How cities could transform into a sustainable mobile future?

Prof. Dr. Peter Heck, Man - aging Director of IfaS
(FH) Patrick Marx, Head of Department for Sustainable Mobility
Prof. Dr. Eckard Helmers, Director of IfaS
Dr. Michael Knaus, Head of Department for International Project Management
University for applied Sciences Trier, Environmental Campus Birkenfeld
Institute for Material Flow Management (IfaS) - Birkenfeld / Germany

The article aims to outline useful strategies and instruments for cities improving the quality of liveby creating social, economical and ecological benefits based on sustainable mobility. Let´s start with an overview on recent developments in global transport and the role of cites in the overall climate change debate.

Present and future developments in global transport

Currently, the share of energy demand for transport purposes sum up to around 20 % of world energy use. Worldwide transport was responsible for 23 % of world energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with road traffic representing 74 % of this sector (Beuthe, Gasca, Greene, Lee, & Muromachi, 2007) (International Energy Agency, 2013). The transport sector includes airplanes, ships, trains and all types of street vehicles (e.g. trucks, busses, cars, two-wheelers). The International Energy Agency (International Energy Agency, 2013)assumed that the global transport will increase by 100 % until 2050, resulting in an increase of CO2 emissions of 70 % despite of vehicle technology improvements (See Figure 1).

If the energy consumption and the resulting CO2 emissions of cities are analyzed, it becomes evident that they play a very important role in the global GHG abatement debate. The cities’ share is around 75% of the worldwide energy consumption emitting approximately 80% of the global GHG by only covering 2% of the world’s surface but inhabiting about the half of the population (Emberger, Arndt, Schaefer, Lah, & Tomaschek, 2010). Based on various future projections concerning demographic change and rural depopulation it is obvious that the policy maker need decision guidance and efficient instruments to respond to these challenges.

Emberger et al. (2010) analyzed how climate change mitigation policies can be transferred to nine big cities all over the world by considering their different circumstances. They concluded that the present and ongoing transport planning concepts aim mainly on an extension of the existing infrastructure with a focus on the individual car traffic and to a less amount public transport. The analyzed cities had a lack of policies encouraging walking and cycling as an environment friendly transport option. It became evident that only increasing existing public transport capacities won´t solves the present and future transport problems in the cities. (Emberger, Arndt, Schaefer, Lah, & Tomaschek, 2010)

Figure 1: Development of passenger kilometers (International Energy Agency, 2013). © OECD/IEA 2013, A tale of renewed cities, IEA Publishing. Licence:

What strategies and instruments could help to perform a transformation in the cities?

There is an urgent necessity for a comprehensive rethinking process towards new, future-oriented sustainable transport systems to answer to the increasing mobility demands. Aside changes in the appropriate policy framework there are also adjustments necessary in the behavior of the citizen.

Recently, as an instrument integrated transport planning is getting more popular aiming to improve the infrastructure in a synergetic way. Integrated transport planning links transport planning with land use planning and coordinates both sectoral demands more effectively.

Figure 2 illustrates the specific integrated transport plan for New Zealand developed by the New Zealand Transport Agency. In that case, transport planning and land use planning together with transport investments are taken into account.(NZ Transport Agency, 2010)

The (giz - service provider in the field of international cooperation) proposed an interesting systemic approach. The A-S-I approach is based on the three consecutive steps Avoid, Shift and Improve (See Figure 3). In contrast to the traditional supply-oriented-approach in transport planning, the A-S-I approach is focused on the demand side and offers a moreholistic approach for an overall sustainable transport system design.

Figure3: A-S-I Approach (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (giz) GmbH)

For more detailed explanation of the A-S-I approach, please read the next article titled: "The A-S-I approach - A holistic and sustainable transport planning approach".


Resuming the findings described above it becomes evident that cities play an important role in the overall climate change debate. Obviously, there is a raising awareness and endeavor by the policy maker as well as by the citizen to transform the cities to a more environmentally friendly place with higher quality of live.

However, there is a need for new concepts and instruments with a more holistic approach due to the complexity of the urban ecosystems. The A-S-I approach seems to be a very useful instrument for cities aiming to enter into a sustainable mobile future. Nevertheless, it will be still a great challenge to find the right measures in the operational stage of the planning process. Aside offering a good transport infrastructure the example of Vancouver city shows that the attractiveness and sustainability of cities could only be increased if the human being is focused in the urban planning concepts.

The philosophy of the Institute for Applied Material Flow Management (IfaS) is based on a systemic view instead of focusing on separate sectors, only. In its master plans therefore the calculation of the potential of renewable energies is directly connected with mobility for instance. Aside lowering the GHG emissions this concepts could be understood as a promotion of economic development by regarding the own regional potentials.


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