The Land Transports
External costs of land national transports may count for some % points of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is an enormous sum, that unfortunately corresponds to real burdens of a high social relevance: losses of time due to congestion, the dramatic consequences of road accidents, the health effects of air pollution, the disturbance and health effects of noise, the expected net damages due to man-induced climate change… External costs of transport are not exclusively linked to mobility. Four main categories of transport external costs may be distinguished:
- Externalities due to the construction of infrastructures (airports, railways and stations, roads and motorways); typically they are linked to landscape impacts (effects on tourism and on amenity of the local population); to impacts on natural resources (loss of habitats, barrier effects on animal movements), to civil works environmental impacts, to those generated in the production of the materials and energy products used in the construction, to the non adequately compensated expropriations. In the perspective of a sustainable development this category may cause huge external costs (loss of rare habitats and biodiversity impacts) but at the moment they have been studied very little as such.
- Externalities due the (low quality) management of infrastructure (bad maintenance with formation of holes in the road mantle, works in progress during peak traffic periods, type of toll payment in relation to queues, etc.);
- Externalities due to the production and to the dismantling of end of life vehicles. These are typically process and industrial externalities. They are taken at a very low level by the present very tight EU legislation, but in the vehicles end of life phase much more could be done in order to maximise recycling rate of components, to control the materials recycling processes and to minimise the external costs of final waste treatment;
- Externalities due to the use of vehicles (mobility). This is the most studied category in terms of external costs. Less studied but quantitatively important are the externalities due to mobility linked to the transport auxiliary products (fuels production, batteries, lubricants, tires, etc.). (Table)
Traffic management and external costs of mobility
Even if external costs of mobility have a primary responsibility at the level of the single vehicle users, they could be reduced by integrated traffic management.
This is particularly the case of urban areas, where urban mobility plans and traffic management schemes should be implemented. For a fair and efficient mobility management, urban private traffic charging systems are suggested only when public transport well designed alternatives are provided to people: this means that a complete cost & benefit assessment of mobility should be made. Travelling purposes and needs of people should be in-depth analysed in order to provide real benefiting alternatives to the private forms of mobility. In the case of closed infrastructures (motorways) traffic management schemes could be implemented in order to promote the use of green cars (euro standard differentiated automatic tolls), to reduce greenhouse gases emissions (automatic speed controls), to smooth congestion peaks (time differentiated tolls, information systems, etc.), to reduce noise impacts (barriers) and most of all to increase safety (police control, fog alerting systems, tunnel safety systems, etc.). Obviously many of these measures may be suggested also in the case of ordinary extra-urban roads.
External costs of mobility in Italy
As to transport external costs in Italy, the five Reports produced by the NGO Amici della Terra (Friends of the Earth Italy) should be quoted for their completeness and systematic reference to the EU research (English versions of the summary reports are available at www.amicidellaterra.it ):
- “The Environmental and Social costs of Mobility in Italy” - Summary published by Ferrovie dello Stato + Full study version published by FrancoAngeli Publisher - Milan, 1998. Year of reference for the calculation of the external costs of mobility: 1995.
- “The Environmental and Social Costs of Mobility in Italy” – Summary of the Second Report published by Ferrovie dello Stato Roma, 1999. Year of reference for the calculation of the external costs of mobility: 1997.
- “Production, Use and Dismantling of Transport Vehicles: the External Costs in a Life Cycle Perspective” – Summary of the Third Report published by Ferrovie dello Stato + Full study version published by FrancoAngeli, Milan, 2000. Year of reference for the calculation of the external costs: 1997.
- “The Environmental and Social Costs of Mobility in Italy” - The Fourth Report. Published by Ferrovie dello Stato, Roma, 2001. Year of reference for the calculation of the external costs: 1999.
- “The Environmental and Social Costs of Mobility in Italy” - The Fifth Report. Ferrovie dello Stato, Roma, 2006. Year of reference for the calculation of the external costs: 2003.