This report is the consolidated work of an interdisciplinary course project in CEE494/598, CON598, and SOS598, Urban Infrastructure Anatomy and Sustainable Development. In Fall 2012, the course at Arizona State University used sustainability research frameworks and life-cycle assessment methods to evaluate the comprehensive benefits and costs when transit-oriented development is infilled along the proposed light rail transit line expansion. In each case, and in every variation of possible future scenarios, there were distinct life-cycle benefits from both developing in more dense urban structures and reducing automobile travel in the process.
Results from the report are superseded by our publication in Environmental Science and Technology.
An inter-temporal life cycle cost and greenhouse gas emissions assessment of the Los Angeles roadway network is developed to identify how construction decisions lead to embedded impacts and create an emergent behavior (vehicle miles traveled by users) in the long run.
A video of the growth of the network and additional information are available here.
The long-term reliability and functioning of the transportation system will increasingly need to consider and plan for climate change and extreme weather events. Transportation systems have largely been designed and operated for historical climate conditions that are now frequently exceeded. Emerging knowledge of how to plan for climate change largely embraces risk-based thinking favoring more robust infrastructure designs. However, there remain questions about whether this approach is sufficient given the uncertainty and non-stationarity of the climate, and many other driving factors affecting transportation systems (e.g., funding, rapid technological change, population and utilization shifts, etc.).
This paper examines existing research and knowledge related to the vulnerability of the transportation system to climate change and extreme weather events and finds that there are both direct and indirect “pathways of disruption.” Direct pathways of disruption consist of both abrupt impacts to physical infrastructure and impacts on non-physical factors such as human health, behavior, and decision making. Similarly, indirect pathways of disruption result from interconnectedness with other critical infrastructure and social systems.
Currently, the direct pathways appear to receive considerably more focus and assessment than the indirect pathways, and the predominant approach for addressing these pathways of disruption emphasizes strengthening and armoring infrastructure (robustness) guided by risk analysis. However, our analysis reveals that indirect pathways of disruption can have impacts that are on par with disruptions via direct pathways, while also being less amenable to risk/robustness-based approaches. As a result, we posit that concepts like flexibility and agility appear to be well suited to complement the status quo of robustness by addressing the indirect and non-physical pathways of disruption that often prove challenging - thereby improving the resilience of transportation systems.
Full Version of Manuscript Available in Transport Policy:
In an extreme heat event, people can go to air-conditioned public facilities if residential air-conditioning is not available. Residences that heat slowly may also mitigate health effects, particularly in neighborhoods with social vulnerability. We explored the contributions of social vulnerability and these infrastructures to heat mortality in Maricopa County and whether these relationships are sensitive to temperature. Using Poisson regression modeling with heat-related mortality as the outcome, we assessed the interaction of increasing temperature with social vulnerability, access to publicly available air conditioned space, home air conditioning and the thermal properties of residences. As temperatures increase, mortality from heat-related illness increases less in census tracts with more publicly accessible cooled spaces. Mortality from all internal causes of death did not have this association. Building thermal protection was not associated with mortality. Social vulnerability was still associated with mortality after adjusting for the infrastructure variables. To reduce heat-related mortality, the use of public cooled spaces might be expanded to target the most vulnerable.
Recent climatic trends show more flooding and extreme heat events and in the future transportation infrastructure may be susceptible to more frequent and intense environmental perturbations. Our transportation systems have largely been designed to withstand historical weather events, for example, floods that occur at an intensity that is experienced once every 100 years, and there is evidence that these events are expected become more frequent. There are increasing efforts to better understand the impacts of climate change on transportation infrastructure. An abundance of new research is emerging to study various aspects of climate change on transportation systems. Much of this research is focused on roadway networks and reliable automobile travel. We explore how flooding and extreme heat might impact passenger rail systems in the Northeast and Southwest U.S.
There is increasing evidence that vehicle travel in developed countries may have peaked, contradicting many historical travel demand forecasts. The underlying causes of this peaking are still under debate and there has been a mobilization of research, largely focused at national scales, to study the explanatory drivers. There is, however, a dearth of research focused at the metropolitan scale where transportation policy and planning are frequently decided.
Using Los Angeles County, California, as a case study, we investigate the Peak Car theory and whether social, economic, and technical factors, including roadways that have become saturated at times, may be contributing to changes in travel behavior. After peaking in 2002, vehicle travel in Los Angeles County declined by 3.4 billion (or 4.1%) by 2010. The effects of changing fuel prices, fuel economy, population growth, increased utilization of alternate transportation modes, changes in driver demographics, income, and freight are first assessed. It is possible, and likely, that these factors alone explain the reduction in travel. However, the growth in congestion raises questions of how a constricting supply of roadway network capacity may contribute to travel behavior changes.
There have been no studies that have directly assessed how the maturing supply of infrastructure coupled with increasing demand affect travel behavior. We explore regional and urban factors in Los Angeles to provide insight into the drivers of Peak Car at city scales where the majority of travel occurs. The results show that a majority of the decline in VMT in Los Angeles can be attributed the rising fuel prices during the 2000s. While overall roadway network capacity is not yet a limiting factor for vehicle travel there is some evidence that suggests that congestion along certain corridors may be shifting some automobile travel to alternatives. The results also suggest that the relative impact of any factor on travel demand is likely to vary from one locale to another and Peak Car analysis across large geographic areas obscures the nuisances of travel behavior at a local scale.
Contrary to many previous travel demand forecasts there is increasing evidence that vehicle travel in developed countries may be peaking. The underlying causes of this peaking are still under much debate and there has been a mobilization of research, largely focused at the national scale, to study the explanatory drivers but research focused at the metropolitan scale, where transportation policy and planning are frequently decided, is relatively thin. Additionally, a majority of this research has focused on changes within the activity system without considering the impact transportation infrastructure has on overall travel demand. Using Los Angeles County California, we investigate Peak Car and whether the saturation of automobile infrastructure, in addition to societal and economic factors, may be a suppressing factor. After peaking in 2002, vehicle travel in Los Angeles County in 2010 was estimated at 78 billion and was 20.3 billion shy of projections made in 2002. The extent to which infrastructure saturation may contribute to Peak Car is evaluated by analyzing social and economic factors that may have impacted personal automobile usage over the last decade. This includes changing fuel prices, fuel economy, population growth, increased utilization of alternate transportation modes, changes in driver demographics , travel time and income levels. Summation of all assessed factors reveals there is at least some portion of the 20 billion VMT that is unexplained in all but the worst case scenario. We hypothesize that the unexplained remaining VMT may be explained by infrastructure supply constraints that result in suppression of travel. This finding has impacts on how we see the role of hard infrastructure systems in urban growth and we explore these impacts in the research.
Sustainable food systems have been studied extensively in recent times and the Food-Energy-Water (FEW) nexus framework has been one of the most common frameworks used. The dissertation intends to examine and quantitatively model the food system interaction with the energy system and the water system. Traditional FEW nexus studies have focused on food production alone. While this approach is informative, it is insufficient since food is extensively traded. Various food miles studies have highlighted the extensive virtual energy and virtual water footprint of food. This highlights the need for transport, and storage needs to be considered as part of the FEW framework. The Life cycle assessment (LCA) framework is the best available option to estimate the net energy and water exchange between the food, energy, and water systems. Climate plays an important role in food production as well as food preservation. Crops are very sensitive to temperature changes and it directly impacts a crop’s productivity. Changing temperatures directly impact crop productivity, and water demand. It is important to explore the feasibility of mitigation measures to keep in check increasing agricultural water demands. Conservation technologies may be able to provide the necessary energy and water savings. Even under varying climates it might be possible to meet demand for food through trade. The complex trade network might have the capacity to compensate for the produce lost due to climate change, and hence needs to be established. Re-visualizing the FEW nexus from the consumption perspective would better inform policy on exchange of constrained resources as well as carbon footprints. This puts the FEW nexus research space a step towards recreating the FEW nexus as a network of networks, that is, FEW-e (FEW exchange) nexus.