Urban Transportation: Energy Consumption

by Aurora Silva

More than half of the global population now lives in towns and cities. At the same time, transport has become the highest single energy-consuming human activity. Hence, one of the major topics today is the reduction of urban transport demand and of energy consumption in cities. This article is focused on the whole package of instruments that can reduce energy consumption and transport demand in Belgrade, a city that is currently at a major crossroad. Belgrade can prevent a dramatic increase in energy consumption and CO2 emissions (and mitigate the negative local environmental effects of traffic congestion, traffic accidents, and air pollution), only if it: implements a more decisive strategy to limit private vehicles use while its level of car passenger km travelled is still relatively low, does not try to solve its transport problems only by trying to build urban road infrastructure (bridges and ring roads), and if it continues to provide priority movement for buses (a dominant form of public transport), while at the same time developing urban rail systems (metro or light rail transit) with exclusive tracks, immune to the traffic congestion on urban streets.

In short, a variety of measures can counter rising energy consumption in the urban transport sector. The most obvious choice for Belgrade is the package of measures: measures that limit the use of motor vehicles and promote improvement of their technical efficiency, the promotion of public transport, walking and cycling, and spatial-planning measures aimed at reducing the total demand for transport in the city. Precisely defined phases of implementation of these urban transport policy measures are here of great importance. The phase in which restrictive instruments on private transport and measures for the promotion of urban public transport are introduced is crucial. While the degree of private car use is still relatively modest, it is very likely that the applied package of measures will obtain the desired results.

It is evident that the strongly promoted thesis that significant savings in energy in the sphere of urban transport could be made by increasing the efficiency of motor vehicles has not provided the planned results. This is clearly proven in the huge energy consumption in the urban transport of US cities. The most important role in this process is definitely played by the dramatically increasing level of personal mobility and the sharp rise of automobile use in urban transport. These are the main reasons why US cities, which have the highest level of motorized mobility and use of automobiles in the world, also have the highest level of energy consumption in urban transport ever recorded. If the metropolises of developing countries follow the example of the auto-dependent, low-density suburban development of US cities, as is imposed by globalization, there will be unforeseeable consequences in the succeeding decades. Obviously, Belgrade is now at a major crossroad. Only if it adopts transport and spatial development strategy similar to that applied by wealthy Asian metropolises at a similar stage of development, is there a very high possibility that its total urban transport energy consumption will stop at a reasonable level.


“Urban Transport Energy Consumption: Belgrade Case Study” Miomir M. Jovanovic, Thermal Science 19:6. 2015


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