Improving Travel Efficiency at the Local Level

Blog | November 15, 2012 - 9:11 pm
By Shruti Vaidyanathan, Senior Transportation Researcher

A comprehensive approach to transportation energy efficiency must include a combination of strategies targeted at both vehicle fuel efficiency and travel behavior. While the federal government has taken the lead on fuel efficiency, local and regional policies that reduce the need for driving are also essential to achieve an efficient and sustainable transportation system.

Today ACEEE released a new local guide to help municipalities and metropolitan regions identify policies to expand transportation choices and improve transportation system efficiency. The toolkit is targeted at local policymakers and stakeholders interested in reducing transportation-related fuel consumption in their communities. Policies addressed in the toolkit are divided into four key categories:

  • Policies to integrate land use and transportation that encourage the creation of compact, transit-oriented, and multi-use communities to enable access to additional transportation choices.
  • Policies that extend transit networks and create integrated street networks that are accessible to all road users be they in cars, on transit, on bikes, or on foot.
  • Pricing mechanisms that provide drivers with an incentive to change their driving behavior by charging more for inefficient travel choices. These mechanisms include congestion pricing schemes, parking fees, and mileage-based fees.
  • Policies that encourage increased use of alternative modes of transportation, including public transit, walking, and biking.

The toolkit provides descriptions of each policy, an outline of relevant stakeholders, and a case study that exemplifies best practices for project implementation and design. It also provides estimates of typical costs and benefits for each policy, based on the Urban Land Institute’s 2009 report Moving Cooler. More information on the calculations used to generate the cost and savings figures, as well as the ability to customize inputs to the calculations, will be available in ACEEE’s Local Energy Efficiency Policy Calculator (LEEP-C), version 2, to be released in early 2013.

Communities can see significant benefits from the implementation of transportation efficiency policies. The adoption of a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) fee, for instance, can reduce community fuel consumption by 8% while saving approximately $670 per capita annually. Policies that encourage the creation of compact, transit-oriented communities have the potential to save $725 per capita annually and cut fuel use by more than 10%. Additional benefits can result from implementing a comprehensive package of strategies.

The toolkit aims to help municipalities take action to achieve transportation-related energy reductions because choosing the right efficiency measures for implementation can be a difficult prospect for community decision-makers, and no one policy can be applied across the board. But strategies outlined in the toolkit can address challenges such as local variations in policy priorities, resources, economies, population, travel patterns, and physical characteristics.