UCDavis, IDTP Study Proffer $100 Trillion Transportation Savings

UCDavis, IDTP Study Proffer $100 Trillion Transportation Savings
  • Opening Intro -

    The University of California, Davis (UCDavis) and the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP) recently released a joint study on climate change to coincide with a UN climate summit held in New York on Sept. 23.


Bold initiative could transform the world, if adopted.

The report, “A Global High Shift Scenario: Impacts And Potential For More Public Transport, Walking, And Cycling With Lower Car Use,” reveals how changes in the transportation infrastructure as well as transit system investments in large cities could save as much as $USD100 trillion by 2050. The worldwide effort could drastically reduce pollution and avoid 1.4 million early deaths due to pollution-related illnesses.

Global High Shift Scenario

The $100 trillion figure may be hard to grasp, but it is nearly six times the rate of the US’ gross national income, estimated at $17.06 trillion in 2013. The researchers — Lewis M. Fulton, Co-Director, NextSTEPS Program at UCDavis and Michael A. Replogle, Managing Director for Policy and Founder at ITDP — received funding from the ClimateWorks Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation and the Ford Foundation to conduct their study.

“The analysis shows that getting away from car-centric development will cut urban CO2 dramatically and also reduce costs, especially in rapidly expanding economies,” said report co-author Lew Fulton, co-director of NextSTEPS Program at the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis. “It is also critical to reduce the energy use and carbon emissions of all vehicles.”

Expanded Transportation; Increased Walking and Cycling

Savings would be achieved by employing a number of methods to include: an expansion of public transportation systems worldwide, increased walking and greater use of cycling to replace driving.

The researchers noted that carbon dioxide (C02) emissions would plunge drastically, especially if cities adopted mass transit plans, including bus rapid transit, to serve the populace. They found that the most important beneficiaries to the plan would be the world’s poorest people whose access to private vehicles is virtually nonexistent.

The transportation initiative would also provide people with better access to jobs in addition to a range of community services.

“Unmanaged growth in motor vehicle use threatens to exacerbate growing income inequality and environmental ills, while more sustainable transport delivers access for all, reducing these ills. This report’s findings should help support wider agreement on climate policy, where costs and equity of the cleanup burden between rich and poor are key issues,” noted Replogle.

Deadly Air Pollution and Early Deaths

The researchers noted that air pollution has a profoundly bad effect on people, causing 3.2 million early deaths each year. Cardiopulmonary disease, lung cancer and respiratory infections in children are the chief contributors; many cases of cardiovascular disease and asthma can also be traced to air pollution.

Private transportation continues to grow and is expected to add millions more new vehicles to the planet over the coming years. The projected transportation growth rate through 2050 could cause four times the number of early deaths that are now lost to pollution if counter measures are not taken.

Three Countries: US, China and India

The researchers also took a close look at three countries that could benefit highly by expanding their transportation systems: the United States, China and India. The US is currently the global leader in C02 emissions, but there is a promising trend already at play here: more people are moving to the city and Americans are cutting back on their time behind the wheel.

China, on the other hand, will eventually surpass the US in C02 emissions from automobiles. India is also likely to follow suit. Both countries would reverse or slow the trend by expanding public transportation systems, with India particularly weak in this area.

The other methods for reducing emissions and saving money through cycling and walking. Changing urban streetscapes to make them safer for pedestrians and cyclists is a start, accomplished by installing bike lanes and protected sidewalks. Bike share programs and encouraging car-free days is another approach as is improving the quality and the availability of affordable bicycles.

Promoting Sustainable Transportation

The report was presented at the United Nations Habitat III Preparatory Meeting on Sept. 17. Yesterday, several nations announced their own voluntary initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to include new action for promoting sustainable transportation.

See AlsoUniversity of Michigan: US Roads Are Safer


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