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Part II: Policy instruments for sustainable road transport


  • Santos, Georgina
  • Behrendt, Hannah
  • Teytelboym, Alexander


Without questioning the fact that to achieve efficiency emitters should pay for the true costs of their actions (a core principle of economic policies such as pollution taxes), we find sufficient evidence in the literature to demonstrate that many other policy instruments can be used in combination with taxes and permits to ensure that the transport needs of the present generation can be met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet any needs of their own. The policies and policy aspects considered in this paper broadly fall into three categories: physical policies, soft policies, and knowledge policies. All three aim to bring about changes in consumers' and firms' behaviour, but in different ways. The first category includes policies with a physical infrastructure element: public transport, land use, walking and cycling, road construction, and freight transport. We also consider the particular challenges for mobility in developing countries, and how these may be addressed. Soft policies, on the other hand, are non-tangible aiming to bring about behavioural change by informing actors about the consequences of their transport choices, and potentially persuading them to change their behaviour. These measures include car sharing and car pooling, teleworking and teleshopping, eco-driving, as well as general information and advertising campaigns. Finally, knowledge policies emphasise the important role of investment in research and development for a sustainable model of mobility for the future. The main findings can be summarised as follows.Physical policies An increase in the use of public transport, combined with a decrease in the use of private cars, can reduce traffic congestion and, more importantly, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, as public transport generally causes lower CO2 emissions per passenger kilometre than private cars. Public transport fares are subsidised in most places, which can be justified by economies of scale and by the fact that public transport can reduce total road transport externalities. London, Singapore, Portland and Curitiba are all examples of good practice at government level, having achieved reliable, frequent and integrated public transport. Policies to increase public transport use must be part of an integrated policy. Integrated policy refers to integration across different modes of transport, different government objectives (such as the economy, health and the environment), considering the needs of different social groups, and coordinating action between the relevant government institutions. There is evidence that a lack of coordination can jeopardise the achievement of policy objectives. A sustainable model for transport policy also requires integration with land-use policies. These may be somewhat limited within the bounds of existing cities, but as cities grow and new cities are built, urban planners must put more emphasis on land use for sustainable transport in order to reduce congestion and CO2 emissions. Sustainable land-use policy can direct urban development towards a form that allows public transport as well as walking and cycling to be at the core of urban mobility. Walking and cycling, which improve general health and produce no tailpipe emissions, constitute an excellent alternative to motorised transport on short-distance trips within towns and cities. The policies which can incentivise walking and cycling include crime reduction to make streets safer, well-maintained and clean pavements, attractive street furniture, safe crossings with shorter waiting times, dedicated cycle paths, showers in offices, and lower speed limits, to name but a few. Road construction and expansion used to be seen as one of the most promising ways to reduce traffic congestion. However, in the mid-1990s, the issue was reassessed and it was found that building and expanding roads, increased, rather than decreased, congestion, and ultimately induced higher levels of travel demand. The reason for this is that the extra capacity reduces the general cost of travelling and the less expensive the travel, the more it will be demanded. Regarding freight modal shift, road transport is much more polluting than rail per tonne-km of goods transported and therefore a shift towards greater use of rail in freight transport is desirable. Inadequate infrastructure is the main obstacle preventing this modal shift taking place. Developing countries face great mobility challenges: rural areas are often extremely poorly connected to transport infrastructure, such that, in contrast to the situation in developed countries, the benefits of road construction can strongly outweigh the total costs (including environmental ones). The main challenge, however, is to develop a solution to the problems arising from the combination of urbanisation and motorisation. Integration of transport and land-use policy will be key to rising to this challenge.Soft policies Car sharing and car clubs can also potentially reduce CO2 emissions, although the aggregate reduction in congestion and emissions has not been measured with an adequate degree of precision in the literature. Teleworking and teleshopping can potentially reduce congestion and also CO2 emissions. However, the evidence for this reduction is rather mixed, as it is unclear whether these measures lead to overall reductions in road transport. Eco-driving campaigns aim to inform and educate drivers in order to induce them to drive in a fuel-efficient and thus environmentally friendly way. There seems to be some consensus in the literature that eco-driving could lead to reductions in CO2 emissions of around 10 per cent. Information and education policies have often been advocated as instruments which may affect behavioural change. We find in this paper that these types of measures are necessary, but not sufficient for behavioural change. Advertising and marketing may go a long way in changing peoples' behaviour. In California, for example, Kahn (2007) finds the "Prius" effect: the Toyota Prius is preferred by consumers relative to other similarly green vehicles, probably due to extensive marketing and celebrity endorsements. Family life changes are also found to trigger changes in behaviour ([Goodwin, 1989] and [Goodwin, 2008]). People whose lives are being changed by some important development (birth of a child, retirement, etc) tend to respond more to changes in the relative attractiveness of different transport modes. Advertising campaigns promoting a modal shift towards public transport, for instance, may thus be more successful if targeted at people in the process of important life transitions.Knowledge policies Research and Development is crucial for developing sustainable and low-carbon transport for the future, and it is essential that governments provide incentives to undertake R&D, so that new low-carbon technologies in the transport sector can be demonstrated and applied at a large scale. Finally, we consider the issue of policy combination and integration. There is evidence that the combination and integration of policies can lead to positive side-effects and synergies. Policy integration is crucial in order to rise to the challenges we face in moving towards a sustainable mobility model. We conclude that classical economic policies may be successfully combined with a number of policy measures discussed in this paper in order to achieve sustainability in transport.

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  • Santos, Georgina & Behrendt, Hannah & Teytelboym, Alexander, 2010. "Part II: Policy instruments for sustainable road transport," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 46-91.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:retrec:v:28:y:2010:i:1:p:46-91

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