Win-Win Transportation Emission Reduction Strategies: Good News for Copenhagen

Here is good news for anybody looking for smart ways to reduce climate change. "Win-Win" transportation emission reduction strategies can provide substantial energy conservation and emission reductions in ways that also help achieve economic and social objectives.

4 minute read

December 10, 2009, 10:23 AM PST

By Todd Litman

Here is good news for anybody looking for smart ways to reduce climate change. "Win-Win" transportation emission reduction strategies can provide substantial energy conservation and emission reductions in ways that also help achieve economic and social objectives.

Why Transportation?

When it comes to reducing transportation emissions, transportation is special because it has so many impacts on people and the economy. Inefficient motor vehicle traffic imposes significant costs on society, including traffic congestion, road and parking facility costs, consumer costs, accident damages, energy costs and pollution damages. Smart transportation policy reforms reduce these costs by increasing overall transportation system efficiency. These strategies improve travel options, apply efficient pricing, and reduce planning distortions. Implemented to the degree justified for economic efficiency, these strategies also reduce climate emissions by 30-50% compared with what would otherwise occur.

Described differently, Win-Win transportation emission reduction strategies provide substantial co-benefits, including congestion reductions, infrastructure cost savings, consumer savings, traffic safety, improved mobility for non-drivers, more livable communities, reduced local pollution, and improved public fitness and health, and so can provide substantial emission reductions in ways that also support economic development and social equity. These are no-regret strategies that are justified regardless of any uncertainty about climate change risks.

Here are examples of Win-Win strategies and their typical VMT reduction impacts:

Pay-As-You-Drive insurance and registration fees       (8-10%)

Efficient parking pricing and cash out                            (6-10%)

Efficient road pricing                                                         (3-6%)

Mobility Management programs                                     (4-8%)

Transit & ridesharing priority                                            (3-9%)

Walking & cycling improvements                                    (2-6%)

Smart growth planning reforms                                        (4-12%)

Freight transport management                                         (0.5-2%)

Carsharing                                                                            (1-2%)

Tax shifting                                                                          (5-15%)



A Paradigm Shift

Conventional planning tends to be reductionist: each profession or agency tends to focus on a narrowly defined problem. For example, transportation agencies focus on traffic congestion reduction, public safety agencies focus on reducing crashes, and environmental agencies focus on emission reductions. This approach can lead to the implementation of policies that help solve one problem but exacerbate others, and tends to undervalue strategies that provide multiple benefits.

Efficient transportation requires more comprehensive and integrated planning, which considers indirect and external impacts, and so identifies the policies that provide the greatest total benefits to society. Considering all benefits and costs, Win-Win strategies are often the best way to reduce transportation emissions.

Consumer Benefits (Live Long and Prosper)

Win-Win transportation solutions benefit consumers directly by improving transportation options (better walking and cycling conditions, better public transport and taxi services, and innovations such as carsharing, telework and delivery services), providing new opportunities to save money, and creating more accessible, less automobile-dependent communities.

With current practices, consumers pay for road and parking facilities indirectly, through general taxes and bundled with building rents, regardless of how much they drive. Current insurance pricing is inefficient and unfair because most premiums give far too little weight to annual mileage. More efficient road, parking, insurance and fuel pricing rewards consumers when they reduce their vehicle travel and associated costs, providing savings and increased affordability.

Win-Win strategies can help solve difficult problems and provide additional, indirect consumer benefits. For example, more efficient parking management can significantly reduce the costs of building homes in accessible locations, providing true affordability by reducing both housing and transportation costs. Reducing automobile traffic in a community substantially reduces traffic casualty rates. Improved walking and cycling conditions provides substantial health benefits. 

Supporting Economic Development

By increasing transportation system efficiency, Win-Win strategies increase economic productivity and support economic development. They do this by reducing inefficiencies such as traffic congestion, road and parking infrastructure costs, accident and pollution damages, and the cost burden of importing petroleum to fuel vehicles.

Per Capita GDP and Transit Ridership

GDP tends to increase with per capita transit travel. (Each dot is a U.S. urban region.)


Recent research shows that per capita economic productivity tends to increase as public transit travel and land use density increases in a community, and declines as per capita motor vehicle travel and roadway supply increases. This reflects transportation cost savings and agglomeration efficiencies from more efficient transport and land use policies. These two graphs, unfortunately  not very clear, indicate these relationships. You'll find much better images and more detailed information in the reports.

Per Capita GDP and VMT For U.S. States


Per capita economic productivity increases as vehicle travel declines. (Each dot is a U.S. state.)


This is basic economics: increased efficiency increases productivity. Fortunately, it also reduces pollution emissions. That's good news from here to Copenhagen.

For more information:

"Win-Win Transportation Emission Reduction Strategies" ( )

"Smart Transportation Emission Reduction Strategies" ( )"Are Vehicle Travel Reduction Targets Justified? Evaluating Mobility Management Policy Objectives Such As Targets To Reduce VMT And Increase Use Of Alternative Modes" ( )

"Moving Cooler: Transportation Strategies to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions" (

"Evaluating Transportation Economic Development Impacts" ( )

"Drive Less, Pay Less: Environmental and Transportation Groups Unveil Performance Standard for Pay-As-You-Drive Auto Insurance" ( )

"Online TDM Encyclopedia" (

Todd Litman

Todd Litman is founder and executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, an independent research organization dedicated to developing innovative solutions to transport problems. His work helps to expand the range of impacts and options considered in transportation decision-making, improve evaluation methods, and make specialized technical concepts accessible to a larger audience. His research is used worldwide in transport planning and policy analysis.

Chicago Intercity Rail

Amtrak Ramping Up Infrastructure Projects

Thanks to federal funding from the 2021 infrastructure act, the agency plans to triple its investment in infrastructure improvements and new routes in the next two years.

September 25, 2023 - Smart Cities Dive

Google maps street view of San Francisco alleyway.

Ending Downtown San Francisco’s ‘Doom Loop’

A new public space project offers an ambitious vision—so why is the city implementing it at such a small scale?

September 26, 2023 - Fast Company

Google street view of yellow "End Freeway 1/4 mile" sign on 90 freeway in Los Angeles, California.

Proposal Would Transform L.A.’s ‘Freeway to Nowhere’ Into Park, Housing

A never-completed freeway segment could see new life as a mixed-use development with housing, commercial space, and one of the county’s largest parks.

September 26, 2023 - Los Angeles Times

Traffic on the 405 interstate freeway through the Sepulveda Pass at Getty Center Drive in Los Angeles, California

Report: Bike Lanes Can't Make up for New Roads

If California wants to meet its climate goals, the state must stop funding its myriad road construction and expansion projects.

1 hour ago - Streetsblog California

Late evening view of downtown Minneapolis skyline with stone bridge in foreground

Minneapolis Affordable Housing Project Largest in 20 Years

The city opened its first large multifamily affordable housing complex in decades, but a recent court ruling against the Minneapolis 2040 rezoning plan could jeopardize future projects.

2 hours ago - Minnesota Public Radio

Close-up of vertical PARK sign on multistory urban parking garage.

NYC Mayor Proposes Eliminating Parking Minimums

Mayor Adams wants to stop requiring off-site parking for new buildings to reduce the costs of construction as part of the ‘City of Yes’ package of zoning reforms.

3 hours ago - StreetsBlog NYC

Write for Planetizen

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.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.