Going green: at what cost?

31 August 2017  •  Author(s): Professor John Miles

With expectations constantly rising for a greener future, Professor John Miles highlights some of the financial implications and barriers of truly sustainable urban transport.

Going green: at what cost?

It has become very fashionable to write about sustainable transport and articles on the subject can be found in transport journals and popular interest magazines all over the world. The arguments that have created this high level of interest are simple and compelling.

The stage for bus, tram, and light-rail systems has been fundamentally reset by the arrival of the twin environmental imperatives of street-level air quality and global climate change. In addition, the arrival of ubiquitous hand-held communication devices, ‘big data’ technologies, and 24-hour social media, has introduced powerful traveller information services and changing patterns of social behaviour to the agenda. These forces for change are provoking a massive re-think of how we might provide better, more user-oriented, public transport services in the future.

The environmental and social considerations outlined above may have generated a general atmosphere of expectation, but when are we likely to see the results of these forces on our streets? In reality, the widespread rollout of new and sustainable transport models will depend more on the third leg of the sustainability argument than the first two legs; namely, financial sustainability. How long will it be before we can afford to go green?

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