THE WOEFUL inadequacy of public transport is not just a traffic problem because of the gridlocks that too many private vehicles cause, but is also a health issue. The commuters who waste time standing in line to squeeze into the MRT and LRT, buses and jeepneys are not just stressed, but are inhaling the toxic fumes, particularly carbon monoxide, that motor vehicles emit.
Steve Williams, in the online piece “Public Transport: It Could Help Us Save Our Cities and Our Health,” said that an efficient mass transport system would not only decongest roads, but also reduce pollution and help keep people healthy, which would ease the strain on overcrowded government health facilities.
Williams, writing for Care2.com, cited a research paper, “The Global High Shift Scenario,” which suggested that “if we want cities that are less polluted and want to guard the health of future generations, ditching cars for public transport, or better yet, cycling and walking, might be the easiest thing we could do.”
Conducted by a team from University of California and Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), the research found that the easiest way to cut traffic air pollution by 2050, a goal for United Nations member states, was for people to use public transport, walk or cycle.
Williams quoted researchers who said: “This would represent the ‘least pain’ for the ‘most gain’ out of any action a city dweller could take.”
Public transport, the researchers found, could cut carbon monoxide emissions from city transport by as much as 40 percent. As other studies had already found, private transport, particularly car use, was a major contributor to the rise in toxic emissions across the globe. These emissions have a significant impact on global warming or the rise in average global temperatures.
Williams noted that as urban areas continued to grow, polluted cities would mean higher rates of respiratory diseases and certain heart conditions: “Things like asthma and other allergies appear to correlate with rising pollution levels, as do certain cardiac events and, possibly, some cancers,” he said.
Research co-author and ITDP managing director Michael Replogle pointed out “that if we want to ensure a healthy and greener future, this (public transport) is something we can’t afford to miss.” Repogle said transportation, particularly car use, was the fastest growing source of toxic fumes in the world.
The report said that investment in non-motorized forms of transport, like better cycle lanes, should be given priority. It also suggested that the government “should consider making it harder for people to have cars… by, for instance, providing fewer parking spaces and parking garages, ensuring that only those who really need to use their own vehicles, such as people with limited mobility or those with young families, are being catered to.”
The report warned that, as urban population density worsened, gridlock problems would spread and would be more difficult to solve.
The report urged developing nations to start adopting more efficient public transport and make walking and biking safer “to maximize their growth potential because, otherwise, they will run up against problems like air pollution and overcrowding further down the line…”
Developing nations could also improve the health of their people and increase their productivity.
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