Reducing Traffic’s Role in Climate Change
In 2016, the total emissions from all countries on earth equaled 6,511 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Can you guess which of the economic sectors listed above was responsible for the greatest amount of greenhouse gases during this time period?
If you chose transportation, you’d be correct. Creating nearly 28.5 percent of the total gas emissions in 2016, burning fossil fuel for vehicles resulted in the largest impact. The Union of Concerned Scientists states that cars and trucks emit around 24 pounds of carbon dioxide and other global-warming gases for every gallon of gas, which accounts for nearly one-fifth of all U.S. emissions.
Cities play a substantial role in these statistics, as many large metropolitan areas are filled with bumper-to-bumper traffic every single day. Los Angeles, for example, was ranked the world’s most congested city with drivers spending an average of 102 hours in traffic during peak times in 2017.
Emissions laws exist around the world in an effort to control this increasing pollution, such as those put forth by the European Commission. These limits exist for both light- and heavy-duty vehicles to reduce vehicle emissions and improve testing procedures.
But rising emissions from driving are contributing to many areas not reaching climate objectives, such as California, which is not on track to meet regional greenhouse gas reduction goals. As vehicle miles traveled have increased nationwide and the percentage of drivers commuting to work alone is rising, the state faces challenges that the California Air Resources Board says need to be impacted by significant changes.
How Efficient Parking Management Can Help Spark Change
To address the overabundance of transportation emissions contributing to global warming, many components must come together from various aspects of the industry to reduce the overall impact. Cities should take steps to improve parking congestion through a number of strategies.
We’re starting to see this varied approach include the enhancement and increase in the use of mass transit and public transportation options. According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), public transportation saves 37 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. Greenhouse gases can be reduced by 24 percent through public transit strategies that are coordinated with combining travel activity, land use development and operational efficiencies.
But this course of action shouldn’t be the only solution deployed; the smartest way to address the transportation emission concern is to look at the problem from all angles. And while promoting public transportation is certainly impactful, cities must also focus on the piece of the puzzle that will likely always exist: parking.
We’re all familiar with the struggle that is trying to find an empty parking space downtown, at an event, at the airport or at your favorite retailer. That time spent in your car searching parking lots and garages is then turned into unnecessary pollution and emissions, which ultimately contributes to global warming.
Since approximately 30 percent of all inner-city traffic consists of cars only searching for a parking space, the reduction of this search traffic will contribute considerably to the overall reduction of emissions in the city.
Parking managers should prioritize implementing intelligent parking management solutions that create the ability to reduce or eliminate the time drivers search for available spots, therefore reducing the impact on the environment. By using innovative sensors installed on light posts above spaces, real-time information of the current parking situation can be obtained and lead to informed decision-making.
For example, the city of Cologne, Germany, leverages this kind of technology to reduce parking search traffic for its inner-city area, diminishing emissions and improving quality of life for citizens. The city of Caloundra, Australia, also sees reduced emissions and energy consumption in multiple areas.
Instead of testing their luck at the closest garage or lot with an uncertain occupancy level, drivers can be made aware in advance of where they can find an open space. In Germany, for instance, drivers are spending 560 million hours per year searching for a parking space; but, according to a study of the German automobile industry, this search time could be reduced by at least one third if parking data generated by reliable parking sensors were available to drivers. This would also result in 1.7 billion fewer miles driven per year and a reduction of 0.5 million tons of carbon dioxide.
The average of 17 hours a year spent by Americans searching for parking can also be dramatically lowered, as can the $345 cost per driver in wasted time, fuel and — overall — emissions.
This intelligent parking management method can also be combined with the aforementioned increased use of public transportation. For travelers that aren’t walking to bus stops, train stations or airports, finding a place to park still comes into play. Transit operators can take advantage of a smart parking solution in the lots and garages at these locations for the ultimate emission reduction project.
Advanced technology that revolutionizes the parking experience provides satisfaction for drivers, but also affects the big picture by increasing overall traffic mobility, reducing congestion and making use of otherwise underutilized parking spaces. These factors then reduce the amount of time cars are running, cutting down on their role in the planet’s temperature rising.
With transportation emissions creating such a large portion of the climate change problem, leaders and managers in this field inherently adopt the responsibility to make a change. Parking management can help contribute to the overall goal, even if just a small piece of the larger puzzle.
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.
Read more from the Meeting of the Minds Blog
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
When thinking about conserving water, we should also be focusing on how more efficient water use correlates with energy savings. Studies show that when households participate in water savings programs, they also conserve energy and reduce strain on the power grid during peak demand periods while saving consumers money on their utility bills.
Water utilities can also dramatically increase their energy efficiency and reduce overall energy usage by adopting locally based solutions. For many municipal governments, drinking water and wastewater treatment plants are typically the largest energy consumers, often accounting for 30 to 40 percent of total energy consumed. Overall, drinking water and wastewater systems account for approximately two percent of energy use in the United States, adding over 45 million tons of greenhouse gases annually.
Addressing the impact of heat on health is well-aligned with MCDPH’s vision and mission “to make healthy lives possible” by protecting and promoting the health and well-being of MC residents and visitors. The climate has significant impacts on our community’s health. Through extensive surveillance and community surveys, we have demonstrated the importance of local public health data to increase buy-in from new and existing partners and obtain funding to address this significant public health issue. We encourage other health departments to consider the power of data and collaboration as they seek methods for protecting the public’s health from a changing climate.
Earlier in 2019, Vancouver’s city council declared a climate emergency and adopted a new set of climate-action targets that pushed its already aggressive goals to a new level. In response to the urgent need to hold global warming to below 1.5°C, the city set a new goal of being carbon neutral by 2050.