Spring 2020 Newsletter
Letter from the Director
Dear Colleagues,

Our spring newsletter finds us in the midst of an unprecedented time. The COVID-19 pandemic has warranted a global response to stem the spread of the virus. Lockdowns, shelter-in-place orders, and social distancing have become the norm around the world, affecting almost every aspect of our daily lives.

The transportation system has experienced this upheaval as well. We see almost daily media reports of dramatic reductions in traffic, transit ridership, and airplane travel as people stay home. We are also seeing a growing reliance on bicycle travel for essential trips and a trend of restricting car travel on roads to provide more space for pedestrians.

The NCST’s researchers are working hard to understand the short-and long-term implications of these changes. As we too adjust to conducting research remotely, we are collecting and analyzing data to comprehend changes in traffic volumes and highway safety, e-commerce, and the use of various travel modes. We hope to produce insights that will inform our understanding of and recovery from the pandemic.
While the NCST has had to cancel or postpone several planned in-person events, we continue to share our important work through virtual platforms. Read on for information on our upcoming and recorded webinars and recently released publications. We are also in the midst of selecting our research projects and dissertation grants for the upcoming year,
and will continue our undergraduate research fellowship program over the summer, with fellows learning to do research remotely.

We wish you good health and safety in the coming months.

Susan Handy
Director, National Center for Sustainable Transportation
This Thursday!

The Many Benefits of Reducing Car Dependence
Thursday, May 7 at 10am PDT

Speaker: Susan Handy | Director, National Center for Sustainable Transportation
Guest Respondent: Jeanie Ward-Waller | Deputy Director for Planning & Modal Programs, California Department of Transportation

Cars provide an unparalleled level of mobility but have negative financial, public health, environmental, and social impacts. Reducing the need for driving in California would produce a range of household- and community-level benefits. Driving is associated with adverse health effects, while commuting by walking or biking provides numerous physical and mental health benefits. It would also save
substantial sums of money: households spend about $9,000/year or 16% of their expenses on private vehicle ownership and the state spends over $500 million per year on highway maintenance. A less car-dependent society would also be more equitable for those with limited income or limited physical abilities who cannot drive.

Creating a less car-dependent world is not necessarily more costly to the public and can be achieved over time through changes in land use and transportation planning practices. This presentation will synthesize existing research on the many household- and community-level benefits of reducing car dependence, especially when it is done through land use and transportation planning that promotes alternative travel modes.
Webinar to Watch Now
Planning and Policymaking for Transit-Oriented Development, Transit, and Active Transport in California Cities
Elisa Barbour | Postdoctoral Researcher, University of California, Davis
This presentation discussed results from research gauging the perspectives of local planners on motivations, objectives, and perceived obstacles to transit oriented development (TOD), and planning, policy, and financial strategies that cities are pursuing to support TOD. The analysis connects findings from an original survey of city planning directors in California conducted in 2019 with information on city characteristics, including built-environment variables such as transit availability and density, and also demographic, socioeconomic, and political factors. Using this approach, the research traces patterns of TOD policymaking by city type.
NCST Director Testifies at the California State Senate

In early March, NCST Director Dr. Susan Handy testified before the Senate Environmental Quality and Transportation Committees as a part of the joint informational hearing "Putting the Brakes on California's Rising Transportation Emissions." Dr. Handy addressed the importance of reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in achieving California's climate goals and touched on the economic, equity, and public health benefits associated with reducing VMT.

Dr. Handy also stressed the importance of making it possible for individuals to drive less at both local and regional scales by investing in walking, biking, and transit infrastructure. These efforts, as Dr. Handy explained, will need to be coupled with programs that encourage people to drive less such as social marketing campaigns to boost alternative modes of travel and pricing programs aimed at reducing the appeal of driving. Dr. Handy finished her testimony by addressing uncertainties regarding how automated vehicles and shared mobility may affect the future of transportation in California.

NCST in the News
Coronavirus Stay-at-Home Orders have Reduced Traffic Accidents by Half
In a recent article for the Los Angeles Times, Dr. Fraser Shilling provided information about how coronavirus stay-at-home orders in California have reduced vehicle collisions. According to Dr. Shilling, the lockdown has led to 15,000 fewer collisions per month and 6,000 fewer injury accidents per month which can be attributed to a 60% drop in traffic volume in California. NCST Director Dr. Susan Handy described Dr. Shilling's findings as "an important reminder of how hazardous our normal lives have become.” Researchers are also seeking to understand how drops in vehicle traffic are affecting wildlife.
New Publications
Adding Carbon to the Equation in Online Flight Search
Nina Amenta and Angela Sanguinetti | University of California, Davis
This study explored the potential to promote lower-emissions air travel by providing consumers with information about the carbon emissions of alternative flight choices in the context of online flight search and booking. Researchers surveyed over 450 UC Davis faculty, researchers, and staff, asking them to choose among hypothetical flight options for university-related business trips. Emissions estimates for flight alternatives were prominently displayed alongside cost, layovers and airport, and the lowest-emissions 
flight was labeled “Greenest Flight”. The researchers found an impressive rate of willingness to pay for lower-emissions flights: around $200/ton of CO2E saved, a magnitude higher than that seen in carbon offsets programs. Institutionalizing this “nudge” within organizations with large travel budgets, like the UC system, could have an industry-wide impact in aviation.
Federal Road Charge Tax Administration Process
Alan Jenn and Kelly Fleming | University of California, Davis
In this report, researchers investigate the institutional structure of the current gasoline tax at the federal level including historical changes, how the tax is collected, and how it is allocated and disbursed to fund infrastructure projects. In outlining the structure of the current gasoline tax, they identify key opportunities for a road user charge to be integrated into the current funding system. These include considerations for tax evasion, simplification of state level allocated disbursement formulas, re-allocation of funds, and designating spending for fuel-specific infrastructure.
Understanding Behavioral Responses of Wildlife to Traffic to Improve Mitigation Planning
Fraser Shilling, Amy Collins, and Winston Vickers University of California, Davis
Travis Longcore |  University of California, Los Angeles

Wildlife crossing structures (WCS) are often used to mitigate impacts on wildlife populations. In a previous project, the research team found that traffic conditions and traffic noise could reduce WCS effectiveness in facilitating passage of diverse and sensitive species. In the current project, they expanded the geographic scope to 26 sites throughout California, including detailed measurements of vehicle noise and lighting impacts on wildlife use of structures. In order to inform future WCS planning, placement and construction, the 
team studied traffic noise and light impacts on wildlife in the vicinity of the proposed Liberty Canyon wildlife over-crossing (over US 101), the first and largest of its kind in California. The authors recommend strategies for transportation agencies to use in developing and modifying WCS to improve wildlife passage.
Ridehailing, Uncertainty, and Sustainable Transportation: How Transportation Stakeholders are Responding to the Unknowns Surrounding Ridehailing
Susan Pike and Raiza Pilatowsky Gruner |  University of California, Davis
Ridehailing is one of several emerging shared use mobility alternatives, poised to impact transportation systems, for better or worse. For better, if these new services catalyze the development and maturation of well-integrated multi-model transportation systems that serve all travelers and reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and transportation emissions. For worse, if these new services serve merely as a less expensive taxi, allowing more people to forego alternative modes of transportation like public transit and biking, thereby leading to increases in VMT, emissions, and congestion. This study investigated how
stakeholders throughout California view the potential impacts of ridehailing services, such as Uber or Lyft, on transportation systems, and how to address such impacts.The authors found that the diversity of interviewees is reflected in the sentiments they have about ridehailing, what issues are important and potential obstacles to achieving positive outcomes. Nonetheless, interviewees agree that regulations should balance local control with state level guidance.
Facilitating Electric Vehicle Adoption with Vehicle Cost Calculators
Angela Sanguinetti, Eli Alston-Stepnitz, and Angelika CimeneUniversity of California, Davis
Consumer education regarding the costs of electric vehicles (EVs), particularly in comparison with similar gasoline vehicles, is important for adoption. However, the complexity of comparing gasoline and electricity prices, and balancing long-term return-on-investment from fuel and maintenance savings with purchase premiums for EVs, makes it difficult for consumers to assess potential economic advantages. Online vehicle cost calculators (VCCs) may help consumers navigate this complexity by providing tailored estimates of different types of vehicles costs for users and enabling comparisons across multiple vehicles. This research draws on a behavioral theory, systematic review of available VCCs, and user research with three VCCs to articulate design recommendations for effective VCCs.
Utilizing Highway Rest Areas for Electric Vehicle Charging: Economics and Impacts on Renewable Energy Penetration in California
Behdad Kiani, Joan Ogden, Alex Sheldon, and Lauren Cordano |  University of California, Davis
California policy is incentivizing rapid adoption of zero emission electric vehicles for light-duty and freight applications. This research explored how locating charging facilities at California’s highway rest stops might impact electricity demand, grid operation, and integration of renewables like solar and wind into California’s energy mix. Assuming a growing population of electric vehicles to meet state goals, state-wide growth of electricity demand was estimated, and the most attractive rest stop locations for siting chargers 
demand was estimated, and the most attractive rest stop locations for siting chargers identified. Using a California-specific electricity dispatch model developed at UC Davis, the project estimated how charging vehicles at these stations would impact renewable energy curtailment in California. It estimated the impacts of charging infrastructures on California’s electricity system and how they can be utilized to decrease the duck curve effect resulting from a large amount of solar energy penetration by 2050.
Greenhouse Gas Reduction Opportunities for Local Governments: A Quantification and Prioritization Framework
Alissa Kendall, John Harvey, Ali A. Butt, Mark Lozano, Arash Saboori, and Changmo Kim |  University of California, Davis
This study conducts a literature review on current local approaches to greenhouse gas reduction strategies by assessing climate action plans in California and presents common strategies in the transportation sector along with useful tools. This study proposes a framework for comparing strategies based on their life cycle emissions mitigation potential and costs. The resulting data can be presented in a marginal abatement cost curve (MACC) to allow for side-by-side comparison of considered strategies. MACCs were 
developed for Yolo and Unincorporated Los Angeles Counties. Applying the life cycle approach revealed strategies that had net cost savings over their life cycle, indicating there are opportunities for reducing emissions and costs. The MACC also revealed that some emissions reduction strategies in fact increased emissions on a life cycle basis. 
New Policy Briefs
Assessing Transportation Impacts Using Vehicle Miles Traveled Rather Than Level of Service Can Incentivize Infill Development
Jamey Volker, Amy Lee, and Dillon Fitch | University of California, Davis

Starting July 1, 2020, local governments in California are required to use vehicle miles traveled (VMT) rather than Level of Service (LOS) to measure land use projects’ transportation impacts. Researchers at UC Davis studied how this change affects the approval process for urban development. Because most agencies have not yet switched to using VMT in their analyses, the researchers looked back at environmental documents

for development projects in Los Angeles between 2001 and 2016 and determined whether these projects could have benefited from using a VMT metric instead of LOS.

Automated Vehicles are Expected to Increase Driving and Emissions Without Policy Intervention

Caroline Rodier, Miguel Jaller, Elham Pourrahmani, and Anmol Pahwa | University of California, Davis; Joschka Bischoff Technische Universität Berlin; and Joel Freedman | Resources Systems Group 

Researchers at UC Davis explored what an automated vehicle future in the San Francisco Bay Area might look like by simulating: 1) A 100% personal automated vehicle future and its effects on travel and greenhouse emissions. 2) The introduction of an automated taxi service with plausible per-mile fares and its effects on conventional personal vehicle and 

transit travel. The researchers used the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s activity-based travel demand model (MTC-ABM) and MATSim, an agent-based transportation model, to carry out the simulations. This policy brief summarizes the results, which provide insight into the relative benefits of each service and automated vehicle technology and the potential market for these services.

Bike Lanes and Slow Car Speeds Can Improve Bicycling Comfort for Some (But Not All) People

Dillon Fitch and Susan Handy | University of California, Davis
Jane Carlen | Los Angeles Times 

To better understand what road characteristics contribute to more comfortable bicycling, researchers at UC Davis surveyed 3,089 travelers to the UC Davis campus to measure

perceived comfort of bicycling in different road environments using video recordings of 25 urban and rural roads from the San Francisco Bay Area. This policy brief summarizes findings from that research, which provide guidance for communities aiming to increase bicycling.

Using Combined Lane Change and Variable Speed Limit Control Techniques Can Ease Congestion and Reduce Fuel Use and Emissions

Petros Ioannou and Yihang Zhang | University of Southern California

This policy brief summarizes findings from researchers at the University of Southern California who simulated traffic patterns along a section of Interstate 710 near the Ports of Long Beach/Los Angeles, a congested area that gets substantial truck traffic. They simulated the use of variable speed limit and lane change control systems to evaluate the potential traffic impacts of these systems.

The National Center for Sustainable Transportation is a consortium of leading universities committed to advancing an environmentally sustainable transportation system through cutting-edge research, direct policy engagement, and education of our future leaders. Consortium members: University of California, Davis; University of California, Riverside; University of Southern California; California State University, Long Beach; Georgia Institute of Technology; and the University of Vermont.
 Lauren Iacobucci
Senior Program Manager
Mike Sintetos
Policy Director
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