Report Gets Frosty Reception From Transportation Community

A recent article in the Innovation Briefs newsletter analyzed a recent report entitled “Moving Cooler”. The report made the claim that the United States could reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 47 percent by the year 2050 just by making some changes to the transportation system.

The report was not well-received by the transportation community. Here are some comments on the report by transportation officials:

  • “This is an advocacy document pure and simple, couched in the form of a pseudo scientific analysis.”
  • The report does “not [meet] scientific standards.”
  • The report”[uses] implausible assumptions.”
  • The report “[fails] to adequately disclose key analytical assumptions.”
  • The report is “lacking in objectivity.”
  • The report contains “a deeply flawed analysis.”
  • The report “[follows] a questionable peer review process.”

Ouch. So why was this report so heavily criticized?

The answer lies in how the report suggests we’ll be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions so dramatically:

1) Institute tolling of all interstate intercity highways throughout the U.S. by next year (2010). Minimum toll would be 5 cents/mile.
The Innovation NewsBrief explains, “As the presentation to AASHTO [American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials] pointed out, this would require immediate Federal legislation to authorize tolls and a massive crash effort to install toll equipment on these highways within the next year. The tolls would likely shift some traffic to other roads and hit rural areas hardest. According to the analysis, a 5 cent/mile toll would be equivalent to increasing the gas tax for interstate trips by $1.10/gallon for vehicles that get 22 MPG and $1.75/gallon for high-efficiency vehicles.”

2) Impose congestion pricing in 125 metropolitan areas, at 65 cents per mile.
The Innovation NewsBrief mentions that, “The presentation to AASHTO pointed out that a 20-mile round-trip commute trip would cost an additional $26 each day . Service workers and delivery vehicles could face much higher increased costs. The top 125 metro areas where congestion pricing would be imposed include such small urban areas as Canton, OH; Jackson, MS; Flint, MI; Modesto, CA; Greenville, SC; and Lancaster, PA.”

3) Impose or significantly increase parking fees in the central business districts and require $400 biennial residential on-street parking permits.

4) Reimpose a national 55 mph speed limit.

5) Add bike lanes and paths at 1/4 mile intervals in high density areas (more than 2,000 persons/square mile.)

6) Require at least 90% of new development to be in compact, pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly neighborhoods with high quality transit.

And these are just some of the measures that would have to be taken to get to that 47% reduction. It’s no wonder that one transportation official called the report “extreme, unrealistic and in some cases downright impossible.”

The NewsBrief explains why it’s important that people analyze the report’s findings correctly:

While the report’s authors acknowledge in the body of the report that implementing the strategies at their “maximum deployment level” would require a major shift in national attitudes and political will, the presentation and press releases distributed at the July 28 report rollout ignored this caveat.

They also ignored the report’s conclusion that lower emission reductions would be achieved at less intensive — and more realistic — levels of deployment.

Thus, an impression may have been created, says Allen Biehler, Director of PennDOT and AASHTO’s President, that emission reduction targets in the range of 24 to 52 percent are reasonably achievable. This, in turn, could lead to their adoption in EPA rulemaking and legislation pending in Congress.

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