Why Healthy Cities Will Depend on Sustainable Transport Solutions

3 minute read
Mar. 9, 2017
Article by Nicolas Pocard

Imagine having to wear a facemask every time you go outside, because poor air quality is threatening your health. Imagine having to relocate because your kid cannot play football without having an asthma crisis.

 Green public transportation at Westminster Bridge London, UK

Air pollution already costs many communities dearly, both by decreasing quality of life, and by increasing illnesses, hospital visits, and even deaths. Diesel engines are a major cause of pollution in our cities.

The solution? Green public transportation – or in some circles, they call it zero-emission buses.

Sustainable transport solutions are needed to deal with the mobility needs of growing populations, without adding cars on the road and without having negative effects on air quality and health.

Europe is already taking tailpipe emissions seriously. Partners in the Paris Declaration on Electro-Mobility and Climate Change have now committed to having at least 20% of all road vehicles electrically powered by 2030 (source).

Need more incentive?

Let's take look at the ways green public transportation can prevent environmental health problems in our communities.

Sustainable Transport Solutions For Improved Public Health

Here are just a few of the ways clean transit improves the health of communities around the world. 

Fewer Hospital Visits and Deaths

In 2012, there were 432,000 premature deaths caused by air pollution in the EU alone. In addition to the pain suffered by loved ones, such a toll has huge financial consequences that are largely preventable and unnecessary.

Notably, in early 2017, London was put on "very high" pollution alert for the very first time. This alert was prompted by poor air quality caused mainly by high numbers of diesel vehicles.

The situation in London was mostly caused by particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen dioxide (N02). These two pollutants are known to wreak havoc on the lungs and heart, resulting in illnesses like asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), pneumonia, and non-fatal heart attacks.

Green public transit is key in helping communities avoid the health consequences and illnesses caused by air pollution.

Improved Quality of Life for Poorer Communities

Lack of transit infrastructure makes it hard for poor communities to access employment, shopping markets, and healthcare facilities. Similarly, people with disabilities and the elderly can become disadvantaged if they don't have proper access to public transit.

Transit systems help connect these demographics to health and economic opportunities, as well as make it easier for them to connect with others. Sustainable transit is even better because it solves the problem without creating the pollution that its diesel cousins are responsible for.

Deploying zero-emission buses to vulnerable communities, which are often more exposed to air pollution, will advance social equity.

Decreased Mental Illnesses

Studies have linked air pollution to mental illness, reduced cognition, and decreased well-being in both children and adults. Children are often more susceptible and research shows that even low levels of pollution are dangerous for them.

Time spent outside has a positive effect on everyone's mental health and well-being. However, if outdoor time is limited due to pollution, this can have an adverse effect.

Clean public transit solves these challenges by reducing the amount of pollution in our communities while still helping people get where they need to go.


Growing air pollution around the world is leading to increased environmental health problems. As a result, communities and policy makers need to act now to implement sustainable transport solutions so they can prevent worsening public health risks and protect their citizens.

Benefits of sustainable mass transit include fewer illnesses caused by air pollution, improved quality of life for disadvantaged communities, and improved mental health in children and adults.

Accessible, sustainable public transportation is a key element in creating more social equality and helping to eradicate poverty.

A solution to consider is the use of hydrogen fuel cell technology to power the transit systems in our communities. Zero-emission fuel cell electric buses are already in operation in the streets of cities in US, Europe, and China.

They greatly reduce the environmental impacts of public transportation, leaving us with cleaner, healthier, and more liveable cities.

What other benefits of sustainable transit can you think of? Let us know in the comments.


Worried about air pollution in your community?

Discover the benefits of zero-emission fuel cell powered transit for the UK in this free white paper. 

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