked, whatever can be achieved by better design and traffic management, as advocated by the authors, nevertheless the volume offers many useful interim measures.
Perrin, N. Life with an Electric Car. Sierra Books, n.d.
Plowden, S. Taming Traffic Andre Deutsch, 1980.
Tolley, R., ed. The Greening of Urban Transport: Planning for Walking and Cycling in Western Cities. Belhaven, 1990.
Whitelegg J. Traffic Congestion: Is There A Way Out? Leading Edge, 1992.

More material, especially on the production side of transport systems, is cited in the section on manufacturing. Most of the general books on environmental issues make extensive References to transportation issues

See also:
Ghazi, P, et al. National Transport Plan. Guardian Media Group, 1995. Pamphlet version of two page spread first published in The Observer, 18.6.95.
Hopkinson P., et al. Environmental Policy, Legislation and Business Strategy: The Case of the Transport Sector. In R. Welford, ed., Cases in Environmental Management and Business Strategy. Pitman, 1994.
MacKenzie, J. The Keys to the Car: Electric and Hydrogen Vehicles for the 21st Century. World Resources Institute/Earthscan, 1994.
Sperling, D. Future Drive: Electric Vehicles and Sustainable Transportation. Island Pr., 1994.
Rocket Flight and the Colonisation of Outer Space.
Aftergood, S. Poisoned Plumes. New Scientist, 7/9/91: 33-37. Rockets emit clouds of toxic exhaust fumes.
Aldrige, a. & H. Skolimowski. Pie in the Sky: Do We Really Want Colonies in Space? The Ecologist, 7(10), 1977: 390-394.
Booth, N. Space Junk. Green Magazine, Nov., 1989: 44-47. Includes table of nuclear accidents in space.
Gorelick, S. The Cassini Gamble: Scientists Go for Broke. The Ecologist, 27(6), 1997: 214-216. Satanic madness from space scientists with the folly of the Cassini spacecraft.
Grossman, K. The Wrong Stuff. Common Courage Pr., 1997.
Hardin, G. Interstellar Migration and the Population Problem. Jnl of Heredity, 50, 1959: 68-70. Hardin fired a rocket through the fantasy that overpopulation could be mitigated by migration into outer space but most people seem befuddled by watching too many episodes of Star Trek.
Hardin, G. The Semantics of "Space". ETC, 23, 1966: 167-171. Hardin cuts through the woolly rhetoric employed to support the space programme.
Hardin, G. A Rapout of O'Neill's Dream. CoEvolution Quaterly, 9, Spring, 1976: page numbers missing. Gerard O'Neill is one of the high priests of the space programme, preaching that the next frontier is waiting for us up there above the clouds. Hardin brings him back down to Earth.
Radford, T. Star Trek to Profit. Guardian, The Week section, 18/10/97: 1-2. Big business has its greedy eyes on outer space.
Tracy, L. US Space Junk Falls on Siberia. Earth Island, Spring, 1998: 25. One hazard of the space programme.
Wood-Kaczmar. The Junkyard in the Sky. New Scientist, 13/10/90: 37-40. Already nearby reaches of outer space are being converted into a junkyard, a menace to passing space flights.

See also:
Finney, B. & E. Jones, ed. Interstellar Migration & the Human Experiences. Univ. California Pr., 1985.

* Used with permission of the authors.
See original at < http://www.realworld.u-net.com/EcoList.Technology.html >.

Home ] Up ]

Please send mail to webmaster@mnforsustain.org with questions or comments about this web site. Minnesotans For Sustainability (MFS) is not affiliated with any government body, private, or corporate entity. Copyright 2002, 2003, 2004 Minnesotans For Sustainability