A study interviewed nearly 800 commuters in Hong Kong, and found that shorter commuting time makes people happier. However, ‘happy’ commuters are rare in Hong Kong, as traffic congestion is severe. The number of vehicles has reached over 82 million. According to TomTom Traffic Index, Hong Kong ranks 44th in world for when it comes to traffic congestion, the report indicates we waste 38 minutes on congestion every day.
The imbalanced transport system has caused roadside air pollution and traffic congestion. UN Environment reported that transport is responsible for nearly a quarter of global energy-related CO2. There are also rising concerns about its impact on the quality of urban life, including social inequities, and the effects of its pollution on health. It is estimated that the demand of transport, especially in developing countries, will increase 30%-40% in the coming decades. It is expected that transport emission will continue to worsen, if there is no alternative to green fuel shift.
Sustainable transport is one of the alternatives to alleviate traffic congestion and roadside pollution. Despite the increase in mobility, citizens’ health and quality of life are also key factors to achieve sustainable transport. Many developed cities are trying to reduce automobile dependence, phase out diesel and fossil fuel vehicles, and encourage green transport such as walking and cycling.
In Singapore, transport emission accounts for nearly half of the fine particles (also known as PM2.5) in the air. To cope with air pollution, the Singaporean government has announced a plan to reduce the vehicle growth rate from 0.25 percent per year to 0 percent. The most highlighted approach by the Singaporean government is to stop issuing new vehicle permits starting February of 2018. Moreover, in order to encourage citizens’ appeal of cycling and walking as transport options to bring about a chance in attitude, the Singapore government has invested throughout its infrastructure, such as building more sheltered walkways, cycling paths and bicycle racks at MRT stations. Furthermore, the Singaporean government has already set targets to reduce the concentration of PM2.5 from 20ug/m3 to 12ug/m3 by 2020.
Big cities in Europe are going car free too. Low emission zone has already been implemented in Germany in most of its cities. Drivers in Germany are also required to have a special environmental sticker or badge on their car in order to enter the ‘green zone’ of most German cities. Vehicles with ‘high emission’ labelled in red, are prohibited to enter the city center. The Spanish government is also leading the way in sustainable transport. In 2016, the government launched nine consecutive days of pedestrian zone in Gran Via, one of the busiest streets in the city, banning cars from entering the area. The government of Spain has also hosted Car Free Day to educate citizens of the importance of greener travel.
Therefore, to promote sustainable transportation and improve air quality, the HKSAR government must deliver an action plan, detailing ways to improve roadside pollution and sustainability in the cities. Highlighting measures that can safeguard public health most effectively should be the primary factor, instead of the practicability consideration.
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