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September 2009
Volume 5, Number 2

Moving Cooler:
An Analysis of Transportation Strategies for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions (July 2009)

By Cambridge Systematics, Inc.
Urban Land Institute

Energy-efficient vehicles and cleaner fuels alone will not solve the nation’s problem of reducing greenhouse gas emissions—the U.S. must also adopt policies that encourage compact development, reduce driving and expand mass transit use, in order to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to Moving Cooler: An Analysis of Transportation Strategies for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions, a report released by the Urban Land Institute. The stakes are high, because transportation accounts for roughly 28 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the sector has been one of the fastest-growing in the past two decades—representing nearly half of the nation’s total increase in GHG emissions since 1990.

Moving Cooler finds that the U.S. could cut greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 24 percent by 2050, without road pricing strategies, through a bundle of policies that would result in changes to current land use patterns, travel behavior, transportation systems and operations, and regulatory strategies. If pricing measures (such as pay-as-you-go driver's insurance, direct fees for vehicle miles traveled, carbon pricing or increased gasoline tax were added) GHG emissions reductions could be as high as 41 to 52 percent. The report found environmental gains from advances in fuel efficiency would be mostly undermined by increased travel and population, making it important to address the efficiency of the transportation sector by investing in land-use planning, public transit, and other low-carbon alternatives.

According to the report’s authors, Cambridge Systematics, the particular approaches that would contribute most to greenhouse gas reductions are:

  • local and regional regulations that increase the cost of single occupancy vehicle travel
  • regulations that reduce and enforce speed limits
  • educational efforts that encourage "eco-driving" behavior
  • smart growth strategies that reduce travel distances, and
  • multimodal strategies that expand options for travel.

These approaches were also evaluated as part of one of nine categories of strategies. Land use strategies were found to produce the largest reduction in emissions of all 50 strategies over the long term. Other categories of strategies investigated were transportation pricing and taxes, public transportation improvements, non-motorized transport such as walking and biking, regulations to moderate vehicle use and speed, intelligent systems, expanded highway capacity and more efficient freight movement. The effectiveness of each strategy in cutting greenhouse gas emissions was measured against a baseline representing current trends.

Job Sprawl Revisited:
The Changing Geography of Metropolitan Employment
(April 2009)

By Elizabeth Kneebone
The Brookings Institution

While much has been made in the past about the impact of sprawling housing developments on the environment, transportation patterns, and the economy, a new analysis by the Brookings Institution sheds light on the decentralization of employment that took place in nearly all of the country’s 98 largest metropolitan areas between 1998 and 2006. Jobs Sprawl Revisited: The Changing Geography of Metropolitan Employment examines the spatial distribution of private-sector jobs in these metro areas by employment sectors and finds that an increasing proportion of jobs are located outside of downtowns. The report cautions that when jobs shift away from city centers, the result is unsustainable and energy inefficient development patterns that rely heavily on single-occupancy automobile travel; thereby increasing vehicle miles traveled (VMT), energy consumption, and emissions in the region. In turn, this makes transit-oriented development all the more difficult to implement effectively and efficiently.

Specifically, the report’s findings reveal that:  

  • Only 21 percent of employees in the top 98 metro areas work within three miles of downtown, while over twice that share (45 percent) work more than 10 miles away from the city center. The larger the metro area, the more likely people are to work more than 10 miles away from downtown; almost 50 percent of jobs in larger metros like Detroit, Chicago, and Dallas are located more than 10 miles away on average, compared to just 27 percent of jobs in smaller metros like Lexington-Fayette, Boise, and Syracuse.
  • Job location within metropolitan areas varies widely across industries. More than 30 percent of jobs in utilities, finance, insurance, and educational services locate within three miles of downtowns, while at least half of the jobs in manufacturing, construction, and retail are more than 10 miles outside central business districts.
  • Employment steadily decentralized between 1998 and 2006: 95 out of 98 metro areas saw a decrease in the share of jobs located within three miles of downtown. The number of jobs in the top 98 metro areas increased overall during this time period, but the growth occurred almost exclusively in the outer-most parts of these metro areas where employment increased by 17 percent. In the urban core, the gain was less than one percent. Southern metro areas were particularly emblematic of the outward shift of job share.
  • In almost every major industry, jobs shifted away from city centers between 1998 and 2006. Of 18 industries analyzed, 17 experienced employment decentralization. Transportation and warehousing, finance and insurance, utilities, real estate, and rental and leasing showed the greatest increases in the share of jobs located more than 10 miles away from downtown.

In the two metropolitan areas that envelop New Jersey—New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island-NJ-PA and Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington-PA-NJ-DE-MD—we see from the table below that the NYC area fared slightly better than the national average in terms of jobs sprawl, but the Philadelphia area fared worse. However, there is clearly room for significant improvement in both regions if we are to continue developing in transit-friendly ways.

Change, 1998 to 2006

  Total jobs within 35 miles of downtown Share of jobs within 3 miles Share of jobs, 3-10 miles Share of jobs, beyond 10 miles
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington-PA-NJ-DE-MD

147,161

-1.3%

-1.7%

3.0%

New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island-NJ-PA

474,145

-0.7%

0.1%

0.6%

98 Metro Area Total

7,251,632

-2.1%

-0.5%

2.6%

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