Education/Raising Mode Awareness

July 05, 2007

Written by KAI Interns Justin Markel and Kyle Taniguchi

Take a look at the photo above. What do you notice? It takes a lot more space to move that same amount of people by car than it does to transport them by bike or even a bus! Sustainable transportation is all about developing innovative ways to move people in the most efficient way possible. In order to progress toward sustainable transportation, outreach efforts must be undertaken to instill a sustainable mindset.

Several organizations have developed programs whose goal is to educate youth about the concept of sustainable transportation. One such organization, the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, has developed curriculums to teach elementary, intermediate, and high school students around the country about sustainable transportation. Topics range from “Travel Solutions to Global Warming” for elementary students, to more advanced topics such as “Cars of Tomorrow and the American Community” for high school students.1

In addition to integrating sustainability into curriculums, critical thinking projects have also been designed by organizations to give students the opportunity to brainstorm and come up with their own sustainable transportation ideas. The Mineta Transportation Institute is just one organization that is spearheading efforts to create these projects. Every year, in preparation for its annual symposium on sustainable transportation, the Institute hosts a national competition to determine some of the best sustainable transportation designs created by students.

The 2006 competition proved just how well students were able to come up with innovative sustainable transportation designs. The winning intermediate school project was created by a team of eighth graders from Dublin, California that proposed to build a garbage truck called “TEAPOT” that would run on the methane gas that was generated from the garbage collected. Another impressive project was a proposal by a group of tenth graders from Washington, D.C. that came up with details to design, plan, and construct a streetcar line to transport students to and from school.2

Outreach programs are also extended towards other parts of the community, such as ethnic outreach. It is sometimes easy to overlook the needs of those with different ethnic backgrounds. Ethnic groups’ needs are generally more complex increasing the need for outreach programs. An example of a particular minority group with complex needs comes in a Montgomery County, Maryland study in the period 1997-1999, where Latinos were found to be an over represented percentage of the County’s pedestrian fatalities. Latinos made up only 11.5% of the population of the County, but were 24.4% of the fatalities.3

With the comprehension of this statistic, County staff lobbied and won a competitive state grant to develop an outreach campaign to assist the Latino population. Latino leaders, a consulting team, and a Latino marketing firm were assembled to conduct the effort. It was found that the areas with the worst pedestrian problems were found in higher density areas with low-income and a high population of immigrants. Unfamiliarity with U.S. traffic laws, foreign driving habits, and high transit use were all contributing factors to the pedestrian injuries and deaths. To combat these problems better educational efforts were made toward the Latin community including integration of pedestrian safety into ESOL (English to speakers of other languages) classes, driver education programs, and high school public safety seminars. Also bi-lingual tip cards and posters were distributed to residents of the Maryland suburbs.3

In order to progressively move toward sustainable transportation widespread programs are essential. An example of programs with colossal effects is in South Africa, which is set to host the 2010 World Cup. This event is a fantastic opportunity to redevelop the transportation system. The existing supply of buses, taxis, and rail transport is inadequate to support the growing demand, especially with the anticipated influx of fans that the World Cup will surely bring. Another limitation is the 2009 timeline in which the transportation system much be revamped. As a result, sustainable forms of transportation are being given serious consideration to better improve mobility. Transportation officials are considering a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system which has shown success in cities such as: Brisbane, Australia; Curitiba, Brazil; and Jakarta, Indonesia. BRT provides excellent transit service comparable to a metro rail system, with a fraction of the cost (about $2 million U.S.). Another system, the Gautrain, a mass transit rail initiative, is currently under construction to serve an 80 kilometer corridor with a price tag of $1 billion (U.S.). However, a BRT system with the same construction cost could accommodate approximately 1,400 kilometers of high-quality BRT. Also, construction of BRT can be completed rather quickly with the first phase of construction completed within two years.4

Whether in an elementary school, or throughout a country, outreach is an important consideration in the pursuit for a sustainable world. The continuation and growth of outreach programs will improve sustainability of our transportation systems and preserve the movement towards sustainable transportation.

1 NESEA
2 Transweb
3 Pedestrian Safety in Crisis: Latino Deaths on the International Corridor
4 ITDP

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