The Unsustainability of Car Use

  • Bert van WeeEmail author


A general overview of the drawbacks of car use is first presented. Drawbacks relate to environmental impacts due to emissions of CO2 (climate change), of NOx (acidification, air quality), of PM, CO and HC (air pollution), as well as to noise emission, social, safety, and health impacts. The health impacts are discussed in more detail. An indication is given of the monetary value of these negative impacts. Next the share of transport in a selection of emissions is presented, showing that it has a large share in several emissions. A conceptual framework is proposed identifying the determinants of the negative impacts of car use on society. The conceptual framework is also drawn on to give an overview of possible policy measures to reduce the environmental impacts of car use. Measures include restrictions, pricing, infrastructure provision, land-use planning, public transport policies, marketing, education and communications. Transport does not only have negative impacts on society, but also positive impacts. The health effects of walking and cycling, being a positive benefit that contrary to accessibility benefits is often overlooked. Finally, the unsustainability of car use is highlighted.


Public Transport Policy Measure Travel Behaviour Transport Volume Road Transport 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Andersen, L. B., Wedderkopp, N., Kristensen, P., Möller, N. C., Fröberg, K., & Cooper, A. R. (2011). Cycling to school and cardiovascular risk factors: A longitudinal study. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 8, 1025–1033.Google Scholar
  2. AVV. (2006). Kosten verkeersongevallen in Nederland: ontwikkelingen 1997–2003 [Costs of road accidents in the Netherlands: Trends 1997–2003]. Rotterdam, the Netherlands: Directoraat-Generaal Rijkswaterstaat, Adviesdienst Verkeer en Vervoer.Google Scholar
  3. Badland, H., & Schofield, G. (2005). Transport, urban design, and physical activity: An evidence-based update. Transportation Research Part D, 10, 177–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bagley, M. N., & Mokhtarian, P. L. (2002). The impact of residential neighborhood type on travel behaviour: A structural equations modeling approach. The Annals of Regional Science, 36, 279–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bassett, D. R., Jr., Pucher, J., Buehler, R., Thompson, D. L., & Crouter, S. E. (2011). Active transportation and obesity in Europe, North America, and Australia. Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Journal, 81(8), 24–28.Google Scholar
  6. Bennett, D. H., McKone, T. E., Evans, J. S., Nazaroff, W. W., Margni, M. D., Jolliet, O., et al. (2002). Defining intake fraction. Environmental Science & Technology, 36(9), 206A–2011A.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berglund, B., Lindvall, T., & Schwela, D. H. (Eds.). (1999). Guidelines for community noise. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO.Google Scholar
  8. Blok, P., & Van Wee, B. (1994). Het Verkeersvraagstuk [The transport case]. In F. Dietz, W. Hafkamp, & J. Van der Straaten (Eds.), Basisboek milieu-economie. Amsterdam: Meppel Boom.Google Scholar
  9. Buehler, R., Pucher, J., Merom, D., & Bauman, A. (2011). Active travel in Germany and the US: Contributions of daily walking and cycling to physical activity. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 41, 241–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cao, X., Mokhtarian, P. L., & Handy, S. (2009). Examining the impact of residential self-selection on travel behavior: A focus on empirical findings. Transport Reviews, 29, 359–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Davis, S. C., Diegel, S. W., & Boundy, R. G. (2010). Transportation energy data book. Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge National Laboratory.Google Scholar
  12. Dora, C. (2004). A different route to health: Implications of transport policies. British Medical Journal, 318(7199), 1686–1689.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dorland, C., & Jansen, H. M. A. (1997). ExternE transport – The Netherlands. Dutch case studies on transport externalities. Amsterdam: Free University, Institute for Environmental Studies.Google Scholar
  14. El-Shawarby, I., Ahn, K., & Rakha, H. (2005). Comparative field evaluation of vehicle cruise speed and acceleration level impacts on hot stabilized emissions. Transportation Research Part D, 10, 13–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. European Environment Agency. (2000). Are we moving in the right direction? Indicators on transport and environmental integration in the EU: TERM2000. Kopenhagen, Denmark: EEA.Google Scholar
  16. Evans, J. S., Wolff, S. K., Phonboon, K., Levy, J. I., & Smith, K. R. (2002). Exposure efficiency: An idea whose time has come? Chemosphere, 49, 1075–1091.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Eyre, N. J., Ozdemiroglu, E., Pearce, D. W., & Steele, P. (1997). Fuel and location effects on the damage costs of transport emissions. Journal of Transport Economics and Policy, 31, 5–24.Google Scholar
  18. Frank, L. D., Saelens, B. E., Powell, K. E., & Chapman, J. E. (2007). Stepping towards causation: Do built environments or neighborhood and travel preferences explain physical activity, driving, and obesity? Social Science & Medicine, 65, 1898–1914.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fraser, S. D. S., & Lock, K. (2011). Cycling for transport and public health: A systematic review of the effect of the environment on cycling. European Journal of Public Health, 21, 738–743.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Goodwin, P. B. (1996). Empirical evidence on induced traffic: A review and synthesis. Transportation, 23(1), 35–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Handy, S. (2005). Critical assessment of the literature on the relationships among transportation, land use, and physical activity. In Does the built environment influence physical activity? Examining the evidence (Special report 282). Washington, DC: Transportation Research Board.Google Scholar
  22. Hensher, D., & Button, K. (Eds.). (2003). Handbook of transport and the environment. Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  23. Janssen, N. A. H., Brunekreef, B., Hoek, G., & Keuken, P. (2002). Traffic-related air pollution and health. Utrecht/Apeldoorn, the Netherlands: Utrecht University, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Environmental and Occupational Health Division/TNO Milieu, Energie en Procesinnovatie.Google Scholar
  24. Kennisinstituut voor Mobiliteitsbeleid (KiM). (2010). Mobiliteitsbalans 2010 [Mobility balance]. Den Haag, The Netherlands: Kennisinstituut voor Mobiliteitsbeleid.Google Scholar
  25. Kennisinstituut voor Mobiliteitsbeleid [KiM]. (2011). Mobiliteitsbalans 2011 [Mobility balance]. Den Haag, the Netherlands: Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu.Google Scholar
  26. Kitamura, R., Mokhtarian, P. L., & Laidet, L. (1997). A micro-analysis of land use and travel in five neighbourhoods in the San Francisco Bay Area. Transportation, 24, 125–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Litman, T. A. (2012). Land use impacts on transport: How land use factors affect travel behavior. Retrieved from
  28. Lumsdon, L., & Mitchel, J. (1999). Walking, transport and health: Do we have the right prescription? Health Promotion International, 14, 271–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Marshall, J. D., Mc Kone, T. E., Deaking, E., & Nazaroff, W. W. (2005). Inhalation of motor vehicle emissions: Effects of urban population and land area. Atmospheric Environment, 39, 283–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Marshall, J. D., Riley, W. J., McKone, T. E., & Nazaroff, W. W. (2003). Intake fraction of primary pollutants: Motor vehicle emissions in the South Coast Air Basin. Atmospheric Environment, 37, 3455–3468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Morisson, D. S., Petticrew, M., & Thomson, H. (2003). What are the most effective ways of improving population health through transport interventions? Evidence from systematic reviews. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 57, 327–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Newton, P. N. (Ed.). (1997). Reshaping cities for a more sustainable future – Exploring the link between urban form, air quality, energy and greenhouse gas emissions [Research monograph 6]. Melbourne, Australia: Australian Housing and Research Institute (AHURI).Google Scholar
  33. Nijland, H., Hartemink, S., van Kamp, I., & van Wee, B. (2007). The influence of sensitivity for road traffic noise on residential location: Does it trigger a process of spatial selection? Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 122, 1595–1601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Perl, A., & Dunn, J. A., Jr. (2007). Reframing automobile fuel economy policy in North America: The politics of punctuating a policy equilibrium. Transport Reviews, 27(1), 1–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Saelensminde, K. (2004). Cost–benefit analyses of walking and cycling track networks taking into account insecurity, health effects and external costs of motorized traffic. Transportation Research Part A, 38, 593–606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Schäfer, A., Heywood, J. B., Jacoby, H. D., & Waitz, I. A. (2009). Transportation in a climate-constrained world. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  37. Serageldin, I., & Steer, A. (1994). Making development sustainable: From concepts to action. New York: World Bank.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Smith, K. R. (1993a). Fuel combustion, air pollution exposure, and health: The situation in developing countries. Annual Review of Energy and the Environment, 18, 529–566.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Smith, K. R. (1993b). Taking the true measure of air pollution. EPA Journal, 19(4), 6–8.Google Scholar
  40. SWOV. (2009). Fact sheet of road crash costs. Leidschendam, the Netherlands: Institute for Road Safety Research.Google Scholar
  41. Van Pul, W. A. J., Van Zandvoort, E. D. G., De Leeuw, F. A. A. M., & Sluyter, R. J. C. F. (1996). Urban air quality assessment model (UAQUM) [RIVM Report 722401010]. Bilthoven, the Netherlands: National Institute of Public Health and the Environment.Google Scholar
  42. Van Wee, B. (1995). Pricing instruments for transport policy. In F. J. Dietz, H. R. J. Vollebergh, & J. L. de Vries (Eds.), Environment, incentives and the common market. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  43. Van Wee, B. (2007). Environmental effects of urban traffic. In T. Garling & L. Steg (Eds.), Threats from car traffic to the quality of urban life. Problems, causes, and solutions. Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  44. Van Wee, B. (2009). Self-selection: A key to a better understanding of location choices, travel behaviour and transport externalities? Transport Reviews, 29, 279–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Van Wee, B., Janse, P., & Van den Brink, R. (2005). Comparing environmental performance of land transport modes. Transport Reviews, 25, 3–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Whitelegg, J., Gatrell, A., & Naumann, P. (1993). Traffic and health. Lancaster, UK: University of Lancaster, Environmental Epidemiology Research Unit.Google Scholar
  47. World Commission on Environment and Development. (1987). Our common future. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Technology, Policy and ManagementDelft University of TechnologyDelftThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations