Study Finds That Implementation of a Portfolio of Transportation Strategies Will Be Required for Significant Reductions in GHG from Transportation Sector; Pricing Strategies Have the Largest Potential
|Projected cumulative greenhouse gas reductions from 2010-2050 by strategy category under maximum deployment scenario. Data: Moving Cooler. Click to enlarge.|
Although innovations in vehicle and fuel technology will have a substantial effect on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation in the US, those gains will largely be offset by increases in travel along with growth in the US population, according to a new report from transportation consultancy Cambridge Systematics. Achieving significant GHG reductions will thus require application of a complete portfolio of strategies targeting travel activity and vehicle and systems operations, the report finds.
In an analysis of a set of such strategies grouped into nine categories and three different levels of implementation (extension of current efforts, aggressive and maximum), the report found that the maximum effort deployment—excluding economy-wide pricing strategies—could achieve annual greenhouse gas reductions of up to 24% by 2050 from the calculated baseline. Strong economy-wide pricing measures (such as a $5.00 per gallon fuel tax by 2050) could result in an additional reduction of 28% in GHG emissions.
For the study (Moving Cooler: An Analysis of Transportation Strategies for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions), Cambridge Systematics calculated the baseline based on an annual rate of vehicle and fuel technological changes, consistent with forecasts of the US Department of Energy in its “Annual Energy Outlook” and the US Department of Transportation’s examination of alternative Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE). The Moving Cooler baseline extrapolated these projections further to 2050, resulting in a potential doubling or greater of fleet fuel efficiency.
These efficiency gains, however, are largely offset by an equally large increase in vehicle-miles traveled (VMT)—projected to grow by 82 percent during this period of time. The net result in 2050 is a less than 1 percent increase from 2005 in GHG emissions from transportation, as the US population grows and travel increases. Given this, a broad range of other strategies may be considered to reduce the GHG impact of transportation services.—Moving Cooler
Highlights of the nine categories analyzed in the Moving Cooler report include:
Pricing and taxes. Strategies raise the costs associated with the use of the transportation system, including the cost of vehicle miles of travel and fuel consumption. Both local and regional facility-level pricing strategies (e.g., congestion pricing) and economy-wide pricing strategies (e.g., carbon pricing) are considered.
Pricing strategies, in particular the economy-wide pricing implemented through PAYD (pay as you drive), a VMT fee, and gas or carbon pricing have the largest potential to reduce GHGs. This potential is dependent on the level of prices that are set, which are substantial for this analysis. Among these options, pricing carbon fuel has by far the largest effect because it not only prompts reductions in travel, but also spurs significant improvements to fuel economy as the use of more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Land use and smart growth. Strategies focus on creating more transportation-efficient land use patterns, and by doing so reduce the need to make motor vehicle trips and reduce the length of the motor vehicle trips that are made.
At maximum deployment, the annual GHG reduction from the baseline because of integrated land use strategies is 4.4 percent in the year 2050. Outside of the economy-wide pricing measures, this reduction is the largest one in 2050 of any strategy...Implementation of this strategy has one of the highest ratios of vehicle cost savings to implementation costs.
(Because of the long implementation time for such strategies, the category ranks fifth in terms of cumulative GHG reductions from 2010-2050 under maximum deployment scenarios.)
Nonmotorized transport. Strategies encourage greater levels of walking and bicycling as alternatives to driving. This would result in would result in a cumulative 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent reduction in baseline emissions.
Public transportation improvements. Strategies expand public transportation by subsidizing fares, increasing service on existing routes, or building new infrastructure. Such transit capital investments could produce cumulative GHG reductions ranging up to 1.1 percent of baseline emissions.
Ride-sharing, car-sharing, and other commuting strategies. Strategies expand services and provide incentives to travelers to choose transportation options other than driving alone. These could contribute cumulative reductions up to 1.7 percent of the baseline, depending on the level of implementation.
Regulatory strategies. Strategies implement regulations that moderate vehicle travel or reduce speeds to achieve higher fuel efficiency.
Lower and strictly enforced speed limits have the potential to generate cumulative reductions in GHGs through fuel economy benefits that would range from 2.0 percent to 3.6 percent lower than cumulative baseline emissions. It is also one of the strategies that can be implemented and have positive GHG impacts in the short run.
Operational and intelligent transportation system (ITS) strategies. Strategies improve the operation of the transportation system to make better use of the existing capacity; strategies also encourage more efficient driving.
Together, these system operations improvements can result in cumulative reductions as high as 0.6% from the baseline. These strategies also enable more effective implementation of a variety of pricing strategies.
Capacity expansion and bottleneck relief. Strategies expand highway capacity to reduce congestion and to improve the efficiency of travel. These are the only two strategies examined by Moving Cooler that result in an increase in GHG emissions during the 40-year period to 2050.
This increase does not happen immediately however; in the short term, improved roadway conditions will decrease congestion and delay and, as a consequence, fuel consumption. It is only as induced demand begins to consume the roadway capacity after 2030 that VMT and GHG emissions are projected to increase. At the same time, the impact to growth in GHG emissions is very small—at its highest, less than 0.02 percent increase in the maximum deployment scenario.
Multimodal freight sector strategies. Strategies promote more efficient freight movement within and across modes. The most effective strategies in this category are truck APUs and rail capacity improvements, which together reduce cumulative GHG emissions up to 0.4 percent from the baseline.
An integrated, multistrategy approach—combining travel activity, local and regional pricing, operational, and efficiency strategies—can contribute to significant GHG reductions. Such reductions would, however, involve considerable changes to current transportation systems and operations, travel behavior, land use patterns, and public policy and regulations. How strategy bundles are designed will be key to reducing GHGs.—Moving Cooler
Moving Cooler was published by the Urban Land Institute. Other sponsors of the report include: American Public Transportation Association; Environmental Defense Fund; Federal Highway Administration; Federal Transit Administration; Intelligent Transportation Society of America; Kresge Foundation; Natural Resources Defense Council; Rockefeller Brothers Fund; Rockefeller Foundation; Shell; Surdna Foundation; US Environmental Protection Agency.
Cambridge Systematics, Inc. Moving Cooler: An Analysis of Transportation Strategies for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Washington, D.C.: Urban Land Institute, 2009.