Research Recap, March 7: Location Efficiency, Oil-Free Transport, Highway Wear and Tear, Ramping Up Rail
Energy savings are greatest in transit-oriented neighborhoods where people live in green homes and drive green automobiles. Graph by Environmental Protection Agency.

Energy savings are greatest in transit-oriented neighborhoods where people live in green homes and drive green automobiles. Graph by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Welcome to “Research Recap,” our series highlighting recent reports, studies and other findings in sustainable transportation policy and practice, in case you missed it.


“Housing type and location, along with energy-use features of homes and vehicles, all have an important role to play in achieving greater energy efficiency,” according to a new report commissioned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Turns out, the biggest energy efficiency gains—measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs)—come from living in transit-oriented neighborhoods. The EPA’s report found that “an energy-efficient, multifamily home using fuel-efficient vehicles and located in a transit-friendly site uses 67 million BTUs per year – roughly one-quarter of the 240 million BTUs used by a single-family, detached home without energy-efficient features or cars in an automobile-dependent site.” The bottom line? The most effective way to reduce energy consumption is to live in an area where you can swap out driving a car for riding mass transit (and for added energy savings, make sure your house and your vehicle are energy-efficient.)


“The European Union will need an oil-free and largely CO2-free energy supply for transport by 2050 due to the need to reduce its impact on the environment and concerns about the security of energy supply,” according to results from the Report from the Future Transport Fuel Expert Group. The energy demand from all transport modes could be met through a combination of electricity and biofuels as main options, plus synthetic fuels, methane and liquefied petroleum gas. The results of this report will be integrated into the European Commission’s Clean Transport Systems (CTS) initiative, which aims to develop a strategy to provide for a full substitution of fossil oil as fuel for transport by 2050.


The U.S. Department of Transportation found that Americans drove 3 trillion miles last year—20.5 billion miles more than the previous year. The number of annual vehicle miles traveled is likely to continue to rise. With all this rubber hitting the road, how will the country maintain its costly and aging highway system? The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution offers this three-pronged approach: “Fix It First, Expand It Second, Reward It Third: A New Strategy for America’s Highways.”


Ridership on America’s railways is growing. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) released a new report showing that “state departments of transportation, the Federal Railroad Administration, and the freight railroads are working aggressively to expand the country’s passenger rail system.” So far, 29 states and the District of Columbia received grants for $4.3 billion of rail projects from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Among the many rail modernization efforts include new equipment, building more capacity, station improvements and consulting the public. The study also looks at rail’s potential for job growth in the American manufacturing sector. Worldwide, the accumulated market value of high speed rail manufacturing is projected to grow to $907 billion between 2010 and 2015, according to this other industry study.

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