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

Transport Infrastructure and the World Cup

III Congresso SIBRT

Last week the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicked off in Brazil. Mega sporting events, like the World Cup and the Olympics, often require mega infrastructure projects for the hosts. For this World Cup, preparations include building five new stadiums, including the much talked about Arena Amazônia in Manaus which almost wasn't ready for the first match, and several transport projects. Airports were considered a headache early in planning, and lots of money and time has been invested in airport upgrades for an already overtaxed civil air system. On the other side, several planned public transport projects, such as monorails in Sao Paulo and Manaus, were cancelled because they could not be delivered in time for the tournament. One of the few public transport projects that succeeded was Belo Horizonte's MOVE BRT, which launched in March 2014. 

Some researchers have called these projects a "missed opportunity" to improve urban mobility in Brazil. Others have focused on how these projects could have reduced transport greenhouse gas emissions if only they were built. (Some of them were quite sustainable.)

For a good roundup of World Cup transport projects winner and losers, NextCity provides a good overview

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


Is the stereotype of of electric vehicle drivers changing?

Special parking for Ram Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

That's the question a new article from Transportation Researc Part F asks. In "Electric vehicle drivers’ reported interactions with the public: Driving stereotype change?", researchers from Oxford Brookes University interviewed drivers of electric vehicles about their perceptions of the general public. They found that the stereotype is in a state of flux as the market shifts. It is also shown that the drivers are important as ambassors for electric vehicles taking hold with the rest of the general public. 

As car sharing goes mainstream, Avis buys Zipcar


Yesterday it was annouced that rental giant Avis Budget Group bought car sharing upstart Zipcar. This is not the first car sharing acquisition by a rental company - Enterprise acquired Mint earlier in 2012. As car sharing gains popularity and a portion of the market share, it makes sense for rental agencies to get in on the action. Streetsblog speculates on what the implications of this deal may be, though some are already concerned about possible age discrimination. It's still early days, but the research community will probably weigh in soon enough. Stay tuned. 

Exploring carsharing usage motives

Zipcar reserved

There's a new article in Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice that examines carshing in North America and Europe. In "Exploring carsharing usage motives: A hierarchical means-end chain analysis," Tobias Schaefers investigates people's motives for carsharing and some possible implications.

Recently, carsharing has entered a phase of commercial mainstreaming as carsharing providers and urban transportation planners aim at broadening the customer base. In this context, knowledge about the motives of carsharing usage is essential for further growth. Based on a qualitative means-end chain analysis this paper therefore explores usage motives, thus expanding the existing insights from analyses of usage behavior. In a series of laddering interviews with users of a US carsharing service, the underlying hierarchical motive structure is uncovered and four motivational patterns are identified: value-seeking, convenience, lifestyle, and environmental motives. Implications are drawn for applying these insights.

Schaefer cites Susan Shaheen's 2009 "North American Carsharing: 10-Year Retrospective". Shaheen and the Transportation Sustainability Research Center are actively involved in a number of research projects related to carsharing (and bikesharing). You might also be interested in Shaheen's recent publication "Personal Vehicle Sharing Services in North America" that looks at the emerging area of peer-to-peer carsharing, such as Zimride and Lyft.

And of course, if you're looking for more research on carsharing just head over to TRID

Reducing Environmental Impacts in California through Highspeed Rail, Efficient Cars and Aircraft

CA High-Speed Rail Design Concept: Fresno Station Area Growth

A new paper in Environmental Research Letters by Arizona State's Mikhail Chester and UC Berkeley's Arpad Horvath assess the potential environmental impact of California Highspeed Rail, more efficient automobiles and aricraft for transportation through the California Corridor.

Sustainable mobility policy for long-distance transportation services should consider emerging automobiles and aircraft as well as infrastructure and supply chain life-cycle effects in the assessment of new high-speed rail systems. Using the California corridor, future automobiles, high-speed rail and aircraft long-distance travel are evaluated, considering emerging fuel-efficient vehicles, new train designs and the possibility that the region will meet renewable electricity goals. An attributional per passenger-kilometer-traveled life-cycle inventory is first developed including vehicle, infrastructure and energy production components. A consequential life-cycle impact assessment is then established to evaluate existing infrastructure expansion against the construction of a new high-speed rail system. The results show that when using the life-cycle assessment framework, greenhouse gas footprints increase significantly and human health and environmental damage potentials may be dominated by indirect and supply chain components. The environmental payback is most sensitive to the number of automobile trips shifted to high-speed rail, and for greenhouse gases is likely to occur in 20–30 years. A high-speed rail system that is deployed with state-of-the-art trains, electricity that has met renewable goals, and in a configuration that endorses high ridership will provide significant environmental benefits over existing modes. Opportunities exist for reducing the long-distance transportation footprint by incentivizing large automobile trip shifts, meeting clean electricity goals and reducing material production effects.

The full paper and supplemental data can be found here.

Parking Minimums: Revisiting an old problem

New York Parking Structure

In today's New York Times, architecture critic Micahel Kimmelman looks at parking requirements for urabn development and he doesn't like how things have been going. 

For big cities like New York it is high time to abandon outmoded zoning codes from the auto-boom days requiring specific ratios of parking spaces per housing unit, or per square foot of retail space. These rules about minimum parking spaces have driven up the costs of apartments for developers and residents, damaged the environment, diverted money that could have gone to mass transit and created a government-mandated cityscape that’s largely unused. We keep adding to the glut of parking lots. Crain’s recently reported on the largely empty garages at new buildings like Avalon Fort Greene, a 42-story luxury tower near downtown Brooklyn, and 80 DeKalb Avenue, up the block, both well occupied, both of which built hundreds of parking spaces to woo tenants. Garages near Yankee Stadium, built over the objections of Bronx neighbors appalled at losing parkland for yet more parking lots, turn out never to be more than 60 percent full, even on game days. The city has lost public space, the developers have lost a fortune.

Streetsblog wonders what this endorsement for eliminating parking minimums might have on the Department of City Planning

This is not a new topic by any means. Donald Shoup's High Cost of Free Parking is a cornerstone of the field. Researchers from NYU have looked at the enforcement of New York City's minumum parking requirements and how proximity to transit affects the reuirements and the impact on housing affordability. There is also a thought that well-functioning off-street parking markets might be a solution. 

Friday Seminar - Joan Ogden on Alternative Fuels

Hydrogen Fuel Apparatus

Tomorrow's TRANSOC Friday Seminar is with Joan Odgen of the UC Davis STEPS program presenting, "Transitions to Alternative Fuels: Comparing H2, Electricity, and Biofuels":

We analyze and compare alternative scenarios for adoption of new light duty vehicle and fuel technologies that could enable deep cuts in gasoline consumption and GHG emissions by 2050. We also estimate the transitional costs for making new vehicle and fuel technologies economically competitive with gasoline vehicles. We estimate future GHG emissions and gasoline use for the following scenarios:

·  Efficiency—Currently feasible improvements in gasoline internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEV) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) technology are introduced.

·      Biofuels—Large-scale use of low-carbon biofuels is implemented.

·      PHEV success—Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) play a major role beyond 2025.

·      HFCV success—Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs) play a major role beyond 2025.

·      Portfolio—More-efficient ICEVs+biofuels+PHEVs+HFCVs implemented in various combinations.

All scenarios assume the same total number of vehicles and vehicle miles traveled, but the vehicle mix over time is different for each scenario. We compare each scenario to a reference scenario where modest improvements in efficiency take place and use of biofuels increases but no electric-drive vehicles are implemented. We also explore transition dynamics using a “learning curve” model, and estimate the cumulative investments that would be required to bring new technologies to “breakeven” with gasoline ICEV technologies.  Finally, we suggest future work to better understand transition costs.

The seminary will be this Friday, Septermber 9 2011, from 4-5 p.m. in 406 Davis Hall. Don't forget about Cookie hour before hand at 3:30 in the library. See you there!

Fuel-Economy Standards to Double by 2025

This morning in Washington D.C., away from the debt ceiling debate, President Obama spoke about raising fuel efficiency standards. On stage with auto industry executives, he laid out his plan:

And today, these outstanding companies are committing to doing a lot more.  The companies here today have endorsed our plan to continue increasing the mileage on their cars and trucks over the next 15 years.  We’ve set an aggressive target, and the companies here are stepping up to the plate. 

By 2025, the average fuel economy of their vehicles will nearly double to almost 55 miles per gallon.  (Applause.)  So this is an incredible commitment that they’ve made.  And these are some pretty tough business guys.  They know their stuff.  And they wouldn’t be doing it if they didn’t think that it was ultimately going to be good business and good for America. 


Using less oil also means our cars will produce fewer emissions.  So when your kids are biking around the neighborhood, they’ll be breathing less pollution and fewer toxins.  It means we’re doing more to protect our air and water.  And it means we’re reducing the carbon pollution that threatens our climate.

The President took time to thank California for leading the charge for better fuel efficiency in vehicles. You may remember when the state sued the EPA in 2008 over emissions rules where Federal standards did not meet the aggressive targets of AB 32

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