A new, first of its kind study, confirms that the single most effective way to address the impact of transportation on climate change is not a singular approach at all. Expanded public transit strategies coordinated with combining travel activity, land use development, operational efficiencies can reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) by 24 percent, according to the study entitled Moving Cooler. It estimates that the annual savings in vehicle costs to consumers exceed the cost of enacting these strategies by as much as $112 billion.
Moving Cooler is a comprehensive analysis sponsored by one of the most diverse group of transportation interests which include public/private entities such as: Shell Oil, the Federal Highway Administration, the Urban Land Institute, American Public Transportation Association, Environmental Protection Agency, Natural Resource Defense Council, and many others. The research was conducted by Cambridge Systematics. The study analyzed strategies and their potential impact through 2050.
“This study confirms that to be effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, we must move beyond thinking about individual modes,” said William Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association. “With comprehensive and systematic changes in how we approach transportation and land use, public transit and other strategies can play a significant role in addressing climate change. It is time for all of us in the transportation industry to do our part.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 28 percent of the Unites States’ total GHG emissions come from transportation. Emissions have had the fastest growth in the transportation sector. The study shows that from 1996 to 2006, growth in U.S. transportation GHG emissions represented almost one-half (47 percent) of the increase in total U.S. GHG emissions. The research points out that the U.S. cannot reach its emission reduction goals without successful strategies to reduce GHG emissions from transportation.
Some specific near term strategies to reduce GHG emissions include expanded public transit services, driving at lower speeds and other driving techniques, congestion pricing, and operational improvements, according to the study. Long term strategies include changes in development patterns and land use which aim to increase density and reduce vehicle travel. The authors of the study note that these long term strategies are just as essential as the short term strategies.
The study authors note that while advances in fuels and vehicle technology will be critical to reducing GHG emissions from transportation, the Moving Cooler analysis demonstrates that additional GHG emissions reductions can be achieved by bundling transportation strategies. These bundles can be designed to support transportation and economic objectives while also contributing to GHG reductions.
“This multi-pronged approach is needed to slow or stop climate change,” said Millar. “It is time for us to think differently about transportation and challenge ourselves to think outside the box to address climate change in a meaningful way. This report confirms that focusing on creating livable communities is the right decision and with these specific proposed actions, we will make a difference.”
The executive summary, fact sheet and other information is available here.