High Performance Transportation Management
With today's gas prices, America cannot afford to spur added driving and sprawl instead of high performance transportation, public transportation, and smart growth. America's transportation systems are both broke and broken.
Transportation accounts for a third of America's greenhouse gas pollution. Forecast fuel economy improvements and lower carbon fuels won't solve the problem, with traffic growth countering these gains.
It's time to hold public agencies accountable for greenhouse gas and health impacts of transportation plans, investments, and operations. It's time to tie transportation spending to cutting traffic growth and greenhouse pollution. Let's align how we raise revenues for transportation with broader system goals and use pricing to shape choices and boost transportation equity.
Cities from Singapore to Portland show how we can decouple vehicle miles driven from economic growth and boost the greenhouse gas efficiency of mobility systems, cutting emissions and congestion. The keys to success are smarter growth, improved transportation choices, and intelligent pricing and management of infrastructure and mobility services.
A 2007 Urban Land Institute study found that shifting two-thirds of new U.S. growth to compact development patterns would save 85 million tons a year of carbon dioxide by 2030. New regional blueprints, high gasoline prices, and new financial incentives like those adopted in California’s San Joaquin Valley are encouraging developers to design subdivisions that reduce the need to drive.
Bus rapid transit (BRT) can often deliver high speed, high capacity, flexible public transportation at a fraction of the cost and time it takes to develop new rail lines, offering direct services between many destinations. Both BRT and rail improvements have a key role to play in spurring transit-oriented development.
If tolls are used just to build new roads faster, it yields more sprawl, traffic and pollution. But time-of-day tolls on existing roads can slash congestion and pollution while funding better public transportation. Global experience shows people will accept tolling on free roads if they get better travel choices and improved system performance.
Emission based truck tolls in Germany and recent tests in Oregon and Washington show that satellite-based toll collection is practical. The Netherlands will adopt emission-based distance-weight road user fees by 2012. America should transition to such a system in the coming decade to curb congestion and global warming, and fund transportation.
Pay-as-you-drive insurance, which sets premiums based on how much, when, or how people drive, could cut miles driven by 10% and cut greenhouse emissions by up to 15%. A forthcoming Brookings study shows two-thirds of households would save an average of $270 per vehicle each year with PAYD insurance, especially benefiting low and moderate income households.
Improving mobility while minimizing the environmental footprint of travel will take green infrastructure policies, better travel choices, and new incentives for wise consumption and stewardship of scarce resources.
Transportation Director, Environmental Defense Fund