Student Review: Sustainable Transportation: Problems and Solutions

February 24, 2011

Author: William R. Black

Edition: First

Publisher: Guilford Press

Pages: 298

Price: £41.00

ISBN 9781606234853

Sustainability in recent years has become ever more present in academic literature, the media and government policy, making this book's focus very relevant.

William Black's text applies the notion of sustainability to transportation in an easy-to-understand, logical way. The opening chapter is dedicated to trying to define what "sustainability" is, before going on to look at the components that currently make transport non-sustainable. These two aspects set the scene for the rest of the book.

As with many texts relating to sustainability, here the natural environment is a primary focus - diminishing oil reserves, atmospheric impacts and localised air quality impacts are highlighted - but Black also considers in equal depth factors such as vehicle accidents and safety, along with congestion.

These non-sustainable problems are outlined in the first half of the book, and frequent use of graphs and tables helps the reader to picture the scale of problems. Visual aids showing the decline in production of crude oil are especially useful.

The author also touches on varying government policies in the US and across Europe. Policies relating to motor vehicle accidents are particularly interesting to read about: in Sweden, the aim is for zero fatalities on the roads, in the UK measures are in place to limit fatalities, but US policy focuses on making crashes more survivable, rather than aiming to prevent the crashes from happening in the first place.

It is easy merely to criticise the non-sustainability of transport, but what the second half of this book does is to propose solutions to the current problems. Among the propositions examined are alternative fuels and in-car technologies such as computer-assisted driving, but in the short term, Black argues that "educating for change" is the most effective method to make transport more sustainable.

Sustainable Transportation tackles a diverse range of contemporary issues at a level of detail that is neither overwhelming nor too brief. In the future, sustainability is a subject that we will all need to consider, as we look at changing how we travel in our daily lives.

The book considers how the landscape will appear in decades to come, with alternative fuels, technology and increased taxes all likely to play key roles.

Who is it for? Geography undergraduates in the main, but it could also be useful in parts for students in the disciplines of planning and the environmental sciences.

Presentation: Clearly defined chapters and sub-sections, with good use of tables and charts.

Would you recommend it? Yes, highly.

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