- All Subjects: Los Angeles Metropolitan Area (Calif.)
- Creators: Arizona State University. School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment
- Creators: Barnes, Elizabeth
- Member of: Center for Earth Systems Engineering and Management
- Member of: Programs and Communities
Public transit systems are often accepted as energy and environmental improvements to automobile travel, however, few life cycle assessments exist to understand the effects of implementation of transit policy decisions. To better inform decision-makers, this project evaluates the decision to construct and operate public transportation systems and the expected energy and environmental benefits over continued automobile use. The public transit systems are selected based on screening criteria. Initial screening included advanced implementation (5 to 10 years so change in ridership could be observed), similar geographic regions to ensure consistency of analysis parameters, common transit agencies or authorities to ensure a consistent management culture, and modes reflecting large infrastructure investments to provide an opportunity for robust life cycle assessment of large impact components. An in-depth screening process including consideration of data availability, project age, energy consumption, infrastructure information, access and egress information, and socio-demographic characteristics was used as the second filter. The results of this selection process led to Los Angeles Metro’s Orange and Gold lines.
In this study, the life cycle assessment framework is used to evaluate energy inputs and emissions of greenhouse gases, particulate matter (10 and 2.5 microns), sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and carbon monoxide. For the Orange line, Gold line, and competing automobile trip, an analysis system boundary that includes vehicle, infrastructure, and energy production components is specified. Life cycle energy use and emissions inventories are developed for each mode considering direct (vehicle operation), ancillary (non-vehicle operation including vehicle maintenance, infrastructure construction, infrastructure operation, etc.), and supply chain processes and services. In addition to greenhouse gas emissions, the inventories are linked to their potential for respiratory impacts and smog formation, and the time it takes to payback in the lifetime of each transit system.
Results show that for energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, the inclusion of life cycle components increases the footprint between 42% and 91% from vehicle propulsion exclusively. Conventional air emissions show much more dramatic increases highlighting the effectiveness of “tailpipe” environmental policy. Within the life cycle, vehicle operation is often small compared to other components. Particulate matter emissions increase between 270% and 5400%. Sulfur dioxide emissions increase by several orders of magnitude for the on road modes due to electricity use throughout the life cycle. NOx emissions increase between 31% and 760% due to supply chain truck and rail transport. VOC emissions increase due to infrastructure material production and placement by 420% and 1500%. CO emissions increase by between 20% and 320%. The dominating contributions from life cycle components show that the decision to build an infrastructure and operate a transportation mode in Los Angeles has impacts far outside of the city and region. Life cycle results are initially compared at each system’s average occupancy and a breakeven analysis is performed to compare the range at which modes are energy and environmentally competitive.
The results show that including a broad suite of energy and environmental indicators produces potential tradeoffs that are critical to decision makers. While the Orange and Gold line require less energy and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions per passenger mile traveled than the automobile, this ordering is not necessarily the case for the conventional air emissions. It is possible that a policy that focuses on one pollutant may increase another, highlighting the need for a broad set of indicators and life cycle thinking when making transportation infrastructure decisions.
The goal of this working paper is to provide the methodological background for several upcoming reports and peer-reviewed journal publications. This manuscript only provides background methodology and does not show or interpret any of the results that are being generated by the research team. The methodology is consistent with the transportation LCA approach developed by the author in previous research. The discussion in this working paper provides the detailed background data and steps used by the research team for their assessment of Los Angeles Metro transit lines and a competing automobile trip.
This LCA used data from a previous LCA done by Chester and Horvath (2012) on the proposed California High Speed Rail, and furthered the LCA to look into potential changes that can be made to the proposed CAHSR to be more resilient to climate change. This LCA focused on the energy, cost, and GHG emissions associated with raising the track, adding fly ash to the concrete mixture in place of a percentage of cement, and running the HSR on solar electricity rather than the current electricity mix. Data was collected from a variety of sources including other LCAs, research studies, feasibility studies, and project information from companies, agencies, and researchers in order to determine what the cost, energy requirements, and associated GHG emissions would be for each of these changes. This data was then used to calculate results of cost, energy, and GHG emissions for the three different changes. The results show that the greatest source of cost is the raised track (Design/Construction Phase), and the greatest source of GHG emissions is the concrete (also Design/Construction Phase).
Building energy assessment often focuses on the use of electricity and natural gas during the use phase of a structure while ignoring the energy investments necessary to construct the facility. This research develops a methodology for quantifying the “embedded” energy and greenhouse gases (GHG) in the building infrastructure of an entire metropolitan region. “Embedded” energy and GHGs refer to the energy necessary to manufacture materials and construct the infrastructure. Using these methods, a case study is developed for Los Angeles County.
Sustainable mobility policy for long-distance transportation services should consider emerging automobiles and aircraft as well as infrastructure and supply chain life-cycle effects in the assessment of new high-speed rail systems. Using the California corridor, future automobiles, high-speed rail and aircraft long-distance travel are evaluated, considering emerging fuel-efficient vehicles, new train designs and the possibility that the region will meet renewable electricity goals. An attributional per passenger-kilometer-traveled life-cycle inventory is first developed including vehicle, infrastructure and energy production components. A consequential life-cycle impact assessment is then established to evaluate existing infrastructure expansion against the construction of a new high-speed rail system. The results show that when using the life-cycle assessment framework, greenhouse gas footprints increase significantly and human health and environmental damage potentials may be dominated by indirect and supply chain components. The environmental payback is most sensitive to the number of automobile trips shifted to high-speed rail, and for greenhouse gases is likely to occur in 20–30 years. A high-speed rail system that is deployed with state-of-the-art trains, electricity that has met renewable goals, and in a configuration that endorses high ridership will provide significant environmental benefits over existing modes. Opportunities exist for reducing the long-distance transportation footprint by incentivizing large automobile trip shifts, meeting clean electricity goals and reducing material production effects.