Land transportation has evolved throughout the human history. It started from simple strides, taming wild horses and invention of the wheel. History puts it that the initial invention of man-made transportation occurred in the Mesopotamia or Asia. This was the time when man invented the wheel at around 4000-3500 BC (Bardou, Jean-Pierre et al, 1982). The combination of the horse and the wheel made transportation system simple as it facilitated exchange of crops. It eventually led to mass movement of people and goods, and the wheel became advanced means of land transportation.
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The use of the wheel eventually led to chariots. Sumerians were the first men to first experience wheel transportation. Chariot had the ability to enhance the speed of movement. Man soon invented a four-wheeled cart that improved efficiency in movement.
There were significant improvements in land transportation as automation development took place through steam engine. This was the origin of movement of a large number of people in the 18th century (Bardou et al, 1982). However, the locomotive steam engine was slow and majorities considered it unsafe. Man soon invented locomotive steam engines. They had the power to drag many cars. This was an obvious improvement in the land transportation development.
As time progressed, man advanced the development of the locomotive system. This resulted into improved speed and safe travel than earlier attempts. The period of the World War II marked the introduction of a diesel-powered engine. Initially man had attempted to power trains through electricity as early as 1895. However, lack of efficiency made that discovery unreliable and expensive invention. Soon, the development in subway led to dependence on electricity as the method of underground movements.
Some studies suggest that there were attempts to “use steam engine in the East during the period of 800 BC” (Bardou et al, 1982). However, man limited this discovery to personal travel and not mass movement of people.
The period of 1860 marked a milestone in the development of land transportation. This was the time when Lenoir Jean Etienne of France made an engine powered by gas. Since then, there are advancements in land transport. Automobile discovery remains significant development since the period of the wheel. Automotive is responsible for distance traveling, rise of suburbs, and mass movements of people and goods at increased speeds (Davies, 1992).
Road Congestion and Pollution
Road congestion results from increased use of the road network which results into increased time of traveling. Road congestion occurs due increased usages of vehicles and urban development. Road congestion has peak and off-peak hours. Occasionally, some factors may result into road congestion. These are mainly “unpredictable accidents, incidents, road works, severe weather conditions, or some major public events, and emergency cases” (Harry and Chang-Hee, 2008). In addition, other causes of road congestion can result from different approaches to control traffic flow such as junctions, signage, and traffic lights. These factors may influence the flow of traffic significantly.
Kerner Boris attempts to explain causes of road congestion using a mathematical approach. He talks of freeway traffic to explain causes of road congestion. This highlights that a traffic can either be in a state of “a free-flow condition, or in a congested condition” (Kerner, 2004). Congestion in traffic can still have a free-flow but heavy traffic. Conversely, there can also be wide-moving jams where traffic flow is generally slow. Such theoretical approaches to explaining causes of traffic help in designing less congested roads in urban development (Kerner, 2004).
There are several factors responsible for road congestion. Some studies have classified causes of road congestion in their own ways depending on the field. For instance, economists, road engineers and authorities may look at recurrent causes of road congestion. On the other hand, other specialist may look at both recurrent and none recurrent causes of road congestion (Kerner, 2004).
Studies in America about causes of road congestion established that 25 percent of causes of road congestion were mainly accident and incident related. About 15 percent of road congestion was as a result of bad weather. In addition, 10 percent occurred due to maintenance of roads. Emergencies, poor timing of traffic signals, and special events were responsible for five percent of road congestion. Recurrent causes of road congestion accounted for 40 percent. These were incapability and insufficiencies of the existing infrastructures.
Recurrent causes of road congestion due to insufficient capacity depend on the existing road networks. Limited capacity of urban roads implies that such existing road networks can no longer accommodate growing demands as a result of many private vehicles. There has also been growing purchases of private vehicles as many people improve their economic statuses. Such changes in commuter behaviors have resulted into unrestrained demand for roads among commuters in city suburbs. There are also cases where traffic management systems are ineffective, lack of sufficient knowledge, poor placement, out of order, or lack proper timing.
There are general factors responsible for traffic snarl-ups in cities. Time of usage is similar across most cities. Majorities living in the city suburbs have morning and evening schedules for attending workplaces, schools and other places. Thus, most commuters need to get to their destinations almost at the same time. This implies that the demand for transport is high as certain period of the day than others.
Population increase is also a factor that has led to road congestion. Road infrastructures need to support the ever growing populations. Over time, such infrastructures reach their limits where even expansion is not possible. In addition, majorities occupy city suburbs where they need to commute to cities or other places for various reasons almost on a daily basis.
Over the past few decades, levels of household incomes have grown significantly. This implies that there is money to commute to places. Most people opt for comfort and safety of their own cars. Consequently, they do not rely on public transportation systems but rather their own cars. This increases the demand for road networks and carrying capacities.
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Most people also blame traffic snarl-ups on poor urban planning. There are emerging settlements away from the cities to support the growing populations. City planners must contend with such challenges. Some areas lack public transport systems, such as areas of high income individuals, new settlements, and low populated areas. Such people may resort to personal means of transportation. These are contributing factors to road congestions in major cities of the world (Stover and Frank, 1988).
Traffic congestion has severe impacts in terms of losses, accidents, rage, pollution, and increased maintenance costs. Most people spend a lot of time in traffic during peak hours. This increases frustration levels among commuters and lost opportunities and work hours. Time lost in traffic jams influences income levels of individuals and economy in general. Most countries calculate the hours people spend in traffic snarl-ups and translate them into monetary values.
Time lost in traffic also have effects on fuel consumptions. As a result, some people opt to relocate their businesses or switch their jobs or places of residence in order to save time for use during the day. Traffic snarl-ups also affect choices of social amenities. For instance, most people would like neighborhood schools, close shopping centers and places of work. Physical distances affect choices of such facilities and individuals’ social life schedules. However, critics and town authorities maintain that people are responsible for road congestions due to their choices of lifestyle such as the choice of residential place, mode of transportation, and avoidance of public means.
Road congestions also results into economic and productivity losses. People suffer increased commuter prices due to long hours in traffic snarl-ups. In addition, individuals, organizations, and business entities suffer losses due to traffic congestions as people spend productivities hours in the jam. Consequently, there are persistent loss of opportunities, increasing costs of running business, pollution and rates of accident (Link et al, 1999). These factors affect individuals in terms increased taxes, prices of commodities, and health.
There are countries that have reached the peak of traffic snarl-ups. To this end, road congestion has become a threat to countries’ economic developments. Governments have purely based such claims on road congestion alone. Consequently, road congestion has prompted governments to act immediately so as to avoid the negative impacts of road congestion on the economy. In some case, reliance on private cars as means of transport is no longer attractive due charges and taxes that come with them. Such economic impacts have forced most governments to upgrade their urban transport systems to the world-class status, introduce transport management systems, construct freeways, expand train systems, and promote the use of public transportation systems.
Road congestion is also responsible for growing cases of road carnage and incidents. Studies base this observation on the idea that an “increase in traffic volume will increase the rate of road accidents and incidents” (Winston and Langer, 2006). Most records show that cases of road accidents and incidents are common during rush hours. In addition, there are instances of reduced visibility during morning and evening hours or strong sun’s rays that affect drivers’ visibility. Such cases are responsible for increased road accidents. Still, some drivers suffer fatigue or lose concentration due to long hours in traffic jams and working hours have increased the rate of road accidents. Cases of careless driving or driving while drunk have increased the rate of road accidents globally. We may attribute the main cause of growing rates of road accidents to increasing numbers of vehicles on the roads. To this end, we must remember that road accidents and incidents themselves are also contributing factors in road congestion. This is a case of cause and effect relations in road usages.
Road congestion leads to decreased lifetime of the road surface. Road layers have the elasticity so as to support the weight of different types of vehicles using them. Vehicles cause massive deflection of the road surfaces when they are standstill, moving slowly, or when their numbers are high. Over time, the road surface losses its elasticity as top layers become lesser effective. This results into frequent maintenance than expected (Winston and Langer, 2006). Most roads have 25 years of life expectancy with scheduled maintenance of three times for the top layers. Still, areas of high traffic experience early drops in quality of the road than expected.
Costs of vehicles maintenance are high in areas of heavy traffic. Traffic congestion is not ideal for high speed modern vehicles. Thus, sudden acceleration and brakes have negative effects on the vehicle engines. Engines run even if the vehicles are in traffic despite the fact that no movements take place. This calls for frequent servicing of vehicles even above the manufacturers’ recommendations. Maintenance costs also take into account wear and tear of vehicle parts such as brakes and clutch as their usages increase with acceleration and sudden brakes.
Psychologists observe that among the main causes of road rage occur as a result of frustrations due to traffic snarl-ups. The main culprits are people of predisposed outbursts personalities who may take such frustrations to strangers in order to vent their anger. They tend to change lanes frequently or follow other motorists closely.
Increase in road congestion and pollution goes beyond air pollution alone. There is also noise pollution that environmentalists find as an emerging source of concern. There are exhaust emissions that are responsible for the rising quantity of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This takes place when vehicles are idle, but the engines are “in motion, sudden accelerating and braking within short distances” (Kerner, 2004). The issue of global warming has shifted focus from main industries to transportation system as significant contributors in emissions of greenhouse gases through combustion of fuels. As a result, vehicles manufacturers enhance technology in new vehicles to reduce emission of CO2 and improve fuel efficiency.
The main sources of noise pollution mainly come from hooting, roaring vehicles engines, and radio and music systems in vehicles. The noise reaches the recipient through the normal transmission mode of air to ears. Noise levels depend on different factors such as “humidity, ambient temperature, air pressure, vehicle type, and the grade of the road surface” (Link et al, 1999). These factors are part of any road. However, slow movements of vehicles increase the level of noise as road congestion tends to concentrate such noise pollution in busy roads. Thus, noise pollution forms a part of concern for road users.
New vehicles and CO2 emission
Most industry studies indicate that enhanced vehicle fuel efficiency has resulted into a drop of CO2 emissions. According to Motor Industry Association (MIA), the National Average Carbon Emission (NACE) for new vehicles of 2011 had a figure of CO2 emission below 200 grams to 197.1 grams for the first time (Motor Industry Association, 2012). This represented a drop of 2.3 percent from the previous year.
The effort among to reduce CO2 emission among vehicle manufacturers started more than five years ago. The average drop of CO2 emission has been 10 percent. Most new passenger vehicles form part of this calculation. Thus, the figures presented are representative in calculating the CO2 measures. The drop is due to enhanced vehicles technology among main manufacturers in the world. The main is to meet CO2 emissions in target markets that include the US, Europe, Australia, and other emerging economies. Consumers have also changed their purchasing habits to march the environmental requirements. This has improved due to government subsidies, especially in Europe where the government facilitate the purchase of environmental friendly cars by subsidizing the costs.
Most of these achievements are as a result of carbon trading scheme that aims at reducing the quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere. The target has been on the transport sector for long-term agenda on reduction. These achievements from new vehicles show that manufacturers of motor vehicles are playing their roles of combating environmental degradation, reducing greenhouse emission, and pollutions from motor vehicles. Such efforts do not involve government interventions or regulations but are rather technological breakthroughs in vehicle manufacturing.
Solutions to lessen the traffic
Developments in land transport have created issues of traffic in most urban centers. Every year, cases of road congestion increase as more vehicles use roads. Thus, such issues have led concerned individuals to look for alternative means of combating road congestion. Approaches to alleviate road traffic include improved public transport, charges and taxes, urban planning and development, and pool vehicles programs.
Developing public transit system is the basic approach to combating road congestion. This should include improving public access to public vehicles by creating new routes, and investing in efficient and safe vehicles such as subway lines, speedy trains, and modern public buses. These are basic methods of managing transport in urban cities.
Governments can also introduce charges and taxes to combat road congestion. This is the case in London whereby car owners pay charges to access central routes in the city and pay parking fees too. Such charges aim at making use of personal cars lesser attractive. Consequently, people will resort to public modes transport (Harry and Chang-Hee, 2008).
Urban traffic also results from poor planning. Most families tend to move to urban suburbs and commute either with personal vehicles or public means of transport to workplaces. Consequently, road congestion spread throughout the main routes. The fundamental aim is to focus on renewing urban planning, improving existing infrastructure, and reducing activities at the metropolis.
There are also car pool lanes in efforts to reduce road traffic jams. This initiative targets commuters to metropolises. In addition, commuters who use same routes can have ride sharing initiatives (Bonsall, 2002). This can work among government institutions, schools, universities, and other large organizations.
How the UAE is trying to improve the land transportation and encouraging the use of public transportation such as Dubai Metro
Dubai is a pioneer in developing the most extensive road network in the UAE. Thus, other emirates can learn from it. Dubai has been experiencing transport challenges until the year 2005. These were mainly road congestion, growing ownership of private vehicles, increased road accidents and deaths, low use of public transport systems, and heavy noise and air pollution. The country estimated that it losses roughly “AED 4.6 billion annually due to road congestion” (Chaudhry, 2012).
The government of Dubai was aiming at maintaining the growing economy through enhancing its road network, and acting as a role model for the UAE region. Consequently, the government created Roads Transport Authority (RTA) to handle issues of land transport.
The main approach involved improving the road network. The points of concentration were increasing capacity of the roads and reducing delays at the junctions. Specifically, RTA focused on enlarging the existing road networks, developing new roads, establishing ring roads at strategic developments, and establishing free flow junctions” (Chaudhry, 2012). These efforts have reduced commuting time for the public through reduction of road congestion. There are also bridges to reduce reliance on existing bridges and tunnels. These initiatives have both social and economic advantages to the public.
RTA also focuses on introducing policies to encourage “the use of public transport and eliminate the use of private cars, and make the best use of the available land transport facilities” (Eriksson, Garvill and Nordlund, 2008). The usages of policies have been effective in other places such as in the EU zone. However, policies can only be effective when planned and implemented well in order to enhance public acceptability. This is true in cases where change of behavior is mandatory. RTA can use push and pull measures to encourage the use of public transport systems. Successful approaches would involve increased tax and charges, and at the same time, providing alternative means of public transportation. This should come as a policy package.
RTA has also focused on public education through Mobility Management Plan, which covers international best practices on land transportation, enhancing the use of available facilities, and reducing time consumed in the traffic jam.
In UAE, the RTA of Dubai aims at developing integrated public transportation system (Chaudhry, 2012). This is the Dubai Metro project and road network for buses. Consequently, the public has begun to notice benefits of such initiatives. The integrated infrastructure aims at combining tram lines with road networks in order to increase access for the public.
The RTA has an ambitious plan of integrating the public transportation systems by creating many stations for different modes of transportation. This aims at enabling ease of transfers for commuters among “buses, water transport, and taxis” (Chaudhry, 2012).
According to Santos and associates, the RTA is working on a program of Transit Oriented Developments (TODs) (Santos, Behrendt and Teytelboym, 2010). The program aims at creating a coordinated urban planning that covers road networks for efficient and safe accessibility among the public. This is to address the needs for sustainable means of transport for the public in city suburbs.
Road transport has come a long way. The invention of the wheel and automotive engine changed revolutionized the way people and goods movement. Modern modes of land transport have their challenges. It is this challenges that men are trying to address in order to increase efficiency of land transport. The focus is mainly on road transport. This leads us to reflect on what lies ahead for land transport, future vehicles, environmental pollutions, congestion, and development plans for both transport systems and urban use.
Some observers believe that futures cars shall be fuel efficient. They shall depend on technological innovation for ensuring that they are free of CO2 emission. Technology shall assist vehicles recognize different traffic signals, road signage, and other vehicles.
Still, some say that future transport shall utilize technology in every possible aspect. There are cases that vehicles of the future shall warn of bad weather and inform the occupant of possible collisions. In addition, such vehicles will let the drivers know if they are out of their lanes or fatigued. Differences in such cars will enhance driving experiences due to transformation from what is available today.
Further, there shall be a shift from petroleum cars to electric and hydrogen fuel cells powered cars. Such sources of car energy shall lead to low pollution of the environment because such fuels do not emit any CO2 or pollutants.
Another area of focus shall be on land transport planning and development. The focus shall be on building secure and safe roads or land transport system that aims at serving every member of society. Focus on sustainability of land shall remain a key element on developing efficient land transport. In addition, any future developments of land transport will strive to create a link with other means of transport. Such developments shall take into account the environmental impacts of such developing road infrastructures.
Most countries shall put their priorities in building super highways, complex road networks, and enhanced road safety through education, facilities, and increased accessibility to the masses as the case of Dubai Metro. There shall be a well developed urban land transport information system, and the public shall rely on the public transport than on personal cars due to enhanced efficiency.
Governments shall increase their involvement in the development of land transport system. The main focus shall be on continuous investments through construction of new road networks or upgrading the existing ones. Future development in land transport shall attract private sector participation.
Further, the government shall develop policies to reduce the use of personal cars and allow road users use existing infrastructure wisely. The focus shall be on enhancing public access to such transport facilities. Such policies may aim at introducing taxes to make use of personal cars lesser attractive. In addition, there shall also be pull measures that strive to create many alternatives for the use of personal cars. They can achieve this by enhancing public transport and transport infrastructure. These efforts shall aim at creating the best international practices on land transport and reduce road congestion, at the same time, reduce environmental pollution from too many vehicles.
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