Research: Distance Matters More Than Multi-Modal Trips for Reducing Carbon Emissions

European researchers have published a new study in the journal Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment that might be a hard pill to swallow for some transit advocates.

September 9, 2019, 10:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

BART Station

Pi.1415926535 / Wikimedia Commons

Eva Heinena and Giulio Mattio published an article titled "Multimodality and CO2 emissions: A relationship moderated by distance" in the latest volume of Transportation Research Part D. The article tests the relationship between multi-modality and carbon emissions, finding that distance contributes much more to emissions than relative levels of multi-modality.

The perhaps surprising finding of the study: many multi-modal trips aren't effective in reducing emissions. Here's how the authors describe that finding in the abstract: "We find that the level of multimodality is only weakly associated with CO2 emissions. It is only when controlling for levels of travel activity (trip frequency, total distance travelled) that a moderate association in the expected direction is observed (i.e. that higher levels of multimodality correspond with lower CO2 emissions)."

The authors note that the reduction of carbon emissions is not the only goal of public transit, but that the research makes it clear that merely supplying multi-modal options will not be enough climate mitigation activity. "More attention needs to be paid to the key role of high levels of travel activity, and how these could be reduced," according to the study's authors.

Friday, September 6, 2019 in Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment

Chicago Commute

Planning for Congestion Relief

The third and final installment of Planetizen's examination of the role of the planning profession in both perpetuating and solving traffic congestion.

May 12, 2022 - James Brasuell

LAX Cars

Car Noise Is Killing Us

It’s not just traffic collisions that kill—a new study from researcher at Rutgers finds that the loud noises emanating from cars has direct impact on heart health in Americans.

May 6, 2022 - Streetsblog USA

A pair of crash test dummies in a car after a crash with air bags deployed.

Acceptable Deaths

What can we learn from our Covid response?

May 5, 2022 - Angie Schmitt

Washington D.C.

Fare-Free Transit Hasn’t Reduced Car Trips, Data Says

Fare-free transit isn’t the climate change benefit that many have hoped, according to recent writing by David Zipper for Bloomberg.

57 minutes ago - Bloomberg

Cottages on Western Avenue, Chicago, Illinois

Redevelopment Threatens Iconic, Affordable Chicago Homes

The ‘workers’ cottages’ are being replaced with larger, more expensive homes, threatening one of the city’s original forms of affordable housing.

1 hour ago - WTTW

Washington, D.C.

Six-Story Parking Lot Nixed From D.C. Union Station Renovation Plans

The Federal Railroad Administration has removed a six-story parking facility included in a 2020 draft Environmental Impact Statement for a $10 billion renovation of Union Station in Washington, D.C.

2 hours ago - The Washington Post

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.