Earlier this year I worked on some charts and maps for a Greenpeace report authored by sustainable transport academic Robin Hickman, exploring the impacts of automobile dependence and the prospects for a post-car world. The report is online here.
The much debated phenomenon of ‘peak-car’ can be observed in many countries in the global north, in terms of a levelling off of private car use and increases in public transport, as shown in the graphs below. Many theories have been put forward to explain this trend, from the growth and densification of cities, to economic crises, fuel tax changes, to declining car use by younger demographics, and behavioural changes related to the internet. Given the many negative impacts of automobile dependence, from substantial GHG emissions, to air pollution, millions of road deaths annually, and contributions to the global obesity epidemic, clearly this behavioural trend is a great opportunity to develop more sustainable city forms much more widely across the globe.
This process is also observable at the level of individual cities, using data compiled by Newman and Kenworthy. Unfortunately this data is only available up to the year 2000.
The picture is of course different for newly industrialised countries, many of which are experiencing substantial growth in car ownership. I mapped data on vehicle sales, highlighting rapid growth in China and in Asia more generally, compared to static and declining markets in Europe and North America-
Thus the global sustainability challenge is to accelerate peak-car trends in the global north, and to try to curb the mistakes of automobile dependence being repeated in the developing world. Note that while the chart above suggests that the global south is increasingly responsible for GHG emissions, the picture from per-capita emissions is quite different as shown below, with the highest per-capita emissions in North America, the Middle East and Australia-
The World City Populations Interactive Map is now available as a static map, and has been published as a Featured Graphic in Environment and Planning A. The EPA article includes details on the UN World Urbanization Prospects data, and the methods used to create the map.
For a high resolution version of the static map, click below-
As cities expand with multiple centres spread over massive regional hinterlands, the need to better understand the geographical variation across and within cities has become more pressing. This need applies strongly to issues of travel sustainability, where urban centres differ greatly in the accessibility they facilitate for private, public and active transport.
Spatial indicators are a useful tool to summarise complicated intrametropolitan patterns, as illustrated in my new working paper mapping CO2 emissions from journey-to-work travel across the London Region. The results of this indicator show a massive range of travel emissions by workplace of up to 300%, with particular problems for airports and the specialised employment region of the Western Sector, as can be seen in the map above.
This paper was co-authored with Joan Serras at CASA, who helped with the development of the road and public transport network analysis to model realistic routing behaviour from origin and destination flows from the 2001 census. One interesting aspect to this was the inclusion of GPS data to model average road speeds in London as illustrated below:
Full paper abstract:
“This paper develops a methodology for estimating network distances and CO2 emissions for UK census ward-level journey-to-work interactions. Improvements are made on existing empirical measures by providing comprehensive intra-metropolitan analysis; increasing network routing accuracy with UK public transport timetable and GPS-based average road speed data; allowing multimodal travel; and developing metrics suitable for travel sustainability analysis. The output unit of CO2 emissions has been selected to enable the integration of mode-choice and travel distance data, and to aid compatibility with integrated assessment applications.
The methodology is applied to the case study of the London Region for the year 2001. A very high degree of intra-metropolitan variation is identified in the results. Employment sub-centres diverge in their per-capita CO2 emissions by up to 300%, with specific problems of carbon intensive commuting to major airports and the specialised employment region of the Western Sector. These findings indicate that subcentre travel variation may be intrinsic to polycentric urban structures. The paper discusses means to improve the methodology, in relation to issues of coefficient disaggregation and modelling more complicated multi-modal trips.”
After four-and-half years of exploring, analysing, procrastinating, and writing, writing, writing, it’s finally done. Here’s the abstract:
“This research thesis is an empirical investigation of how changing patterns of employment geography are affecting the transportation sustainability of the London region. Contemporary world cities are characterised by high levels of economic specialisation between intra-urban centres, an expanding regional scope, and market-led processes of development. These issues have been given relatively little attention in sustainable travel research, yet are increasingly defining urban structures, and need to be much better understood if improvements to urban transport sustainability are to be achieved.
London has been argued to be the core of a polycentric urban region, and currently there is mixed evidence on the various sustainability and efficiency merits of more decentralised urban forms. The focus of this research is to develop analytical tools to investigate the links between urban economic geography and transportation sustainability; and apply these tools to the case study of the London region. An innovative methodology for the detailed spatial analysis of urban form, employment geography and transport sustainability is developed for this research, with a series of new application of GIS and spatial data to urban studies.”
PDF version here. If you are keen/crazy enough to want to print this monster then you have my eternal respect and can try the double sided PDF version here.
Many thanks to my supervisors Mike Batty and Andy Hudson-Smith for making this research possible, along with friends past and present at CASA who contribute to a great research centre.
I’ll be highlighting findings and developing the ideas from the research- particularly the themes of urban sustainability, the built-environment, transport, economic change, and urban GIS- here on this blog over the coming weeks. This will include some of the interesting visualisations created, such as the London urban density 3D map below.