New Report on LCA and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Road Construction/Maintenance

flickr photo shared by pixeIhouse under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

A new whitepaper from the National Center for Sustainable Transportation and ITS Davis explores the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and road construction and maintenance. The paper is The Role of Life Cycle Assessment In Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Road Construction and Maintenance by John Harvey, Alissa Kendall, and Arash Saboori. 

This white paper summarizes the state-of-knowledge and state-of-the-art in pavement LCA modeling, with particular emphasis on life cycle GHG emissions and on interpretation and analysis that lead to GHG reductions from the on-road transportation sector. This white paper synthesizes research from a number of previous and current projects, highlighting both broadly agreed upon methods and findings, and those that are emerging or currently debated. The goal is to inform federal, state, and local policymakers; pavement industry professionals; private pavement owners; and transportation and other researchers about the significance and role of pavement LCA in understanding and mitigating the negative environmental consequences of the pavement sector.

There has already been considerable research and implementation in this area in California. Some have developed better models to predict optimal maintenance strategies. Others have examined the tradeoffs between costs and greenhouse gas emissions in road resurfacing, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions through management of pavement roughness. Some of these concepts have been incorporated into Caltrans' PaveM pavement management system. 

California's new ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets.

flickr photo shared by Malingering under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

Yesterday California Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order establishing the state's greenhouse gas reduction target 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 (Executive Oder B-30-15).  This new executive order is another step reducing California's greenhouse gas emissions after the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32) which set reduction targets to 1990 levels by 2020. LBNL models predict we're on target to meet the 2020 goals but will need more effort ot meet the ultimate 2050 goals. 

Research in this area demonstrates that to achieve 80% greenhouse gas reductions by 2050 that moving to low-carbon and renewable energy will be important, but also investment in carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology. Integrated climate protection into planning and land use policies, such as smart growth planning, will also help California meet its targets. Much of the technological innovations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 hinges on the role of electricity to move away from carbon based fuels across economic sectors. And yes, high-speed rail could also be part of the solution

SB-743, CEQA, and moving away from LOS

Saturday in LA

Yesterday the Governor's Office of Planning and Research (OPR) released Updating Transportation Impacts Analysis in the CEQA Guidelines. It's the draft discussion SB-743 Environmental Quality: transit oriented infill projects, judicial review streamlining for environmental leadership development projects, and entertainment and sports center in the City of Sacramento. As the bill's name hints, the impetus for the legislation is the contentious proposed new arena for the Kings in downtown Sacramento though the effects will be felt statewide. 

Many of the concerns and questions raised by SB-743 lie in the proposed changes to litigation windows to CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act). The proposed reforms could make it easier for projects to obtain exemptions from the full CEQA project, potentially making the development of previously contested projects easier. 

From a transportation standpoint, the biggest change to CEQA is the use of level of service (LOS) in evaluating the impact of projects. Instead of relying solely on LOS to determine the significance of transportation impacts, OPR proposes:

In developing the criteria, the office shall recommend potential metrics to measure transportation impacts that may include, but are not limited to, vehicle miles traveled, vehicle miles traveled per capita, automobile trip generation rates, or automobile trips generated.

Engineering groups like Western ITE suggested using vehicle miles traveled (VMT) instead of LOS to measure impact as it focuses only on automobile congestion at the expense of other modes. So now that it looks like we're moving away from LOS, what comes next? Researchers have already begun looking at how this will affect models and traffic studies. Fehr & Peers have developed an concise website describing the impacts of SB-743

New NCHRP Synthesis: Response to Extreme Weather Impacts on Transportation Systems

345/365 Flood

This week a new NCHRP Synthesis was published by TRB that covers the effects of extreme weather incidents, such as Hurricane Sandy, on transportation systems. NCHRP Synthesis Report 454: Response to Extreme Weather Impacts on Transportation Systems provides background on the issue and the current state of the practice. The full report can be read here

Assessing Airport Carbon Emissions

Descending through the LA smog

Much of the research about carbon emissions and transportation is focused on highways. A new article from the Journal of Air Transport Management proposes a model to examine carbon emissions and airports. Maria Nadia Postorino and Luca Mantecchini authors of "A transport carbon footprint methodology to assess airport carbon emissions," write:

Airports are important nodes in the air transport system, but also local sources of environmental impacts. Emissions of CO2 are among the most relevant ones because of their potential greenhouse effects. Many policies and guidelines have been identified at national and world level to reduce such kind of impacts. In this paper, a Transport Carbon Footprint methodology has been set to identify Unit Carbon Footprints (UCFs) linked to some identified emission macro-sources – i.e., land vehicles, on-ground aircraft, airport handling and terminal equipment – to compute the contribution of the single macro-source to the total amount of CO2. Particularly, UCFs due to transport activities have been defined according to some relevant transport variables. The computation of UCF values for a given airport allows computing both the contribution of each macro-source and also evaluating the effectiveness of transport-related actions aiming at reducing the carbon impact. The methodology has been applied to the airport of Bologna, in Northern Italy, and its UCF values for the identified macro-sources have been computed.

The full article can be found here


Electric Vehicles: Coast to coast, but will they impact emissions?

This week was a milestone in electric vehicle adoption and infrastructure in the US - a father-daughter team completed the first crosscountry roadtrip in a Tesla and it cost them $0 to recharge. What a bargain! Tesla Motors plans to expand their recharching network, so that future continental treks may take a more direct route.  

So as electric vehicles are slowly becoming more mainstream, the question is what impact will they have on greenhouse gas emissions? A paper recently presented at the TRB Annual Meeting looks at regional impacts in California.  Another recent study from NC State questions the impact electric vehicles have on emissions at all. Samaneh Babaee, Ajay S. Nagpure, and Joseph F. DeCarolis ask, "How Much Do Electric Drive Vehicles Matter to Future U.S. Emissions?". Their answer: probably not much given the emissions produced by electricity sources.

The California Greenhouse Gas Inventory Spreadsheet (GHGIS) Model


A new report from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab was issued last month that presents a new model for California's greenhouse gas emissions. Estimating Policy-Driven Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trajectories in California: The California Greenhouse Gas Inventory Spreadsheet (GHGIS) Model  by Jeffery Greenblatt presents and describes the model which was developed for the California Air Resources Board

A California Greenhouse Gas Inventory Spreadsheet (GHGIS) model was developed to explore the impact of combinations of state policies on state greenhouse gas (GHG) and regional criteria pollutant emissions. Starting from basic drivers such as population, numbers of households, gross state product, numbers of vehicles, etc., the model calculated energy demands by type (various types of liquid and gaseous hydrocarbon fuels, electricity and hydrogen), and finally calculated emissions of GHGs and three criteria pollutants: reactive organic gases (ROG), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and fine (2.5 µm) particulate matter (PM2.5). Calculations were generally statewide, but in some sectors, criteria pollutants were also calculated for two regional air basins: the South Coast Air Basin (SCAB) and the San Joaquin Valley (SJV). Three scenarios were developed that attempt to model: (1) all committed policies, (2) additional, uncommitted policy targets and (3) potential technology and market futures. Each scenario received extensive input from state energy planning agencies, in particular the California Air Resources Board. Results indicate that all three scenarios are able to meet the 2020 statewide GHG targets, and by 2030, statewide GHG emissions range from between 208 and 396 MtCO2/yr. However, none of the scenarios are able to meet the 2050 GHG target of 85 MtCO2/yr, with emissions ranging from 188 to 444 MtCO2/yr, so additional policies will need to be developed for California to meet this stringent future target. A full sensitivity study of major scenario assumptions was also performed. In terms of criteria pollutants, targets were less well-defined, but while all three scenarios were able to make significant reductions in ROG, NOx and PM2.5 both statewide and in the two regional air basins, they may nonetheless fall short of what will be required by future federal standards. Specifically, in Scenario 1, regional NOx emissions are approximately three times the estimated targets for both 2023 and 2032, and in Scenarios 2 and 3, NOx emissions are approximately twice the estimated targets. Further work is required in this area, including detailed regional air quality modeling, in order to determine likely pathways for attaining these stringent targets.

The full report can be found here


Special Friday Seminar: Marco Nie "From Pricing to Cap-and-Trade"


This week's TRANSOC Friday Seminar is at a special time - 11:00am - noon in 534 Davis. This week Northwestern University Associate Professor Yu (Marco) Nie will present on a cap-and-trade approach to congesiton management in "From Pricing to Cap-and-Trade: Analysis and Design of Quantity-based Approach to Congestion Management."

Traffic congestion continues to threaten economic prosperity and quality of life around the world. It is widely acknowledged that demand management is an indispensable ingredient in the recipe for solving the traffic congestion puzzle, and likely to be one of the more effective and cost-efficient if properly implemented. This research will explore a new and promising travel demand management strategy, inspired by various cap-and-trade schemes aiming to reduce greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions. The cap-and-trade schemes considered in this research seek to couple direct travel demand restriction with a trading mechanism. Because such a scheme typically involves creating mobility credits and trading them in a market, it is also known as tradable credit scheme. In this talk we will examine a few key design issues involved in building such credit markets, including how to account for the effects of transaction cost and how to initially allocate credits, using various analytical models.

As noted above, the seminar is happening this Friday, October 25 2013, from 11:00am to noon in 534 Davis. We'll keep you posted about Cookie Hour. 

Great California Shake Out! Are you ready?

Oct. 18 1989 Cypruss Overpass Collapse

Today is the Great California Shake Out, a statewide earthquake drill.  Do you know what to do when the Big One comes? 

Ever since the 1989 earthquake and its effects on transportation infrastructure, such as the collapse of the Cypress Freeway (which of course was replaced) or the structural failure of a portion of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, there has been considerable research on seismic safety and stability. Are aerial BART stations safe? What are the optimal risk-based maintenance procedures to earthquake safety for bridges and highways?

Of course the Los Angeles region has its own concerns about the Big One, such as the disruption of freight logistics for the mega-region. How will the region's highways be affected? There were lots of lessons learned from the 1994 Northridge earthquake, which help inform projections for future risks.

If you want more research about earthquakes and California transportation, of course turn to TRID. For today, think about what you'd do when the Big One hits and how you prepare for such an event. 

Stay safe. 

Friday Seminar: Schools and Transport Emissions in the Six County Sacramento Region

Mystery Image (1983/232/13,195)

This week's TRANSOC Friday Seminar features Philine Gaffron, a visiting researcher at ITS UC Davis from Hamburg University of Technology. She will present Schools and Transport Emissions in the Six County Sacramento Region.

Environmental justice analyses in the transport field often look at people's exposure to transport emissions at their place of residence. This is both a vital angle as most people spend the majority of their time in and around their homes and it is also a proxy for studying overall exposure since significant amounts of time are spent elsewhere, particularly during the day, when traffic levels are highest. Schools are the most important 'elsewhere' for children and teenagers, who are also among the most vulnerable groups when it comes to the detrimental effects of transport emissions.
She will present the results of her analyses that look at the relationship between emission loads that schools in the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) region are experiencing from road traffic and the socio-demographic make-up of their students. These results will further be compared to the findings of other studies investigating health and exposure in the SACOG region. Perhaps the discussion will highlight other work that might yield fruitful comparisons and it would also be interesting to discuss participants' opinions on and experiences with addressing inequalities in this area.

The seminar will take place Friday October 11, 2013 in 534 Davis Hall from 4:00-5:00 PM. Cookie Hour per usual will be in the library at 3:30 PM. 

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