Urbanism, Transport and Pollution

Urbanism, Transport and Pollution

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By José Luis Ordóñez

Despite the fact that every European citizen is a pedestrian and that currently 5 per cent of the distances traveled during journeys within the EU are made by bicycle, non-motorized transport is still not part of the common transport policy of the EU. EU.

Do not take the train away

On Sunday, November 28, 2004, a state demonstration called by the Platforms in Defense of the Railroad took place in Madrid, including those of Talavera and Torrijos from Toledo, with the slogan "Don't take the train away from you."

What does this manifestation have to do with the title of this presentation? The demonstration is directly related to all the aspects to be dealt with today, since it is related to the transport system and its modal distribution, with the excess energy consumption of the car, truck, plane and train for 300-350 km / h, with urban planning and the necessary territorial rebalancing between the urban world and the rural world, with air pollution and climate change.

Torrijos Manifesto

The demonstration was called at the IV State Conference in Defense of the Railroad that was held in Torrijos on June 26 and 27, 2004.

The Torrijos Manifesto advocates the integration of the multimodal transport system, and points out the essential role that the train plays in new ways of life, production and quality of life on the path to achieving sustainability.

It points out that the organizations that make up the State Coordinator in Defense of the Public Railroad have denounced that behind the "whole AVE" there was only misleading propaganda, economic waste, territorial imbalance and a large number of decisions taken against the general interest.

Mistake in the actions of the Government

The Torrijos Manifesto shows that public actions have led us to a railway network of truncated lines, with a lack of investment in the vicinity and in goods, without connectivity, with a lack of accessibility, with the danger of being privatized, with the risk of generating two separate networks that are impossible to integrate with the rest of the European railway, and other problems of use and interoperability.

The stated objective is to change the modal distribution of transport, favor non-motorized journeys and achieve a greater participation of the railway in both passenger and freight transport. In this way, it would contribute to reducing energy waste and pollution caused by transport, on the way to a fairer and more sustainable society.

Railway backbone system

The aforementioned Torrijos Manifesto points out that the railway (train, tram, metro,…), together with journeys on foot and by bicycle, must become the backbone of the multimodal and integrated transport system. Logically, the other modes and means of transport must have a complementary character with respect to the railway and must contribute to promoting the use of this as a trunk mode.

Backbone railway of the territory

The Torrijos Manifesto proposes to ensure that the railway guarantees the structuring of the territory. For which it is necessary to recover and rehabilitate the lines and closed stations, in addition to avoiding new closure attempts.

It also points out that it is a priority to build new transversal railway lines with the aim of generating a railway network that allows meeting mobility needs, and, we would add here, rebalancing the rural world with the urban world.

Open stations in Mora and Malagón

The Torrjos Manifesto says that it is necessary to support the railway, so that the train reaches the urban centers, with the adaptation of the latter in order to eliminate the barrier effects, in addition to creating surface metro lines in cities and in metropolitan areas.

It points out as urgent to maintain the stations in the center of the cities in order to promote maximum accessibility to the train, including establishing new stations in the centers of towns not currently served by the railroad, because the new lines have to serve the towns through which they run, creating stations, such as Mora and Malagón, here in Castilla - La Mancha.

Railroad and improvement in air quality

The Torrijos Manifesto ends with the indication that urgent measures be taken since transport is one of the activities that contributes the most to climate change. Measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and comply with the Kyoto protocol. A greater implementation and use of the railroad and less use of the most wasteful means of transport would be the way to contribute to this end, which would also allow a notable improvement in air quality in our cities.

Spanish urban planning in a critical situation

It has been known in Spain since ancient times that the real estate business consists of adding several zeros to the right to the value of the land by the mere fact of converting it into developable land, with public administrations having the key to the business.

The urban history of Madrid, for example, is full of spectacular cases that range from the purchase and requalification of the old "green belt", which made Banús' fortune by placing the Pilar and La Concepción neighborhoods on it, passing through the requalification of the green railway corridor between Príncipe Pío and Atocha, and that of the various "golden triangles", barracks, convents, etc., up to the double carambola of requalifications achieved with the old and new sports city of Real Madrid. Examples like these run throughout the Spanish geography, reaching their zenith in the "tourist areas" of the coast.

Large number of vacant homes

Spain has the sad mark of being the EU Member State with the most unoccupied secondary dwellings, while there are many people without the economic capacity to have housing. And at the same time we stand out in the destruction of the real estate inherited by demolition and ruin.

The inefficiency of land use falls with this model of urban planning that generates unoccupied secondary houses, in such a way that if in 1957 the urban land of Madrid was 100 m² per inhabitant, in 2000 it exceeded the figure of 400 m², according to José Manuel Naredo , widely recognized scientist economist.

Urbanism as a destructive agent

One of the main causes of environmental degradation in Spain is the unbridled urban and real estate activity that has taken place for several decades.

The great capacity for transformation of the physical environment that urban planning has, almost always irreversibly, makes it particularly harmful to the environment.

In addition to the land occupation directly affected by urbanization, other effects that negatively affect the surrounding natural environment are added, such as the extraction of aggregates, the opening of new roads, the establishment of power lines, and the construction of pipelines. water, gas pipelines, sewerage, etc.

Urbanism and housing: great consumers of resources

The construction of new housing requires at least half a ton of construction materials per square meter built, to which are added the large movements of earth generated and the enormous volumes of inert waste caused.

Added to this is the construction of transport infrastructure, which is erroneously heavily financed by the European Funds, Structural Funds, Cohesion Funds, EIB, EIF, etc.

For example, the Cohesion Funds finance 73.3 percent of the construction of the 28.5 km long double tunnel that is being drilled under the Sierra de Guadarrama.

High profitability and high political power.

The high monetary profitability of urban activity, which in Spain exceeds cocaine trafficking by more than twice, one of the most lucrative businesses in the world, causes real estate developers to be considered in society as admirable, very respectable people, and even honest, which entails for them and their companies a great capacity for influence in all public institutions, political organizations, professional associations, etc.

Energy efficiency

Year 1999. The European Union: 200 tons of oil equivalent for every million euros in value of manufactured products.

USA: 340 tonnes of oil equivalent per million euros (In other words, the USA uses 70% more energy per unit of production than the EU).

Spain: 230 tonnes of oil equivalent per million euros (Spain uses 15% more energy than the European average).

Distribution of energy consumption in Spain

Transportation41% of the total
Industry 33%
Homes and offices 26%

Within transport:
Car, bus and truck 68.7%
Ship 19.9%
Airplane 10.3%
Train 0.8%
Pipeline 0.3%

Comparison of rail and road regarding energy consumption

To transport a one-ton load over a 100 km journey, the highway consumes 2.2 liters of oil equivalent, and the railroad uses 0.55 liters. The road consumes 4 times more energy than the railroad to carry out the same amount of transport.

Evolution 1995-2000

Increase in total external costs of 12.1%
Congestion cost increase: 91%

Exponential increase in the modes of transport with higher average external costs (road, aviation), which causes the growth of total external costs despite the improvement in the environmental efficiency of these modes.

Insufficient development of the most environmentally efficient modes of transport (rail, intermodal transport).

Appearance of new cost categories. For example, emission of very small particles not from combustion engines.

External costs of transport in Spain

Conclusions: The results and conclusions of the European study are fully applicable to the Spanish case, although:

Higher Total External Cost. In EU17 = 7.30% GDP, in Spain = 9.56% GDP.

This is due to the greater weight of road transport (especially in goods) and air transport, and to geographical conditions (territorial model).

The ratio of average costs between modes of transport is similar (2.5 to 1 by car / train; 4.8 to 1 by truck / train).

Congestion costs are slightly lower than the European average, but as in the rest of Europe, increasing and concentrated in certain metropolitan areas.

Modal distribution of transport Spain in 2002

People (in millions of people / km)
Automobile, buses and motorcycles 91% 387,648
Train5% 21,206
Airplane 4.1% 17,314
Ship0.3% 1,324

Total people 427,492

Modal distribution of transport Spain in 2002

Goods (in millions of tons / km)

Truck 85% 342,183
Ship 9.41% 37,909
Train 3.04% 12,248
Pipeline 2.59% 10,448
Airplane 0.02% 94

Total merchandise 402,882

High cost of urban sprawl

In developed countries, the cost to the community of urban travel represents 5 to 7% of GDP in cities with medium or high population density in which around 50% of trips are made on foot, by bicycle or by public transport, while it rises to 15% of GDP in sparsely urbanized cities that are dominated by the car.

Effects of low urban density

If the population density is reduced three times (from 60 inhabitants per hectare to 20)
The percentage of daily trips made on foot, by bicycle or by public transport is reduced four times.

The total cost of travel for the community increases by 50%.

The consumption of energy and the emission of greenhouse gases attributable to passenger transport is multiplied by three.

Deaths caused by traffic accidents increase by 50%.

The access time to urban activities for captive users of public transport increases from 50 to 100%.

Transportation and air pollution

It has been highlighted by the European Parliament and the Commission that air pollution causes an even higher death rate than that caused by traffic accidents. In 2000, road accidents caused more than 40,000 deaths and more than 1.7 million injuries in the EU.

Transportation has become the main source of air pollution in urban areas. About 90% of the population settled in urban centers is exposed to excessive levels of particles, NO2, benzene and tropospheric ozone.

Health problems due to transportation are accidents, reduced air quality, noise and reduced physical exercise.

Transport on foot and by bicycle

Reports from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and WHO recognize the importance of non-motorized transport and state that cycling and walking must be elevated to the category of "modes of transport".

Despite the fact that every European citizen is a pedestrian and that currently 5 per cent of the distances traveled during trips within the EU are made by bicycle (five times more than those made by train and 50 times more than those made in aircraft), non-motorized transport is not yet part of the EU's common transport policy.

Displacements of less than 5 km.

50% of the journeys covered during journeys made within the EU are shorter than 5 km. Cycling or walking is a realistic alternative in these cases.

The promotion of cycling and walking must therefore be seen as a component hitherto forgotten in transport policy and health policy.

Sustainable transport

Promote sustainable transport from all public administrations with the railroad, together with walking and cycling, as the backbone of the system.

Take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Control carbon dioxide and tropospheric ozone emissions from transport.

Reduce energy consumption in the transport sector. Control this consumption, by modes, to reduce it by 20% from now until 2015.

Reduce the need for motorized transport.

Transform the modal split, increasing the railway's share to 30%.

First Toledo Environmental Conference Toledo Environmental Forum
Technological Campus of the University of Castilla - La Mancha
November 27, 2004

* Coordinator of the Federal Area of ​​Ecology of Izquierda Unida

Video: Superblocks: How Barcelona is taking city streets back from cars (June 2022).


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