Urban planning has two primary components: land-use planning and transportation planning. In order for any sustainable city to thrive, these two components must be addressed. Ideally, a city would set out to have a land-use plan that preserves as much natural setting as possible. The most sustainable urban plans design bike routes and walking paths, along with roads, that feature natural settings, thus increasing the aesthetics and viability of transportation alternatives.
The more current definitions of urban planning include economic factors, along with conservation and environment. Urban planning is conceived much like a business plan, where potential revenue increases in order to attract investors (general public and government). Mass transit is a useful means for illustrating revenue increase in the urban planning process. A sustainable city incorporates sustainable mass transportation into urban planning. The best city plans design mass transit around areas that offer a high concentration of employment potential.
One major emphasis in sustainable city design has remained the reduction of urban sprawl. Bringing home, work and shopping as geographically close as possible has become quite important. Ideally, development would be concentrated around mass transit, jobs and shopping. Urban developments should also focus on pedestrian and cycle paths. The ideal city would have high-density, focused areas of productivity which have a variety of environmentally sound transportation choices, and make walking and biking good alternatives.
Urban planning draws on engineering and architectural disciplines, as well as social and political concerns. Urban planning is variously a technical profession, an endeavor involving political will and public participation, and an academic discipline. Urban planning concerns itself with both the development of open land (“greenfield sites”) and the revitalization of existing parts of the city. Therefore, it involves goal setting, data collection and analysis, forecasting, design, strategic thinking, and public consultation.
The process of city design involves the disciplines of engineering and architecture, as in transportation and building planning. Ideally, a city would pursue green building and sustainable mass transportation. Before these modes of action can be initiated, the political and social will to change development ideas must be brought to the surface. Education and activism become the focus, in order to promote the concepts of sustainability and raise public awareness.
Mass transit reduces CO2 emissions
Sustainable mass transit reduces CO2 emissions, helps to produce numerous financial benefits, creates urban centers of productivity and reduces dependence on foreign oil. As far as carbon-based transit, the amount of oil used per passenger is greatly reduced with the use of any type of sustainable mass transit compared to the use of standard fossil fuel dependent cars. New fuel technologies such as biofuel and hydrogen, in addition to electric vehicles, represent a new trend in environmentally sound and economically beneficial mass transit. The higher the quantity and quality of public transport, the greater becomes the opportunity and incentive for people to look beyond traditional car use.
One of the more promising modes of public transport is rail, particularly electric urban rail. Light rail provides various benefits relating to cost effectiveness; the low maintenance needs and low energy demands of light rail make this form of transportation highly efficient. Environmental benefits include the reduction of carbon dioxide, as well as the reduction of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide. Traffic congestion is greatly reduced in any urban environment, and ultimately light rail systems can replace highways. Light rail creates jobs both by producing a new source of capital and by creating new, busy economic centers. Not only does electric light rail replace the use of fossil fuels, but the development cost of light rail systems (trams, trolleys, street cars, etc...) is about half that of building freeways.
Another exciting sign of progress in transportation is the further development of hybrid, electric-only and biodiesel/ ethanol-fueled cars and buses. As far as a complete departure from middle-east oil dependency, first world nations must embrace technologies now available which offer alternatives to fossil fuels. Electric and biofuel buses are just about the best means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in transportation. Hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles are all fairly new transportation technologies which are poised, along with other technologies in the sustainable transportation movement, to make a positive transition for human transit. The newest and brightest of these technologies is hydrogen fuel.
Hydrogen is used in mass transit vehicles in many countries in Europe (especially in Norway, Germany and Iceland), and Japan – just to name a few. One great benefit of hydrogen fuel is that it produces absolutely zero emissions, with water vapor being the only by-product. Please see - Clean Hydrogen in European Cities (CHIC).
These cities exemplify the concepts involved in green urban planning: