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The Road to Clean Transportation

The Road to Clean Transportation

A Bold, Broad Strategy to Cut Pollution and Reduce Carbon Emissions in the Midwest.

Transportation is now the largest and fastest growing source of emissions in the United States. We must focus on reducing emissions now in order to achieve our climate goals and prevent disastrous climate change. We must work to build a future that includes accessible, clean, and affordable transportation options available to everyone in our communities.

Until now there has not been a clear understanding of the various actions communities need to take to not only achieve low carbon transportation, but also ensure that existing inequities in our transportation system are erased. 1000 Friends partnered with Frontier Group and WISPIRG to identify how states in the Midwest—Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan, South and North Dakota, Indiana and Iowa could build a low carbon transportation future that works for everyone.

The Road To Clean Transportation: A Bold, Broad Strategy to Cut Pollution and Reduce Carbon Emissions in the Midwest, details the key strategies and benchmarks communities must target to reduce transportation emissions.  

Here are some key findings from the report:

In the Midwest, smart transportation and smart growth strategies could reduce transportation energy demand and lead to emissions reductions of at least 20 percent by 2050, with greater reductions possible if those strategies are adopted together.

Key strategies include:

  • Smart Growth and Compact Development: Emissions Reduction Potential – 5 to 16 percent by 2050 [i].

Sprawling, single-use developments necessitate traveling longer distances and often require the use of private vehicles. Cities and towns that prioritize compact mixed-use development bring destinations closer together, reducing the need for travel and enabling the use of a wide variety of low- and zero-carbon transportation options. In the Twin Cities area, for instance, shifts in development patterns led to a two-thirds reduction in the land area required per new resident between 2000 and 2016 compared with the decade prior, a change that can greatly reduce transportation demand [ii].

  • Public Transportation: Emissions Reduction Potential – 0.9 to 3.6 percent by 2050 [iii].

Public transit helps reduce emissions from transportation in several ways: moving large numbers of people efficiently, supporting electrification of transportation, and supporting compact development. Residents of transit-rich communities drive 10 to 30 percent fewer miles than residents of car-oriented neighborhoods; expanding transit can reduce emissions while increasing mobility opportunities for people underserved by a car-centered transportation system [iv].

  • Active Transportation: Emissions Reduction Potential – 0.4 to 1.1 percent by 2050 [v].

Walking and biking are zero-carbon modes of transportation that can substitute for motorized transportation while improving public health. Cities that provide safe, accessible infrastructure and pedestrian-scale land uses already see high rates of walking and biking – in Madison, more than 13 percent of commuters walk or bike to work; in Minneapolis, nearly 11 percent of people walk or bike to work; in Chicago, more than 8 percent do [vi].

  • Shared Mobility: Emissions Reduction Potential – 1 to 4 percent [vii].

Shared transportation options, including carsharing and bikesharing, enable more people to travel without owning a personal car and can help reduce total vehicle miles traveled. Shared fleets of vehicles may also help speed the electrification of transportation. In a 2016 study, carsharing participants drove an average of 11 percent fewer miles, reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 10 percent [viii].

  • Smart Pricing: Emissions Reduction Potential – 3.6 to 10.7 percent by 2050 [ix].

In the Midwest and across America, high-carbon modes of transportation are subsidized through public policy, while opportunities to manage congestion through the use of pricing are missed. Ending those subsidies and ensuring that Midwesterners pay the full cost of their travel (including the environmental and societal costs of car use) would encourage the use of lower-carbon modes of travel and support the Midwest’s ability to reduce carbon pollution.

Maximizing the potential of these strategies will require meeting benchmarks along the way, including:

 

Strategies to reduce vehicle travel and achieve significant emissions reductions can also improve societal equity. Access to robust, affordable and efficient transit systems can allow low-income families to live without a car, saving thousands of dollars a year on loan payments, gas, insurance and maintenance – freeing up funds for other priorities [x]. Expanded transportation options can connect people in marginalized communities to jobs and other opportunities that were previously unreachable without a car.

Transitioning to a low- or zero-carbon transportation system by mid-century will require immediate action and longer-term planning from all levels of government across a variety of sectors. With a bold vision and commitment to concrete steps, the Midwest will be more likely to achieve success in decarbonizing transportation at the pace necessary to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

Read the full report.

References:

[i] Emissions reductions compared to total emissions from light duty vehicle emissions, without considering emissions benefits from any other strategies. Emissions reductions range and deployment assumptions estimated from a review of multiple studies in U.S. Department of Transportation, Transportation’s Role in Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Volume 2, Land Use, Section 5-54,April 2010.

[ii] Metropolitan Council, MetroStats – Growing Greener, Getting Leaner: Land Use in the Twin Cities Region, June 2017.

[iii] Emissions reductions compared to total emissions from light duty vehicle emissions, without considering emissions benefits from any other strategies. Emissions reductions range and deployment assumptions estimated from a review of multiple studies in U.S. Department of Transportation, Transportation’s Role in Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Volume 2, Transit Expansion, Promotion, Service Improvements, Section 5-34, April 2010.

[iv] Todd Litman and Rowan Steele, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, Land Use Impacts on Transport: How Land Use Factors Affect Travel Behavior, 11 April 2018.

[v] Emissions reductions compared to total emissions from light duty vehicle emissions, without considering emissions benefits from any other complementary strategies. Emissions reductions range and deployment assumptions estimated from a review of multiple studies in U.S. Department of Transportation, Transportation’s Role in Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Volume 2, Nonmotorized Transport, Section 5-49, April 2010.

[vi] U.S. Census Bureau, 2016 American Community Survey 1-year Estimates, Means of Travel to Work – B08301, excluding people who work from home.

[vii] Emissions estimate: Assuming a conservative estimate that 10 percent of people will participate in shared mobility (Susan Shaheen, Adam Cohen and J. Darius Roberts, “Carsharing in North America: Market Growth, Current Developments, and Future Potential,” Transportation Research Board 1986, July 2015; McKinsey & Company, Automotive Revolution – Perspective Towards 2030: How the Convergence of Disruptive Technology-Driven Trends Could Transform the Auto Industry, January 2016); and assuming that carsharing participants reduce their transportation emissions 10 – 40 percent (Elliott Martin and Susan Shaheen, Transportation Sustainability Research Center, The Impacts of Car2go on Vehicle Ownership, Modal Shift, Vehicle Miles Traveled, and Greenhouse Gas Emissions: An Analysis of Five North American Cities, July 2016)

[viii] Elliott Martin and Susan Shaheen, Transportation Sustainability Research Center, The Impacts of Car2go on Vehicle Ownership, Modal Shift, Vehicle Miles Traveled, and Greenhouse Gas Emissions: An Analysis of Five North American Cities, July 2016.

[ix] Emissions reductions compared to total emissions from light duty vehicle emissions, without considering emissions benefits from any other complementary strategies. Emissions reductions range and deployment assumptions estimated from a review of multiple studies in U.S. Department of Transportation, Transportation’s Role in Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Volume 2, Pricing, Section 5-2, April 2010.

[x] AAA, AAA Reveals True Cost of Vehicle Ownership (press release), 23 August 2017.