The Green Transportation Hierarchy (1992)

The Green Transportation Hierarchy: : A Guide for Personal & Public Decision-Making, by Chris Bradshaw, June 2004 (revised September 1994)
[First prepared for Ottawalk and the Transportation Working
Committee of the Ottawa-Carleton Round-table on the Environment
(Greenprint), Jan 1992; revised 1998 by the author]

The following factors represent choices in urban transportation.
Some choices are more environmentally friendly than other
choices.  Each trip can be ranked on the nine factors below.
Individuals should make trip – AND lifestyle – choices – and
public authorities should officially direct its resources –
funds, moral suasion, and formal sanctions – based on informal
scoring of the factors.  The author recognizes that, although
readers will find the hierarchy to be logical, the effect of
applying it will seem radical. [See a separate paper by the
author, ‘Using Our Feet to Reduce Our Footprint: The Importance
of Scale in Life’ (1997) for the ‘NRFUT’ system of comparing the
‘footprint’ of different trips.]

What must be noticed is that the model rejects the concept of the
balanced transportation system, where users are assumed
to be free to choose between many options. This is because
choices incorporating factors that are ranked low generally have
a _predatory_ impact on other choices.  This is because of the
extreme range in the choices possible.  Using the hierarchy
presented below, the “highest” trip is that made by a 90-
year-old woman by foot across the street to visit a bed-ridden
child.  The “lowest” is a trip by an adult male alone in
his “muscle car” to bother his ex-wife living on the
other side of town.  Where those two trips intersect, our present
system makes the woman wait for the man, and in winter, will
cause the snow to be piled to make a direct trip impossible for
her, while creating summer-like driving conditions for the man.
It’s really no different than if there were no rules at all;
“might makes right”, the law of all jungle, should be easy to
conceptualize even to a child or a person with fading mental
and physical capacities.  Rather, our civilized settlements
should be based on “the more you wield, the more you yield”.


1. Mode


2. Energy Source

Solar, Wind
Hydrogen (Not yet commercially available)
Electric or inertia (e.g. flywheel) to store energy from

another source)

3. Trip Length


4. Trip Speed (danger and wind friction)


5. Vehicle Size (weight and profile against the wind)


6. Vehicle Utilization (efficiency)


7. Trip Segment

Access to a property
Through movement

8. Trip Purpose (“exchange value”, synergy, sustainability)

To meet people
To reach a special place
To move goods
To reach work
To move information
For recreation/entertainment
To save a little money
For thrills

9. Traveller

Young child

10. Vehicle Exclusivity [see Bradshaw paper on ‘MASC: Metered
Access to a Shared Vehicle’ (2004)]

Driver and car for hire (little parking required; higher
cost by best match to users’ location needs)
Shared vehicle (used by several people for own trips when
others don’t need it; vehicle returned to base between
Personally owned and used (requires maximum storage, road
space, and manufacturing/recycling)


A. In Personal Decision-Making

* Choose shoes and clothing comfortable for walking

* Choose residence close to work and shopping

* Rent a car when needed, rather than buy one; buy a smaller,
non-polluting car (if car ownership is necessary)

* Shop at stores nearby, even if price higher (this will
strengthen local businesses which will be able to reduce
prices and increase selection over time)

* Choose fold-up bike which can be taken onto bus and into
workplace and carried inside car (rather than be parked
on sidewalk)

B. In Public Decision-making:

* Don’t encourage cycling until space for riding and parking
is available (otherwise sidewalks and other pedestrian spaces
will be used, discouraging a higher-rated mode: walking).

* Encourage car-pooling and give favoured treatment to cars
with several occupants, but not if most of those attracted come
from transit (or other “higher” modes).

* Require higher safety features on the exterior fronts of
cars than on inside (to prevent injuries to pedestrians and

* Provide tax incentives for transit users; disincentive for
car drivers.

* Implement “road pricing” to charge user fees based on
“green” priorities.

* Encourage tele-commuting work arrangements (both to reduce
trips and to rejuvenate “local life”)

* Encourage and support rationalization in goods-movement
industry to reduce mostly-empty trucks and long distances
between stops

* At bus stops, widen sidewalk, not street (i.e., no “bus bays”)

* allow buses in centre lanes where the ride is better (road
“crowning causes vehicles in outside lanes to bounce violently
at intersections)

* Set higher snow clearance standards for “higher” modes; do
the same in street design.

* Don’t ban street parking/stopping during “rush” hour


A. Physical

* Reduced air pollution and acid rain
* Less Noise in public places and homes
* Reduced urban sprawl of agricultural and sensitive lands
* Less street dirt and grime
* Narrower roads and smaller parking lots as driving is reduced
and occurs with less ‘peak’ demand

B. Social

* Reduced street crime (more “eyes” on street)
* Increased personal fitness
* Higher quality street life
* Fewer injuries/deaths from collisions (‘accidents’)
* Less loss of time due to congestion
* Less need for poor/seniors to buy/maintain a car
* Children spend less time passively being chauffeured (walking
is their natural mode because they remain active and stay
within their known world)
* seniors have more independence; less exposure to “accidents”

C. Economic

* Lower energy costs; less vulnerability to energy interruptions
* Revitalized neighbourhood shopping areas
* Lower costs for health care
* Less lost-time from injuries, stress, congestion
* Lower transportation costs to all, personally and imbedded
in taxes


A trip is a trip.  Each trip allows us to reach a location at
which we conduct personal or commercial or cultural business.
What is being dealt with above is called environment but really
has to do with _efficiency_: what are the benefits and costs
associated with each trip?  Whose costs, whose benefits?  The
trip with the lowest costs (to the traveller as well as to
others) is the one that is “highest” on the nine scales above.
Transportation in cities should “maximize commerce, minimize

Ironically, the “lowest” trips are too often the ones with the
least importance or benefits, e.g. driving to the store for
cigarettes, while the “highest” are often the most important,
e.g., walking to a bank at lunch to arrange for a mortgage or,
while strolling, bumping into an old friend on a street corner
who tells you about a “chance of a lifetime”.  Ironically, the
car is used for these frivolous trips essentially _because_ the
trip is unimportant (i.e. we place so much value on our time
that we try to get unimportant trips over with quickly) and
because external costs are not charged to the traveller.

The car-as-cocoon also _insulates_ the driver and passengers from
the physical and social environment immediately outside the
vehicle while _intimidating_ other-modes travellers who prefer to
be _part_ of that environment.  The mentality of driving is
really the mentality of taking private measures to deal with
public problems (and of converting public space to private uses).

The attitude of “I’m all right, Jack” is the result of using the
car to insulate oneself from street crime, from poor street
cleaning, from street noise, from local air pollution, people who
live on the street, etc.

As if in recognition of these problems, the car manufacturers,
the ‘aftermarket’ producers, and the economy generally have come
to provide a range of amenities that further insulate and amuse
the driver – e.g., smoking, playing the CD, eating/drinking, and
talking on the telephone (all of which increase the chance of
causing a collision).  It is as if the car has _become_ a
destination.  One doesn’t have to go anywhere!

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