Energy Use in Urban Transport Systems: A Global Review
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Most assessments of the global oil situation, such as from the US Geological Survey and Petro consultants in Geneva, are now coalescing around a consensus that world oil production will reach a peak by 2010, at the latest. At this time the 'big rollover' will occur and world oil production will enter a period of inexorable decline, resulting, amongst other things, in a further concentration of oil wealth in the politically unstable Middle East region. When this happens, the world will enter an entirely new reality as far as energy is concerned. The transport sector will be hardest hit by this transition as it is almost entirely dependent upon liquid fossil fuels, and will take many years to shift to other energy sources. Urban societies will be particularly vulnerable, such as during the Arab Oil Embargo in 1973-74 when US residents attacked each other in the gas queues. This paper provides a review of some critical transport, urban form and energy use patterns in an international sample of 84 cities in the USA, Australia, Canada, Western Europe, high income Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, low income Asia, Latin America and China.This overview concentrates specifically on factors such as urban density, car use, public transport use and non-motorised mode use, which help us to better understand the different levels of per capita transport energy use experienced in different cities. It examines in detail the resulting patterns of energy consumption in private and public transport, energy efficiency by all modes of private and public transport, and transport emissions in the different groups of cities. Automobile cities such as those in the US use extraordinary quantities of energy in urban transport. An average US urban settlement of 400,000 people uses about 24 times more energy in private transport as a Chinese megacity of 10 million people. Public transport energy use per capita represents a tiny fraction of that used in private transport, even where public transport plays the major role in a city's transport system and has huge energy conserving and emissions reduction potential. Rail in particular is generally the most energy efficient mode. Some key policy recommendations are outlined to reduce transport energy use and provide other positive outcomes in terms of livability and sustainability.
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