Land Institute's Report Analyzes Transportation, GHGs

"The Moving Cooler: An Analysis of Transportation Strategies for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions," published by the Urban Land Institute, looks at the possibilities of transportation efficiencies – investments in a less energy-intensive transportation system, such as transit alternatives and more efficient driving – by examining travel activity and vehicle and system operations.

It found that combining various transportation approaches together could yield meaningful greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions, while also achieving fuel savings and savings to consumers on their transportation costs.

"Our transportation choices affect the quality of our lives, as well as our air, water and climate. The report, the first scientific study of the impacts of comprehensive transportation policies and investments on global warming, will help us make better choices," said Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "This report shows that we can align our transportation, climate and energy policies to reduce oil consumption, cut heat-trapping pollution and increase savings for consumers."

Among the report's top-line findings are that implementing "bundles" of transportation efficiency strategies could:

  • Achieve annual GHG emission reductions of up to 24 percent below baseline levels in 2050, by changing current transportation systems and operations, travel behavior, land use patterns, and public policy and regulations.
  • Reduce fuel consumption that translates to a savings of at least 110 million barrels of oil a year. At maximum levels of deployment, these savings could yield as much as 660 million barrels per year.
  • Provide consumers with an estimated average savings in direct vehicle costs of up to $112 billion annually over a 40-year timeframe.
Within the possible bundles, some of the approaches that contribute most to GHG reductions are: local and regional regulations that increase the cost of single occupancy vehicle travel; regulations that reduce and enforce speed limits; educational efforts that encourage eco-driving behavior; smart growth strategies that reduce travel distances; and multimodal strategies that expand options for travel.

Transportation contributes about 28 percent of the United States' total GHG emissions – and emissions from transportation are growing faster than other sectors, representing almost half of the increase in total GHG emissions between 1990 and 2006.

Many of the strategies examined in the study could actually be implemented within the next few years and would begin to generate GHG reductions prior to 2020, helping to meet many social, economic, and environmental goals for the nation.

The study was commissioned by several organizations that came together in agreement that the challenge of climate change can be met in a way that increases the nation's energy security, reduces pollution, and saves consumers money on their transportation costs. The sponsoring organizations were the American Public Transportation Association; the Environmental Defense Fund; the Intelligent Transportation Society of America; the Kresge Foundation; the Natural Resources Defense Council; the Rockefeller Brothers Fund; the Rockefeller Foundation; the Shell Oil Company; the Surdna Foundation; the Funders Network for Smart Growth; the Urban Land Institute; as well as a number of federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency; the Federal Highway Administration; and the Federal Transit Administration.

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