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How does transportation affect environmental quality?

Transportation is a fundamental activity that can be developed in a sustainable manner or can have detrimental environmental effects.  Environmentally, transportation systems have significant effects upon air and water quality.  Transportation will have environmental consequences with any form of development, but the key issue is that there are transit system designs that minimize the harmful effects—air and water pollution, climate change, habitat loss, and hydrologic conditions.  Alternative transportation modes and systems provide a large opportunity to reduce environmental degradation.  Communities must seize the chance to develop these alterative, more sustainable systems.    

Thus, communities must examine their transportation statistics to determine how sustainable their system currently is and the viability of the direction their system is headed.


What are the sub-attributes of transportation?

            To evaluate the sustainability of the transportation system the sub-attributes considered are: miles of paved roads, commute time to work (in minutes), and number of registered vehicles.  Details of the effects of each of these sub-attributes on environmental quality and sustainability can be found by clicking on the links below.     


Paved Roads

Commuting Time to Work

Number of Registered Vehicles


What other indicators should be considered?

            In addition to the environmental impacts of transportation, it is important to take into account the cost of the systems (i.e. costs to pave roads, fuel costs for public transportation, and maintenance costs among others) and the expense to the taxpayers, the social justice of the system (i.e. access to transportation for the poor, the elderly, and the young), and the human health effects (e.g. asthma rates due to pollution). 


Next step?

            Examine the transportation sub-attributes, beginning with miles of paved roads.   


Author: Elisa Mayes