The future of transportation and how we end up not dying from pollution

From public transportation to cycling, sustainable transportation is on the way to overtaking cars in the world’s largest cities in a decade, according to a study.

Private car travel will decrease by an average of 10% by 2030, to account for less than half of all city trips, while public transportation, walking and cycling will increase in popularity, the Mobility Futures study said.

“It’s a job for every mayor, for every city government to do something,” said Rolf Kullen, director of mobility at research consultancy Kantar, which produced the study, based on surveys from 31 cities.

“Cities are beginning to understand that you are not building your city around a particular means of transportation… You should build your city around people.”

More than half of the world’s population lives in cities and is projected to grow by almost 70% by 2050, putting increasing pressure on space.

Many urban authorities struggling with blocked centers and air pollution seek to discourage private car travel, while a boom in shared bicycle and small-vehicle sharing schemes offers residents new ways to get around.

Private car travel now accounts for just over half of all major city trips, but will drop to 46 percent by 2030, according to researchers who surveyed more than 200,000 New York City residents in Nairobi.

Travel by public transport, bicycle or on foot will increase to 49% of city trips in the same period, creating a global “peak” for sustainable travel, the study shows.


Much of the change is driven by an increase in rented transportation schemes and the movement of authorities to divide the streets, the researchers said, while a generational change has seen young people embracing new ways of moving.

About 40 percent of people globally say they are open to new forms of travel, researchers said, although cities need to take action to invest in technology, such as digital payments and sharing schemes, to enable greener transport.

Raising awareness of pollution and congestion caused by car use has helped to change, said Yoann Le Petit of the Transport and Environment campaign group, although she said cities should move on.

“We are witnessing this trend, but we should not relax and unwind,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We should make sure that the alternatives to a private car are zero emissions, common and attractive at the same time.”

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Japan is the model to follow

Japan is without a doubt the utopia that exists.

When it comes to public transportation, there is no better example than the Land of the Rising Sun or its capital, Tokyo. The video above explains quite clearly why the Japanese city has probably the most efficient and well-developed public transportation system. Moreover, while we are concerned and talking about taxes, which may or may not be implemented, the Japanese have moved on.

Although they have a well-developed network of highways, the focus of Asians has been on getting people to use public transportation to the detriment of private cars.

In addition to the public transport system in the cities, they have also invested heavily in the railway network that connects the cities.

603 kilometers per hour is the current speed record for railway technology, set on April 21, 2015 by the Japanese L0 (L zero) series train, which is powered by superconducting magnetic levitation or SCMaglev.

Japan’s new bullet train will link Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027 – if construction delays allow it – in about 40 minutes, reaching top speeds of 500 kilometers per hour, to be extended in 2037 to Osaka, with a time of 67 minutes journey.

Meanwhile, the prototype has already broken the world speed record on the railway, exceeding 600 kilometers per hour and maintaining that top speed for 11 seconds. And the key is not to touch the rails.


Levitation at maximum speed

SCMaglev technology is based on electrodynamic suspension, a physical phenomenon that occurs when a repulsive magnetic field is created between two objects, which keeps them apart.

In the case of the bullet train, this means that the wagon levitates 10 centimeters above the rails; in other words, there is no friction between the train and the rails to slow it down. To achieve this, the chassis is equipped with a series of superconducting magnets powered by a gas generator, which creates a magnetic field. The tracks on which the vehicle travels are provided with coils that interact with the magnetic field and generate its own induction field.

Due to their appearance, these coils have a double effect: on the one hand, they make the train levitate, and on the other hand they guide and stabilize the course. The train levitates at 150 kilometers per hour and runs on rubber wheels until it reaches that speed.

In 2020, an improved version of the L0 Series has been unveiled, which does not require gas turbines, as in this case the wagons are powered by inducing wireless electricity extracted from the rails.

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Therefore, the train consumes no fuel or emissions, and the electricity on the rails can be supplied from renewable sources, so the impact on the environment is minimal. Although Maglev trains consume a little more energy than conventional trains, their balance is very favorable compared to even the most efficient aircraft.

This milestone encapsulates a growing and global technological trend. In terms of speed, safety, efficiency and environmental impact, the train is picking up speed to reinvent itself in the 21st century as the most sustainable mode of transport in this time of climate emergency.


Climate and rail transport

Trains emit up to nine times less CO2 and particulate emissions than road transport, and many of the remaining diesel locomotives are being replaced with electric alternatives. Being a largely electrified mode of transport, rail freight has a natural advantage over the road freight industry, which is still largely fueled by fossil fuels, which has over 75% of the European market share of freight transport. goods.

The European Commission has declared 2021 the “European Year of the Train”, and the EU Green Pact published in July 2021 calls for a substantial shift to rail transport, with the “Smart Mobility Strategy” setting targets for a 50% increase in freight transport railway by 2030, but also a 100% increase by 2050.

Rail freight can achieve climate neutrality without the need for any additional infrastructure and at the same time consumes six times less green energy than road transport. This will remain extremely relevant as the need for green electricity increases and continues to exceed supply in the coming years.

green train

The rebirth of the train

Rail freight is not on a level playing field with road transport, although it is a cheaper mode of freight. The EU Commission has steadily increased truck charges over the last 10 years, making it significantly more expensive than rail transport, 9.0 cents / tonne-km for road, compared to 1.3 cents / tonne-km for rail.

Moreover, rail transport was the only mode of transport that was not significantly affected by blockages during COVID-19. Meanwhile, global navigators and crews were stranded on their ships due to quarantine and landing regulations.

The reliability and efficiency of inland ports could greatly benefit if rail freight transport in Europe can be digitized quickly and reach global standards.

This will also help European seaports modernize their rail infrastructure and help stabilize global supply chains, as they recognize the impact that climate change will have on their overall cargo unloading system to their customers.

For the first time, the “European Year of the Train” may be more than just another promise.

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