Vehicle trips presently account for approximately 50% of San Francisco’s greenhouse gas emissions (San Francisco County Transportation Authority, 2008). City and county officials have developed aggressive strategies for the future of passenger transportation in the metropolitan area, and are determined to move away from a “business as usual” future. This project starts with current-state source data from a life-cycle comparison of urban transportation systems (Chester, Horvath, & Madanat, 2010), and carries the inventoried emissions and energy usage through by way of published future scenarios for San Francisco.
From the extrapolated calculations of future emissions/energy, the implied mix of transportation modes can be backed out of the numbers. Five scenarios are evaluated, from “business as usual” through very ambitious “healthy environment” goals. The results show that when planners and policymakers craft specific goals or strategies for a location or government, those targets, even if met, are unlikely to result in the intended physical outcomes. City and state governments would be wise to support broad strategy goals (like 20% GHG reduction) with prioritized specifics that can inform real projects leading to the goals (for instance, add 5 miles of bike path per year through 2020, or remove 5 parking garages and replace them with transit depots). While these results should not be used as predictions or forecasts, they can inform the crafters of future transportation policy as an opportunity for improvement or a cautionary tale.