APTA | Passenger Transport
July 6, 2009

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CCAP Study: Improved Transportation Choices Mean Better Air, More Savings

While many greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction studies fail to include smart growth and improved transportation choices, the Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP) study—Cost-Effective GHG Reductions Through Smart Growth & Improved Transportation Choices: An Economic Case for Strategic Investment of Cap-and Trade Revenues—shows how these policies can reduce by 10 percent per capita from 2005 levels the amount Americans need to drive, as measured in vehicle miles traveled (VMT).

This reduction in per capita VMT would reduce annual transportation emissions by 145 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2030, equivalent to the annual emissions of about 30 million cars or 35 large coal plants and approximately 6 percent of the 2030 GHG reduction goal proposed in the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES). This legislation passed the U.S. House of Representatives June 26.

“We cannot address climate change without addressing transportation emissions,” said Steve Winkelman, CCAP director of transportation and adaptation programs. “Our analysis indicates that we can achieve transportation emissions reductions with significant economic benefits, yielding net cost savings per ton of CO2, when factoring in avoided infrastructure costs, consumer fuel and insurance cost savings, and projected tax revenue growth from high value economic development.”

CCAP reviewed a number of reports and case studies about U.S. cities and states to demonstrate the positive environmental and economic effects of smarter land use and transportation choices. For example, Sacramento projects GHG savings of 7.2 million metric tons of CO2 by 2050, while saving $9 billion in infrastructure costs and $380 million in annual consumer fuel costs, yielding a net economic benefit of almost $200 per ton of CO2 saved. In Portland, OR, investments in bicycle infrastructure will reduce CO 2 emissions by 0.7 million metric tons, with net economic benefits of more than $1,000 per ton saved. 

This study demonstrates that achieving economy-wide emissions reductions will be less costly if strategies include smart growth and improved travel choices.  CCAP therefore recommends dedicating 10 percent of national cap-and-trade allowance value to smart growth and improved transportation choices. Winkelman said such an investment would jump start smarter land use and transportation choices at the local, regional, and state levels while lowering economy-wide GHG mitigation costs.

CCAP created the report with input from Transportation for America, Smart Growth America, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, Rails to Trails, and HDR. The study is available online.

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