Sustainable Transport Policy

1. Developing Countries and Transportation

Transportation in developing countries is considered to be a significant influence on major global issues, many of which are associated with the state of the environment and of human life. According to Gwilliam (2003), developing countries “are taken to be those that qualify as borrowing members of the World Bank, including the transitional economies”, but the developed countries “are taken to be the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries, excluding Mexico”. Cities within developing countries are different in their economic, political and demographic aspects. However, economic improvement can lead to growth in the road and transport infrastructure but vehicle ownership slows this rate (Gwilliam, 2003). The existing city structure and political history means that most of these cities are unable to provide efficient mass transports services due to “scatter pockets” (Gwilliam, 2003). The quickly increasing population is related with a below average proportion of the land that is allocated for transport.

Whilst other sectors, such as education and sanitation, improve with economic progress, transportation problems can be seen to worsen with economic development (Transport Policy Advisory services, 2010). It can be difficult to examine common urban transportation issues in developing countries due to the contribution of interlinked trends in its operations. For instance, one of the important trends is population growth; the population density rate in urban areas was almost 45% in 1995 and it is expected to increase to 60% by 2025; developing countries have a massive share of this rate of about 90% (Road Management & Engineering Journal, 1998).

Furthermore, any increase in the population leads to an increase in transport problems, such as car ownership – which has risen in developing countries in recent years along with an increase in the number of personally owned cars; this also relates to economic growth (Gakenheimer, 1999). The number of vehicles with two or three wheels is also rising, especially in Asia (Gwilliam, 2003). These vehicles are characterized by easy mobility and affordability, but they are also a primary source of pollution (Abuhamoud et al., 2011). The absence of suitable public transportation to match the population growth is another issue. This failure to develop these services is associated to its contrast with capital costs. Hence, another phenomenon emerges which is a city’s sporadic growth without following a regular pattern. It makes it difficult for people to gain use from mass transportation and means that the city needs additional provisions for public transport and to improve the access to transport. However, these transportation trends are influenced strongly by environmental and social standards which are completely linked to life quality and production. These involve “congestion, energy consumption, air pollution, and traffic crashes” (Road Management & Engineering Journal, 1998).

2. Transport problems

The fundamental social and economic actions are people’s mobility and commodities. For this purpose, cars and trucks are the most common and important means of transportation used worldwide and their numbers have grown massively in developing countries; especially in cities where conventional transport is incompatible with the city structure development and road infrastructure. Consequently, the system is exposed to a number of problems (Transport Policy Advisory services, 2010). According to Gwilliam (2003), the problems of transport systems in developing countries are traffic congestion, environmental issues, safety and poverty.

2.1. Congestion

This phenomenon is common in developing countries, especially in megacities. The rate of urban growth and increasing car ownership has produced excessive congestion in developing countries. Few cities reach the rate of car use and congestion as those in developed countries, according to the per capita income (Kutzbach, 2009). As Gwilliam (2003) states, congestion makes a reduction in the average travel speed in the daytime in the city centre. For instance, in Bangkok, Manila, Mexico and Shanghai it dropped to 10km/hr or less, and 15km/hr or less in Kuala Lumpur and Sau Paulo. These resulted in increased travel time and a decrease in accessibility. In Rio de Janeiro and Bogota the average travel in one-way roads is 107 and 90 minutes respectively (Gakenheimer, 1999). Notwithstanding this, the number of cars in the majority of developing countries did not exceed 100 cars per 1000 persons, while in developed countries this has overtaken 400 cars per 1000 persons (Kutzbach, 2009). Car ownership growth in non-OECD countries is conceivable to be faster than population growth; it reaches 15-20% (Gwilliam, 2003).

According to Abuhamoud et al. (2011) there is a complex relationship between urban growth and transport services. Currently about 50% of the population live in cities and this is raising increasingly, and developing countries share approximately 95% of this growth (Candiracci, 2009). It has also to be shown that as the city grows, the distance from home to the worksite is increasing with a lack of appropriate transport and road facilities (Abuhamoud et al., 2011). As a result, car ownership and congestion is inevitable. In this context, Africa makes up about 14% of the planet’s population, equivalent to about one billion people; in 2007 the urban population rate was 38.7% with the change of 2% per year from 2005 to 2010, and the increase of vehicles during these 5 years was observed. Urbanization could be observed at a higher level in North Africa, which was more than 80% and in Libya, South Africa and Botswana more than 55% but the countries still faced a lack of road facilities and poor vehicle quality (Abuhamoud, ibid).

This type of urbanization can also be noticed in Asia. For example, China is exposed to a rapid urban growth which is currently about 43% and is associated with the country’s rapid economic growth. It is expected that this figure will increase to 70% in 2050. This is due to people’s immigration into urban areas which will affect the economy because the city energy consumption will be higher than rural areas. This will also be another factor contributing to the overall city congestion (Cheng and Hu, 2009). As Dargay at el., (2007) presents, the overall vehicle stock was 0.8 billion in 2002, but this is expected to increase to about 2 billion in 2030, of which 56% of vehicles will be owned by developing countries; this was 24% in 2002. Consequently, vehicle ownership growth may cause excessive congestion which can lead to side effects on the transportation system.

Much more can be done to combat congestion, such as: encouraging markets to be more active in supplying goods in active areas; improving transport quality between cities; stopping transport subsidies in cities; improving road management and structure by devoting a sufficient land for roads; improving traffic management and improving planning institutions (Gwilliam, 2003). According to Kutzbach (2009), reducing costs and the wait period in bus stations by rising bus frequency can cause an increase in bus users, and then mass transit would be improved and congestion will decrease. Also, improving rail transport could offer a further option (Gakenheimer, 1999).

2.2. Environment problems

Transport and movement have a direct impact on the environment of cities in developing countries. As a result, it impacts on human health. According to studies conducted in Bangkok, Cairo, Mexico City, Quito and Santiago, small matter particles are common and when their volume is less than 2.5 microns of lead this can inflict serious damages to the public health. In addition to this, the level of NO2 is still lower then WHO guidelines outline and there is also a high level of SO2 that is coming from increased coal use. This can damage the ozone which can be considered another threat to people’s health, especially in Mexico City and Santiago (Gwilliam, 2003).

According to Transport Policy Advisory services (2010), transport growth and congestion leads to an increasing in the consumption of oil which means an increase in CO2 emissions which directly causes environmental pollution. As Candiracci (2009) states, pollution can cause the of death of people worldwide; for instance, about 6500 people in Mexico and 170000 to 280000 a year in China are facing life threatening situations because of these conditions. Furthermore, urban transportation is the main cause of increasing noise which is another type of pollution. Transport contributes about 25% of overall energy using and is continually increasing. The CO2 emissions from 1990 to 2004 have grown by almost 36.5% and it is expected to increase to approximately 140% in 2050 with the greatest increase coming from developing nations (Transport Policy Advisory services, 2010). CO2 emission from vehicles did not exceed 6% in tons; however, it impacts 32% of people. Urban transport is the main source for 80-90% of lead spreads in these cities (Gwilliam, 2003).

Additionally, there are a large number of motorcycles with 2 to 3 wheels which provides a wide range of transportation needs in Africa. For example, in Togo these vehicles provide 80% of transportation requirements, but also pollute the environment (Abuhamoud et al., 2011). It is also common in most Asian cities where it makes up about 75% of the fleet in Hanoi (Gwilliam, 2003). Generally, the poor environment condition is an outcome of the high levels of congestion in developing countries. The structure of today’s transport seems unsatisfactory in the sustainability point of view, this is mainly by the reason of its disadvantages to the environment and to humanity’s health (Transport Policy Advisory services, 2010).

The environment can be improved by working to improve the quality of vehicles, implementing the honest “inspection and maintenance (I/M) programme”, using new motorcycle technology, improving system management and non-motorized modes, and running the “own-price elasticity for gasoline consumption” (Gwilliam, 2003).

2.3. Safety

Safety is also another problem of transport systems in developing countries that is directly related to transport crashes and criminal accidents which occur on roads or its surrounding. The amount of people who are fatally injured due to road transport accidents is almost one million people annually, while 85% of this figure is in developing countries and 50% in urban areas. However, pedestrians and cyclists are exposed to safety issues much more than cars and those who ride on mass transport such a buses and trains. Accidents can remain a side effect on the victim’s psychological state and can affect the rate of travel and journeys made (Gwilliam, 2003). The bad quality of roads and vehicles in developing countries are the main reasons for safety problems, environment pollution, and congestion. For instance, the roads in the majority of cities in Africa are congested with motorcycles, which is the vehicle that is involved in the most accidents. This is primarily because a driver license for a motorcycle is not mandatory in this country (Abuhamoud et al., 2011). Public safety is also influenced by other aspects of road transport, such as air pollution, which is directly related to human health. Another impact on safety is insufficient pedestrian space which should be as far as the road space. This has been applied in most cities in China. The deficiency of bicycle paths in developing countries also decreases road safety (Transport Policy Advisory services, 2010).

However, transport safety and security can be improved by considering a number of interactive approaches. Studies indicate that most traffic accidents in developing countries occur in the mid-link of roads and at junctions (Gwilliam, 2003). Therefore, road safety can be enhanced through improving road quality and developing road space that is suitable enough for all road users.

2.4. Poverty

The distributional impacts of transport developments which have declined to an unusual degree are another significant issue faced in developing countries. Poor people live in areas that have a lack of transportation facilities. Poor people depend on walking although and public transport services are not as required, therefore, walking or non-motorised vehicles such as bicycles are the main modes of transportation (Gwilliam, 2003). Poorer people tend to make fewer trips poor, take longer on their journeys and have worse safety. Studies have shown that in poorer areas there are 20 to 30% fewer journeys. These journeys take longer due to the lack of roads and transport for pedestrians at all times. The poor people in Rio de Janeiro spend on average more than 3 hours commuting to reach the worksite (Transport Policy Advisory services, 2010).

Better safety for poorer people can be achieved through the introduction of a number of actions such as the provision of better quality transport which can increase the opportunity for poor people to access jobs, also improving the non-motorised and pedestrians’ path surface and pavement design could help safety issues. Subsidizing the public transport sector to raise attention to public passengers and their available means of transport would also help benefit poor people, as would the construction of non-motorised transport network in cities (Gwilliam, 2003).

3. Transport and life

As the Transport Policy Advisory services (2010) states, the concept of urban transport problems appears to be important because it is directly linked to the sensitive and essential spheres of life, such as the environment, society and economy. The transport can impact the environment through pollution emissions, especially in urban areas. Thus, it affects biodiversity. Transport impacts social life because it is strictly associated with accessibility levels, clean air, noise effect, and traffic accidents. However, there is also a strong relationship between transport and the economy in which it impacts on goods and people’s mobility. Accordingly, in implementing any program for the purpose of transport sustainability it should be taken into account what necessitates the satisfaction of all these elements.

4. Transportation and the Future
4.1 Climate Change

The transport sector is defined as a rapid growth source of greenhouse gas emissions. In this context, the monumental increase of motorization and car ownerships has influenced economic growth which leads to the occurrence of a big change in greenhouse gas emissions, where this increase then causes global warming and climate change (Wright and Fulton, 2005). Climate change may be seen as a considerable problem which faces transportation currently and also in the future (Chapman, 2007). However, while there are modes of public and non-motorized transport in developing cities, the poor quality of public transport and the inadequate service for non-motorized and pedestrians encourages people’s tendency to use private cars (Gwilliam, 2003). This then causes an increase in greenhouse gas emissions which represent a main reason of climate change occurrence. According to Wright and Fulton (2005), the greenhouse emissions from the transport sector globally is estimated to be about 24%, which grows 2.1% annually, and grows 3.5% in developing countries. It is expected to increase by about 30% by 2030. Therefore, the impacts may include dramatic weather changes, increasing sea-levels, floods and health risks in the long-term. Therefore developing countries should work to sustain the current public and non-motorised transport to develop future sustainable transport. As the Road Management & Engineering Journal (1998) states, to mitigate the impacts of climate change in the future by 2050, the CO2 emissions needs to be cut by 50% globally. This goal can be achieved through “improving fuel technology” and finding a “mode-shifting solution” (Wright and Fulton, 2005).

4.2. Peak Oil

Peak oil is another issue worth mentioning. It is strongly related to transportation in terms of fuel consumption. In 2003 the rate of demand of oil increased by 3% which is equivalent to about 101 million barrels annually (Aleklett, 2007). The decline in production of oil in the three greatest exporters – Saudi Arabia, Russia and Norway – is estimated to be 4 to 6 million barrels per day by 2030, and the implications of an enormous oil shortage will appear in the transportation sector by the same year (Aleklett, 2007).

Human health is influenced by these changes in economic and social aspects, more than which results from policy interferences. However, the peak oil impacts on the economy in terms of increasing the demand and price of oil, also impacts on increasing transport prices and the freight of food, goods and medicine. Therefore, it can create a health crisis even if half of the spare oil has been spent. In contrast to this, there are positive impacts such as the reduction of congestion and pollution emissions which can reduce climate change (Hanlon and McCartney, 2008).


It is felt that transportation problems vary from other problems plaguing the developing countries due to it is worsening with economic development. Vehicle ownership growth may cause excessive congestion which leads to side effects on the transportation system wholly.
The congestion can be reduced through improving the road quality and public transport, thereby increasing safety and decreasing environment pollution.
The environment can be improved by improving vehicle quality, implementing the inspection and maintenance system (I/M), using new motorcycle technology, non-motorized modes, and running the own-price elasticity for gasoline.
It is recommended that implementing any program for the purpose of transport sustainability should take into consideration the elements affecting the environment, society and the economy.
It is recommended that developing countries should work to keep the current public and non-motorised transport running, in order to developing future sustainable transport and to protect the climate and the energy.

Abuhamoud, M. A. A., Rahmat, R. A. O. K., & Ismail, A. (2011). Transportation and its concerns in Africa: A review. The Social Sciences 6(1), pp. 51-63. [online] [accessed October 22th 2013].

Aleklett, K. (2007). Peak oil and the evolving strategies of oil importing and exporting countries (No. 2007-17). Discussion paper. [online] [accessed October 26th 2013].

Candiracci, S. (2009). Climate change, urbanization and sustainable urban transport in developing country cities. Energy & transport Policies Section. [online] [accessed October 24th 2013].

Chapman, L. (2007). Transport and climate change: a review. Journal of transport geography, 15(5), pp. 354-367. [online] [accessed October 26th 2013].

Cheng, H., & Hu, Y. (2010). Planning for sustainability in China’s urban development: Status and challenges for Dongtan eco-city project. Journal of Environmental Monitoring, 12(1), pp. 119-126. [online]!divAbstract [accessed October 25th 2013].

Dargay, J., Gately, D., & Sommer, M. (2007). Vehicle ownership and income growth, worldwide: 1960-2030. The Energy Journal. pp. 143-170. [online] [accessed October 25th 2013].

Gakenheimer, R. (1999). Urban mobility in the developing world. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 33(7), 671-689. [online] [accessed October 22th 2013].

Gwilliam, K. (2003). Urban transport in developing countries. [online] Transport Reviews, 23(2), 197-216. [accessed October 20th 2013].

Kutzbach, M. J. (2009). Motorization in developing countries: Causes, consequences, and effectiveness of policy options. Journal of Urban Economics, 65(2), pp. 154-166. [online] [accessed October 23th 2013].

TranSafety, (1998). Strategies for Solving Urban Transportation Problems in Developing Countries. Road Management & Engineering Journal. [online] 1-800-777-2338 [accessed October 22th 2013].

Transport Policy Advisory Services, (2010). Callenges of urban transport in developing countries- a summary. [online] [accessed October 20th 2013].

Wright, L., & Fulton, L. (2005). Climate change mitigation and transport in developing nations. Transport Reviews, 25(6), pp. 691-717. [online] [accessed October 26th 2013].

Wright, L., & Fulton, L. (2005). Climate change mitigation and transport in developing nations. Transport Reviews, 25(6), pp. 691-717. [online] [accessed October 26th 2013].

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