As climate change increasingly becomes a matter of policies and regulation, there is a growing focus on sustainable public transport. While most of the harmful emissions from transportation come from road vehicles, a small portion is from rail and other public transit modes.

Public transport can have a huge contribution to limiting the effects of climate change. First and foremost, by diverting people from the use of private vehicle transportation.

Technology plays a major role in increasing the sustainability of current and planned public transport systems. Many of those technologies will be shown at the upcoming UITP Global Public Transport Summit in Barcelona in June 2023. PTV Group will also be there to launch innovative tools for public transport planners.

Here are some ways mobility planners and public transit operators can increase sustainability:



Transport accounts for 24% of worldwide CO2 emissions from fuel combustion. Road vehicles – including buses – are responsible for nearly three-quarters of these. That makes transport a major contributor to global warming and climate change.

To limit the effects of climate change, a massive and rapid reduction of emissions from transport is necessary. This can mostly be done by transforming to non-carbon engines, such as electrical ones.

In public transportation, this means replacing buses and trains that run on fossil fuels with electric-powered vehicles. This would reduce emissions of harmful pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and carbon dioxide.

Switching to electric engines requires public transport companies to adopt smart charging strategies.

For public transport operators, it is critical to use software to choose the correct decarbonization measures and estimate their effects. PTV Visum software, for example, offers line blocking for battery electric buses. This helps operators to define charging strategies: The number and locations of charging points, battery sizes, and the number of buses needed.


Accessible public transport means sustainable public transport – because more people want to use it.

Accessibility is an indicator of the possibilities and limitations for people to move from A to B. In other words, how they can reach places of employment, retail, education, and more by all means of transport.

Good accessibility information, provided by reliable software tools, helps us understand the existing mobility systems – including public transport. Planners can also use it to compare the impacts of projects and changes.

Therefore, accessibility analysis is an important instrument in public transport planning. Through it, planners get a perspective on connectivity, especially public transit, biking, and walking. This helps them understand the transportation situation. This results in people-centered mobility.

Good accessibility analysis, created with software such as PTV Model2Go, can clearly show areas where mobility provision does not match mobility needs, e.g., which are underserved by public transport. As a result, it is possible to quantify the improvements and investments needed.


Mobility hubs


Integrating public transport with other modes of transport such as cycling and walking can also make it more sustainable. That’s where mobility hubs come into play.

Mobility hubs are places where travelers can choose between many modes of mobility to complete their journey. For example, unboard a train and pick up a shared bicycle until they get home.

Mobility hubs play a double role in making public transport more sustainable:

First, they increase the use of public transport by making rides more attractive – especially ones involving connections.

Second, mobility hubs encourage the use of active modes of mobility, namely bicycles that are available to commuters passing through them.

To make mobility hubs more attractive, public authorities can include green spaces in them. This has a twofold effect: New parks and planting help reduce CO2 emissions and improve air quality.

When setting up mobility hubs, planners need to predict how they will best serve passengers and minimize costs to operators. To do this, modelling software such as PTV Visum can be helpful in choosing the right scenario.

Energy & fleet efficiency

Improving the energy efficiency of public transport fleets and infrastructure can also help reduce emissions and save energy.

This can be achieved through measures such as using lighter materials in vehicle construction, optimizing routes to reduce travel time and idling, and implementing regenerative braking systems.

The procurement of vehicles for public transit, however, requires huge financial investments and has long lead times. Therefore, it requires proper advance planning. In particular, the conversion of gasoline bus fleets to e-bus fleets requires careful assessment of the different operational concepts (overnight charging, opportunity charging etc.) and the needed charging infrastructure.

Technology is helpful in these cases. Computerized transportation models are used to evaluate the fleet required to operate a planned service or to assess how different types of vehicles will perform in the planned service. Public transport planners can use modeling to assess different fleet compositions of electric and combustion engines.


Plan & renew


One of the most complex urban mobility challenges is the aging infrastructure of many cities. In these places, the public transportation systems were built to accommodate much smaller populations. They haven’t been updated accordingly over the years.

Aging infrastructure is not only unsafe and costly. It also contributes to pollution levels, for example if it does not support electric fleets, or if buses are stuck in traffic and release more emissions.

Planning and renewing of public transport infrastructure is a costly investment. But planners can save a lot of resources by using modeling software to compare scenarios. You can read in this short guide about urban mobility planning and its effects on public transport and sustainability.

Achieve eco-friendly public transport

Great software tools to plan sustainable public transport

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