Public transport III - Improving air quality through attractive public transport
Local public transport plays a crucial role for cities, communities and their inhabitants in various regards. For many people it is a good alternative to owning a car and thus enables a self-determined mobility – while being less noisy and safer. At the same time comparing public transport to the motorized individual transport it has a much higher resource efficiency and is less damaging for the climate. Also regarding air quality public transport is vital since it helps reducing the emission of air pollutants by traffic. Already today a large part of the public transport is driven by electricity and is thus locally emission-free. Trams, metros and city railways are responsible for more than half of all trips within the short-distance public transport (source: VDV annual statistics 2012). Additionally the continuously rising exhaust standards of buses as well as green fuels like natural gas or hybrid technology ensure that busses become less and less pollutant. Older vehicles can be retrofitted with particle filters and thus reduce its emissions by more than 95 per cent. So also from an air quality point of view public, means of transportation become an essential part of sustainable mobility.
In order not to simply retain but further expand these advantages appropriate underlying conditions are needed. To make public transport attractive and inviting from the customer’s point of view public and political appreciation are needed along with the necessary financial resources.
On the one hand physical factors like availability and frequency are important so that the customer’s expectations can be met by an appropriate network of routes, service frequencies and preferably short travel time – all that of course at a reasonable price.
On the other hand – and that is often being neglected – local public transport has to be easily accessible and simple to understand. Still today for many people public transport is all too often a closed book and therefore not really an alternative: deficient or missing information at stations, in vehicles or online; complicated ticket machines; badly accessible stations and vehicles or little inviting bus shelters – if the access barriers are too big public transport won’t be widely accepted. Consequently these so-called soft factors are at least as important as hard factors like its physical availability and prices.
The German association for sustainable mobility Verkehrsclub Deutschland e.V. (VCD) is launching an online survey (German only) with its project »Simply get on – accessibility check for public transport«. The aim of the survey is to find out how easy to use public transport in different places and regions in Germany really is. In addition to that national and international innovative solutions leading to an easier usability of public transport are to be gathered. Hopefully this will help to simplify the usage of public transport and thereby convince more people of it – and thereby also contributing to a better air quality.