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54 CHAPTER eight CONCLUSIONS AND FUTURE STUDY NEEDS Climate change and the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions about the same amount emitted by all transportation in that contribute to climate change are a major new environ- the state of Washington. mental concern for the transportation industry. Rising seas, · Every transit agency surveyed is planning or imple- warming temperatures, changes in patterns of precipitation, menting strategies that can further reduce GHG emis- and increases in severe weather all threaten to reshape our sions. Interest in these strategies is widespread across planet's natural systems and to disrupt our cities and rural agencies, and agencies generally are aware of the areas. Releasing more than a quarter of the United States' impact such strategies can have on GHG emissions. annual GHG emissions, the transportation sector has a Types of strategies, along with their prevalence among clear role to play in reducing the severity of climate change. survey respondents, are as follows: Federal regulation requiring the transportation industry to Expanding transit service (78% of respondents are reduce emissions is likely in the near future. planning or implementing) Increasing vehicle passenger loads (93% of respon- Public transportation stands out as an important partial dents are planning or implementing) solution to the problem. Passenger travel in cars and trucks Reducing roadway congestion (88% of respondents alone generates nearly two-thirds of transportation's GHG are planning or implementing) emissions in the United States. Public transportation can Promoting compact development (70% of respon- reduce these emissions by transporting passengers more dents are planning or implementing) efficiently than private vehicles can. Transit reduces GHG Alternative fuels and vehicle types (90% of respon- emissions in four principal ways. Transit displaces emis- dents are planning or implementing) sions from other modes by-- Vehicle operations and maintenance (90% of respondents are planning or implementing) 1. Reducing miles traveled in private vehicles, Construction and maintenance (73% of respondents are planning or implementing) 2. Reducing on-road congestion, and Reducing energy use in facilities and nonrevenue vehicles (83% of respondents are planning or 3. Facilitating compact development patterns that lead implementing) to less GHG-intensive travel. · GHG emissions are still a peripheral concern for transit Transit agencies can also: agencies. Less than half of survey respondents said that reducing GHG emissions was a principal factor in pur- 4. Reduce the emissions that they generate from their suing a given strategy. Increasing ridership, reducing vehicles and facilities. costs, and complying with environmental regulations were more important factors. Agencies are unlikely to This synthesis reviewed the literature on transit's impact pursue strategies for the sole purpose of reducing GHG on GHG emissions and on transit strategies to further reduce emissions, but many strategies that reduce GHG emis- GHG emissions, and surveyed agencies about their current sions have substantial co-benefits. efforts to reduce GHG emissions. The research concluded · Guidance on calculating GHG emissions dis- the following: placed by transit is still under development. APTA's "Recommended Practice for Quantifying Greenhouse · Many transit agencies are already net reducers of GHG Gas Emissions from Transit" is the first guidance issued emissions. The net impact of an agency depends on the for transit agencies. There is particular uncertainty balance of emissions displaced and emissions released around techniques to estimate the impact of transit on by vehicles and facilities. The U.S. transit industry as compact development. New and better guidance may a whole produces a net reduction of around 30 million lead to greater recognition of displaced emissions by metric tons of carbon dioxide (MMtCO2) annually, or reporting organizations.
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55 · Many agencies have estimated some part of their · Transit agencies could benefit from focused research impact on GHG emissions or have had calculations and guidance on new funding opportunities related to performed by a partner agency. More than one-third of GHG emissions. A few agencies are actively consider- survey respondents have estimated or are estimating ing new funding opportunities that might be created by emissions generated by their operations. Nearly half emissions trading schemes or government grant pro- have estimated or are estimating some displaced emis- grams. Such opportunities could become an important sions. Agencies most commonly estimate the mode source of funding. shift effect of their services. Fewer agencies have esti- · Some agencies are unclear about how reporting their mated their congestion reduction or compact develop- emissions might affect their ability to receive credit for ment benefits. current or future reductions. A research study could · More research is needed on methodologies to estimate describe the risks and opportunities that emissions changes in emissions from specific improvements to reporting provides to transit agencies. Such a study transit. Most studies that have analyzed the impact of might also engage third-party reporting agencies to transit on GHG emissions have focused on existing ser- think more critically about the needs of transit agen- vices, and many are limited to analyses at the state or cies in reporting their emissions. national levels. Very few analyses have covered a full array of strategies that transit agencies can implement Transit agencies can expect state and federal legislation and to reduce GHG emissions. Even fewer have assessed regulation of GHG emissions to affect the way they do busi- the cost-effectiveness of such strategies. ness in the future. A growing number of states have legisla- · A number of transit agencies have initiated formal or tion that applies to GHG emissions from transportation. Both semiformal efforts to address GHG emissions. Several California and Washington State have legislation requiring a agencies have included GHG emissions in internal sus- reduction in light-duty vehicle-miles traveled. Washington's tainability plans or have joined sustainability efforts law will require most transit agencies to report their GHG organized by industry associations. Some agencies emissions beginning in 2010. These regulations present chal- have drafted or plan to draft their own climate action lenges and opportunities to transit agencies. Transit agencies plans. More than two-thirds of agencies have partici- will need to both understand and estimate the impact of their pated in talks or joint efforts with other transportation service on GHG emissions. Compiling an inventory of emis- stakeholders on the topic of climate change. sions is likely to be an important first step. · A study on best practices, opportunities, and chal- lenges for integrating climate change into transit Planning for reduced GHG emissions is still a nascent planning would be helpful. Many transit agencies are field at transit agencies, but one that is developing rapidly. struggling to fit GHG reduction objectives with their As regulation of GHG emissions becomes more robust, and traditional planning objectives. Several recent studies as public interest in GHG emissions increases, GHG emis- have focused on how metropolitan planning organiza- sions likely will become a higher priority for transit agen- tions and state departments of transportation integrate cies. Using existing research, agencies can begin to account climate change into planning objectives and practices. for the benefits that their services provide to GHG emissions. There has been no parallel research on transit agencies Transit agencies can also develop new strategies that both and transit planning. reduce GHG emissions and meet other agency priorities.