Decarbonizing transport is one of the key measures to tackle climate change and global warming. Hence, pressure is mounting on the public transport industry to contribute its fair share to this effort of transport decarbonization.

But what exactly is public transport decarbonization, and how can it be done? Here’s a short guide on decarbonization of public transport – and how software can speed it up and make it cost-effective.

What is decarbonization?


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

As awareness of this danger grows, so are the efforts to limit the amounts of harmful emissions from transportation, namely from fuel combustion engines. These efforts are called decarbonization.

For the world to stay within a 2°C increase in average temperature, decarbonizing transport is necessary. Some governments have already set ambitious decarbonization targets. The European Union’s Green New Deal, for example, aims to reduce harmful emissions by 55% by 2030 and to become carbon-neutral by 2050.

To achieve these climate goals, 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.

Decarbonization and public transport

In public transport, the main producers of harmful emissions are fuel-engine buses. If decarbonization is to succeed, it is necessary to reduce emissions from diesel-fueled bus fleets in urban areas.

In the EU there is already legislation in place. The clean vehicle directive defines how a clean vehicle is fueled, and it sets quotas for procurement of low- and zero-emission public transport vehicles.

To comply with this legislation, public transport operators must act now: If they haven’t done so yet, they should start planning the transformation of their fleets from diesel-fueled to those powered by cleaner forms of energy.

But achieving this is not always easy.


The challenges


Switching to electric vehicles means using cleaner energy, reducing harmful emissions, and less noise pollution. But there are several challenges to the introduction of clean-powered vehicles to public transport:

  • Charging e-buses takes longer, and their range is shorter compared to buses with combustion engines. Public transport operators must therefore replan vehicle scheduling and network design.
  • Charging infrastructure – namely the location and number of e-charging stations – and of course building them. This needs to be well-planned.
  • Public transport operators must also choose the right size of batteries for the e-buses, according to their needs.
  • There is also a need to train public transport staff to handle high voltage operations.

Utilizing public transport for decarbonization

Using public transport is a good way to contribute to decarbonization. To this end, it doesn’t matter if the bus or train is powered by combustion engine or is already electric.

Therefore, many governments and authorities encourage people to switch from cars to public transport by making the latter more attractive. One way is to introduce new ticketing concepts – they are uniform and cheaper.

Another way is to make car usage less attractive – namely more expensive for car owners. To this effect, many cities introduce Low Emission Zones, and limit the amount of available parking space.


Software for public transport decarbonization


Considering these challenges, it is critical for public transport operators to use software to choose the correct decarbonization measures and estimate their effects.

PTV Visum software, for example, helps public transport operators to define their charging strategies: The number and locations of charging points, battery sizes, and the number of necesarry buses.

For decision-makers and public transport planners, PTV Visum enables them to estimate the effects of different measures, like ticketing policies, service enhancements, or limits on car traffic.

PTV Visum is multimodal – it depicts all modes of mobility including cars, public transit, bicycle, etc. Therefore, its demand modeling considers the costs and service quality for all these modes of mobility.

This software tool also estimates shifts in mode demand. It helps planners to prove the effectiveness of specific measures they propose.

Decarbonizing transport with PTV Visum

 PTV Visum software includes several features that specifically help public transport professionals plan decarbonization measures. Among those features are:

  • Support switching to e-buses: The software models numerous scenarios of introducing fleets of e-buses. Public transport planners can then compare cost efficiencies; re-calculate the number of vehicles in their fleets; determine the capacity of the batteries; build charging infrastructure and specify the number and locations of charging stations. Watch how it works.


  • Modeling new ticketing concepts: PTV Visum models the effects of planned measures to attract passengers to public transport, such as new ticketing concepts. These aim to unify, simplify, and reduce costs of existing fare systems. The software depicts all kinds of tariff structures and fare calculations. Its models consider not only the fares, but also service levels, reliability, and passengers’ comfort. Planners can then compare service levels of public transport to other modes, like cars or bicycles. By doing so, they can assess the number of people who switch to public transport from other modes. Discover how to do this.


  • Planning restricted traffic zones: To tackle congestion and its harmful environmental impacts, many cities implement driving bans, restricted driving zones, and emission-related charging policies. With PTV Visum, you can model these measures, and compare scenarios of their effects. In addition, you can calculate the effects in static assignments, as well as within the simulation-based assignment (SBA). Restricted traffic areas – whether no traffic, no through traffic, or area toll – can be considered in all assignments.

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