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Sustainability within Today Transportation System

Posted on Aug 2017


 The transport system plays an instrumental role when it comes to the economic development of individuals nations in the world. The transportation system facilitates movement of services and goods within the U.S economy. The advancement in transportation systems, especially modes of transportation and infrastructure have enhanced movement of people and goods around the world, and in different parts of the U.S. However, despite the transport system being crucial when it comes to economic growth and development of the U.S, it faces a vital challenge related to sustainability. The transport system is one of the greatest contributors to pollution in the world. According to Global Green Freight (2014) report, the transportation industry globally usually contributes around 22% of the carbon monoxide emissions and at the same time 19% of the black carbon emissions. For example, the vehicles used for transportation of goods produces emissions that impact on the quality of air and adversely affect climate. The pollution of the environment by the transportation sector has negative health implications on the global community (Szeto, 2016). Unless sustainability issues are addressed within the transport industry in the U.S, the current trends indicate that it is going to be the largest contributor of pollution by around 2035. 

            Therefore, there is urgent need of the players in the transport sector to come up with a sustainable transportation system to help reduce the overall levels of pollution in the future coming from this sector. In today's fast-paced market the transportation industry is the world leader in pollution, congestion, and waste, so it is the responsibility of leaders within the industry to make a conscious effort to create new "Green" alternatives to the existing structure of the major modes of transportation.  The objective of this report is to discuss the negative impact that transportation industry has on the environment and make recommendations on some of the green initiatives that can be employed for purposes of enhancing sustainability in this sector in the future.

Impact of Transport System on the Environment

            There are various ways through which the transportation industry in the U.S affects the environment. One of the major impacts of the transportation sector is the air pollution. According to Global Green Freight (2014), the transport system is one of the leading causes of air pollution regarding emitting Carbon monoxide as well as black carbon, which are greater contributors to pollution. The two sets of by-products from fuels used for vehicles and other transportation mean results in the destruction of the Ozone layer, which in turns leads to rising in levels of global warming. The increase in some vehicles in the U.S roads, which consume high amounts of fuel, is something to worry as they lead to high levels of emission of dangerous gases to the environment. One of the devastating effects of air pollution is the rise in the cost healthcare in the treatment of illnesses that are associated with global warming arising from air pollution, such as skin cancer, breathing difficulties and others. The pollution of the air also affects the quality of air that people and other animals within the earth ecosystem consume. This is an indication that the current practices within the transport system are leading in contributing to high levels of dangerous emissions to the environment.

            Additionally, urban sprawls have a negative impact on the environment. According to Kashem,  Irawan and Wilson (2014) different studies touching on environment form have document ways in which land use and urban form contributes to the adverse effect on air quality, lease of carbon monoxide and air pollutant related emissions. Kashem, Irawan, and Wilson (2014) point out that there is a relationship between employment density, household density, street connectivity, as well as tailpipe emissions. For example, areas with high levels of households within an urban area have high emissions of the tailpipe. Therefore, a region with high rates of urban sprawl have high emissions and at the same time concentration of high levels of carbon monoxide and air pollution. Additionally, a region's urban form usually affects the quality of air as it influences the nature of local meteorologies, such as urban heat island (UHI) as well as what is known as buildings energy efficiency (Kashem, Irawan, and Wilson, 2014). This indicates that the way an urban area is formed, regarding the concentration of transport systems, structures, and others directly contribute to the levels of pollutions. Therefore, when addressing the issue of pollution, it is vital to consider the urban form as the basis of coming up with strategies for reducing future levels of pollution arising from the transportation system in the U.S.

 Furthermore, the transportation industry contributes to the noise pollution. The various modes of transportation produce a lot of noise, such as vehicles, trains, ships, and airplanes. The noise pollution has an adverse health effect on people. They cause healing problems on the affected people. This indicates that there is need of coming up with technologies and ways of ensuring that noise pollution arising from the transportation system will be reduced significantly in the future. The transportation industry, especially in areas of infrastructure is known to cause ecological degradation. The transport systems such as roads result in the division of the natural habits of various animals, making their movement from one area to another impossible. Also, some animals end up being displaced due to transport infrastructure being built in their natural homes. Thus, it is quite evident from this section that transportation systems have adverse effects when it comes to the U.S environment, as the majority of the current practices in the sector are not sustainable at all.

Green Initiatives to Enhance Sustainability in the Transport System

 There are numerous green strategies that can be used in addressing various issues within the transport system in the U.S that contributes in increasing high levels of pollution. The use of these green initiatives by players within the transport sector in the U.S can play an instrumental role in making sure that it is sustainable in the future. One of the initiatives that can be used in reducing pollution levels is the environmental taxes. According to Røed Larsen (2006), the environmental taxes helps to create a distribution effect on pollution levels. The taxes generated from pollution related issues help in catering for costs associated with pollution, such as healthcare. However, the effectiveness of environmental taxes is associated with forcing the transport players, such as the manufacturers of vehicles, trains, and aircraft to come up with alternative means of modes of transportation that is environmentally friendly. For example, environmental taxes have forced companies engaged in manufacturing of vehicles to design and develop electric cars, which are playing a significant role in reducing environmental pollution in the road transportation system. Therefore, governments should continue using various environmental taxes targeting the transportation sector with an objective of forcing companies to embrace green practices that will help in significantly reducing environmental pollution.

             Also, integrating sustainability issues when it comes to transportation planning can play an instrumental role enhancing green practices in the transport industry. According to López and Monzón (2010), the use of multi-criteria Model in the assessment of transport infrastructure planning can help in coming up with sustainable infrastructure in the future. The model provides performance indicators that can be used as the basis for determining whether the transportation infrastructure being built by a government is environmentally friendly or not. Some of the performance indicators include social cohesion, habitat fragmentation, global warming, efficiency and others (López and Monzón, 2010). The use of these indicators when using the model in the planning process can ensure that transport infrastructures developed in the future are green nature, by ensuring that they are designed in a way that they help in reducing the levels of pollution arising due to poor design of the transportation infrastructure, such as railway line. Hence, there is a need for the global community to embrace the multi-criteria approach to planning in the area of infrastructure development so that they can ensure that it is designed in a manner that helps in reducing levels of pollution making the transport system a contributor to sustainable development in the future.

            Additionally, sustainable practices that need to embrace in the transportation industry with the aim of reducing pollution levels is reducing energy and carbon footprint when it comes to highway operations. According to Szeto (2016), the Highway EneRgy Assessment (HERA) technique can be used in helping to reduce energy and carbon footprint within the U.S highways. HERA is a methodology that utilizes a consumption model, which help in accounting for what is known as radio gradient. The model accurately aids in the estimation of the carbon footprint arises from the vehicles using a certain highway. Therefore, it can be applied in the future by policy makers in use, for coming up with highway designs that help in reducing pollutant emissions and energy consumption on the highways (Szeto, 2016). Also, the freight costs in the airline sector can be reduced by employing the optional 4-D aircraft trajectories model of design. Reducing the flying costs is critical in helping to reducing the climate change effect associated with high flying costs. The model aids in ensuring that high levels of flexibility exist when it comes to designing paths for flights (Szeto, 2016). The model should be embraced by airline companies to help reduce the levels of pollution that they contribute to the environment in the future.

 Another critical area of focus when it comes to addressing sustainability issues in the transport system in the U.S is embracement of practices and technologies that help in enhancing energy efficiency and reducing transportation cost. According to UN (2016), high usage of fuel is one of the leading causes of emission in the world. This indicates that use of fuel efficiently can play a significant role in reducing the levels of emission in the world. For example, According to FleetOwner (2008) FedEx, a logistic company is helping in ensuring that there is an efficient use of fuel by coming up with transportation strategies that ensure that it uses vehicles that use less fuel in its logistic operations. The strategy being used by FedEx can also be effectively used by other transportation companies, whereby; they embrace technologies that ensure that less fuel is used by vehicles and train reducing the cost of fuel and emission of pollutants to the environment in the future. For example, using of alternative sources of energy, which are efficient in nature, such as solar energy and electric energy instead of fuels will play a major role in reducing the levels of pollutions associated with the transportation sector in the U.S.

 Furthermore, there is need of the embracement of green technologies in the transport sector. UN (2016) indicates that use of the right technologies in the transportation sector, which are environmentally friendly, regarding reducing emission levels and ensuring that there is an efficient use of energy can aid in reducing pollution levels in the future. For example, the use of electric train technology, instead of using diesel or coal fuel technology in trains is playing a significant role in reducing the air pollution in countries, such as Japan and U.S, which mainly use the electric train in their urban transport systems. Therefore, the embracement of environmental friendly should be encouraged by the government and environmental activists within the transportation industry in the future. The measure will play a significant role in ensuring that technologies used by vehicles, airplanes, ships, and trains do not contribute to emission of a high amount of pollutants to the environment (UN, 2016).

            Finally, increasing funding is another major strategy that can help in enhancing sustainability practices within the transportation system. According to UN (2016), adequate funding from the government should be availed to help finance projects aimed at dealing with issues, such as congestion that contribute to increasing levels of pollution. Adequate funding will aid in the implementation of technologies and building of infrastructures that are environmentally friendly; regarding helping to reduce energy wastage, and proper management of transportation system so as to deal with pollution issues. The funding can be used in research and development so as to come up with measures and technologies that will make the transportation system in the future green (UN, 2016).


            In summary, this report indicates that transportation industry is one of the major leading sources of carbon monoxide emissions in the world. For example, Global Green Freight (2014) indicates that 22% percent of carbon monoxide emissions come from the transportation sector. This report shows that unless sustainable practices are embraced within the U.S transportation sector, it will continue being the leading cause of ecological degradation, air pollution, and noise pollution. Thus, leaders both in the private and public sectors need to join hands in advocating for the use of green strategies within the transport system so as to make the sector sustainable in the future.  Some of the green initiatives that can be used in making transport system sustainable in the U.S as discussed in the paper include use of fuel efficiently, embracement of green technologies, incorporation of sustainable issues when dealing with strategic transportation issues. In conclusion, the green strategies should be part of the future strategic planning of the transport system so as to address fully environmental issues associated with the sector.