The University of California, Davis, was chosen this week in a national competition to lead an $11million federal study of how to reduce the impact Americas transportation system has on climate change and to come up with ways to keep people moving when catastrophic climate events occur.
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced the Davis Institute for Transportation Studies will look into ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by the everyday movement of Americans to work, school and elsewhere. Federal officials say the national transportation system, mainly solo drivers in cars, accounts for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, which have been said to influence climate change, including extreme weather events such as hurricanes. Davis researchers will head a team with several other universities on the two-year project.
Davis officials said the grant will boost their ongoing efforts to reduce the amount of driving Californians do daily. The Davis institute will conduct the federal research program under the formal title of National Center for Sustainable Transportation.
We take it as a sign they appreciate the policy work that is being done in California, and the research we are doing here in UC Davis, said Davis professor Susan Handy, center director.
Handy and associate Dan Sperling said the project will focus on a handful of transportation elements, including alternative fuels, vehicle efficiency, road improvements, group mobility such as ride sharing and policies that reduce sprawling growth by allowing people to live closer to work and commercial areas.
There is no silver bullet, no big new technology, Sperling said. We are looking at how to improve what we have. We want to reduce the amount of driving. That is one of the goals.
Davis officials said the federal grant will allow them to delve deeper into how to build sustainable communities, where local governments attempt to reduce the overall miles residents drive by building more infill development, more housing near jobs and making it easier for developers to build combination residential-commercial-office projects near bus and rail stations. Sperling said the group hopes to offer planners and politicians better ideas on how to incorporate climate change issues and sustainable community concepts into policy decisions.
Handy said the project also will explore ways of helping regions keep functioning during and after major storm events. She cited the dramatic effects of Hurricane Sandy last year, which shut down New Yorks subway system and clogged roads, leaving people to get around on bikes and by walking.
Recognizing climate change is happening, how do we create more resilient transportation systems so the impacts are not so significant? Handy said.
UC Davis will will receive $5.6million from the U.S. Department of Transportation and $5.6million in matching funds from state, regional and local agencies to support its research. Those funds will come from the California Department of Transportation, the state Air Resources Board and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
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