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Committee Findings and Recommendations T he idea of a sustainable society in which the tions and discussions at the conference. A summary of needs of the present are met without compro- the committee's findings and recommendations follows. mising the ability of future generations to meet They are organized into four sections: their own needs is compelling. Despite its many dimen- sions and uncertainties, sustainability is generally · Issues of sustainability, agreed to be important and worth pursuing. At the · Vision of a sustainable transportation system, same time, current trends in transportation contribute · State of the practice, and to unsustainable conditions, including climate change, · Strategies for integrating sustainability concepts energy insecurity, congestion, noise pollution, and eco- into transportation planning. logical impacts. Widespread uncertainty exists about how to address the goal of a sustainable transportation system. What is clear is that attaining a sustainable ISSUES OF SUSTAINABILITY transportation system will require action by the public sector, private companies, and individual citizens. The concept of sustainability has a powerful grip on Given the complexity of the issue and the variety of people. Few could disagree that attainment of a sustain- players, it also will require a major cultural change to able transportation system is desirable; however, many raise and organize societal awareness. challenges lie along the path to achieving such a system. The effort to form a culture in which sustainability con- The nation's transportation system has enhanced qual- cepts are legitimized and integrated into transportation ity of life through increased access to health care, edu- planning is just beginning and will likely involve a long cation, employment, recreation, and a wide range of learning process. The Transportation Research Board consumer goods. These benefits have not been achieved (TRB) Conference on Integrating Sustainability into the without costs. The negative impacts of the transporta- Transportation Planning Process examined whether and tion system include congestion; fatalities and injuries; how sustainability objectives can be introduced into the noise, air, and water pollution; greenhouse gas emis- planning process for surface transportation facilities and sions; diminishing energy resources; and biological and operations. ecosystem damage. The challenge of a sustainable trans- After the final conference session, the TRB Commit- portation system lies in minimizing these costs while tee for the Conference on Introducing Sustainability into offering strong transportation benefits. Surface Transportation Planning convened to develop There have been some successes in responding to its findings, which were based largely on the presenta- these challenges. Air quality regulations, for instance, 1
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2 I N T E G R AT I N G S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y I N T O T H E T R A N S P O RTAT I O N P L A N N I N G P R O C E S S have resulted in substantial air quality improvements. ties, and a shift in agriculture to areas that are now Air pollution has not been eliminated, but air quality is cooler. Such results demonstrate that reducing green- better in most areas. This success and others provide house gas emissions must be a top priority. The extent encouragement that sustainable transportation chal- of mitigation will mainly determine the rate of climate lenges can be met. However, consistent effort is neces- change experienced by future generations. Because of sary, even in areas where progress has been made. Air the inertia of the climate system, adaptation will be nec- quality has improved, but increasing travel volumes essary regardless of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas require continuing reductions in air pollution. emissions from this time forward. It is probably too late Numerous unsustainable impacts of transportation to prevent or completely reverse climate change. demonstrate the challenges faced in transitioning to a sustainable transportation system. A discussion of these impacts is provided below. Local Air Quality Motorized vehicles contribute significantly to local air Nonrenewable Fuel Depletion and pollution. Poor air quality has various negative health Energy Insecurity impacts, particularly on the respiratory system. Air quality, however, is one area where large gains have been The current transportation system depends on nonrenew- made. Growth in transportation activity threatens to able fuels. The rate of consumption of nonrenewable fuels limit the effectiveness of existing strategies to reduce is projected to grow as travel domestically and elsewhere emissions. As a result, despite the progress that has been increases. The challenge is in finding ways to reduce the made, new methods, technologies, and policies to rate of consumption of nonrenewable energy sources-- improve air quality are required. including more carbon-intense unconventional sources of petroleum--through the development of renewable energy sources, improved energy efficiency of vehicles, Fatalities and Injuries and increased use of public and nonmotorized transporta- tion. There are economic, environmental, and societal Unacceptable levels of fatalities and injuries occur on trade-offs associated with each of these alternatives. the nation's highways. A goal of zero fatalities and seri- ous injuries is appropriate. Sustainability argues for a continuous decline in fatalities and injuries resulting in Greenhouse Gas Emissions a safer transportation system. The burning of fossil fuels to power transportation vehi- cles releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, Congestion which contributes to increasing global average tempera- ture and other climate changes. Greenhouse gases are Congestion would be a sustainability issue even if an emitted throughout the fuel cycle, from well to tailpipe. energy source were developed that had zero harmful The use of petroleum-based fossil fuels for transporta- emissions and was renewable. Congestion worsens tion is responsible, directly or indirectly, for more than motorized mobility. The rise in congestion is attribut- one-fourth of U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, the prin- able not only to increased personal mobility and freight cipal greenhouse gas produced by transportation. movement but also to a lack of adequate and reliable Improved fuel efficiency and increased use of alternative transportation funding. Congestion negatively affects fuels are proven options available to reduce greenhouse the economic and social health of the nation and, if not gas emissions over the entire fuel cycle. addressed, will leave future generations without a rea- sonable level of mobility. Some observers argue that congestion can have positive implications for sustain- Global Climate Change ability because congested highways cause some people to choose alternative modes of transportation. An enhanced greenhouse effect will have significant impacts on sea level, climate, and agriculture. Impacts of the rise in sea level alone may include the flooding of Noise Pollution tunnels, coastal highways, runways, and railways. Other impacts may include grounding of airplanes due The transportation system is a significant source of to high temperatures, buckling of highways and rail- noise. Transportation noise originates from all motor- road tracks due to heat, the submersion of dock facili- ized modes of transport. Examples of transportation-