The year 2012 saw a surge in the use of cars and motorcycles in Asia, and traffic deaths followed
Transport planners, engineers, and sustainable transport advocates need to find the best examples of safe and efficient transport policies and move them to wide-spread replication.
In the transport sector, the most serious issues of congestion, road accident fatalities and injuries and air pollution are readily obvious by looking out the window of any major Asian city. Would knowing the numbers more accurately make a difference to policy makers?
However, the numbers from 2012’s compendium of research make for rather sober reading and are worth a bit of end-of-year reflection.
The medical journal "The Lancet” recently published a study on the estimates of deaths in Asia due to air contaminants. The study estimates that currently 2.1 million persons in Asia fall to premature deaths due to air pollutants (principally from particulate matter), and it implicated the transport sector as the principal source of fine particulate matter. These figures are nearly four times that of previous studies in the sector.
Likewise, the recent research on road fatality deaths puts global figures at 1.3 million fatalities each year and approximately 50 million injuries. Of this amount, approximately half of fatalities and injuries occur in Asia and the Pacific.
Not surprisingly, these rather depressing figures are all being driven by the unprecedented growth in cars in motorcycles across the region. In just the past decade, the total motorized vehicle fleet in the Asia and Pacific region more than doubled from 200 million vehicles to over 450 million vehicles (International Energy Agency Mobility Model, 2011). The pace of growth is unabated as the People’s Republic of China (PRC) likely added another approximately 20 million new vehicles to its fleet in 2012 alone. New vehicle registrations in both India and the PRC have accelerated to annual growth rates of approximately 8%.
Likewise, the recent research on road fatality deaths puts global figures at 1.3 million fatalities each year and approximately 50 million injuries.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is currently involved in several efforts to collect core transport-sector data in order to improve investment decisions and motivate additional efforts in sustainable options.
First, under the Sustainable Fuel Partnership we have projected fuel consumption and associated travel characteristics for the region as a means to understand whether value from fuel use could be captured for sustainable transport projects. Second, we are participating in an effort known as Global Transport Intelligence (GTI) initiative. We hope to capture basic information on each developing member country of ADB and regularly publish an Asian Transport Outlook. To be effective, we especially hope to make an open-source data collection structure in which crowd-sourcing of new ideas and user inputs can be used to help revolutionize the accuracy and timeliness of our sector knowledge.
However, does this mean that better data result to better decision making? Certainly, decision-making embedded in a strict framework of benefit-cost analysis underpinned by accurate national and local data is preferred to the alternative. And many nations in the Asia and Pacific region lack basic transport-sector information such as mode shares, kilometers travelled and even the number of vehicles on the road.
At the same time, as one who subscribes to innumerable daily information feeds on the transport sector, I know there is plethora of research and studies out there. So much so that I can only begin to read a small percentage of what comes across my inbox. Thus, we are also drowning in information that may actually be quite powerful if it could be distilled and targeted to the right decision-makers.
In this sense, perhaps what is most needed is to better communicate the information and knowledge products that currently exist. Transport planners, engineers, and sustainable transport advocates all need to find better ways in packaging ideas to bridge the gap between a few exemplary examples to wider-spread replication.