With various governments encouraging people to drive less, economists have wondered if such goals can have the side effect of harming the economy. In most cases, the answer is no, OTREC researcher B. Starr McMullen concluded in a research report.

  • Click here to read more about the research and to download the report.

It’s more than an academic question: driving and the economy do tend to rise and fall together. McMullen, a transportation economics professor at Oregon State University, examined the relationship between the two by looking at which happens first—a change in driving or a change in economic activity.

In general, economic growth leads to more driving, not the other way around, McMullen said. That’s particularly true for metropolitan areas, the very places most likely to pursue policies that reduce driving.

“The more economic activity you have, the more VMT [vehicle miles traveled] you’re going to have,” McMullen said.

On the other hand, if there are policies to reduce VMT and driving decreases, “you’re not going to have the economy fall apart," as some have suggested.

If a state sets a goal to reduce VMT or transportation...

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Students and faculty researchers from OTREC universities will present 45 papers at the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting Jan. 22 to 26 in Washington, D.C.

The papers, to be presented at 37 separate sessions and poster sessions, stem from transportation research at Portland State University, the University of Oregon and Oregon State University. The three universities will send 43 students to the conference.

Alex Bigazzi, a PSU engineering doctoral student, will present his work on topics including congestion and emissions at the conference. Some of that work stems from his master’s thesis, “Roadway Congestion Impacts on Emissions, Air Quality, and Exposure,” with adviser Miguel Figliozzi at PSU. The thesis won this year’s Milton Pikarsky Memorial Award, which will be presented Jan. 21 at the Council of University Transportation Centers awards banquet.

Bigazzi will present another paper, which he wrote with PSU’s Kelly Clifton and Brian Gregor of the Oregon Department of Transportation, that looks at fuel economy for alternative-fuel vehicles in congestion. Titled “Advanced Vehicle Fuel-Speed Curves for Regional Greenhouse Gas Scenario Analysis,” the paper helps Oregon DOT incorporate hybrid, electric and fuel-cell vehicles into its emissions planning model.

While traditional vehicles lose fuel efficiency during congested driving, advanced vehicles don’t suffer from the same effects, according to the paper.  Some even do better in...

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Fleet managers can benefit from buying electric vehicles under certain conditions, according to a research paper by Portland State University associate professor Miguel Figliozzi. The paper marks OTREC’s first electric vehicle-related research accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

In the paper, set for publication in the Transportation Research Record, Figliozzi presents a vehicle replacement model that compares the benefits of conventional and electric vehicles under various scenarios. Incorporating electric vehicles makes the most sense for heavily used fleets when gasoline prices are high, assuming electric vehicle tax credits continue.

Until their purchase price drops, electric vehicles won’t make financial sense for fleet managers without some incentives. “Tax credits are important, especially at the beginning, given the higher price of EVs,” Figliozzi said. “The federal tax credit is roughly 20 percent of the (Nissan) Leaf’s list price and it makes a difference.”

The model presented in the paper shows that fleets will start to include a few electric vehicles with gas at $4.10 per gallon, assuming the existing tax...

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Miguel Figliozzi, OTREC researcher, has been selected to chair a study group that will assist DEQ in developing a report, including recommendations for legislation regarding truck efficiency, reduced idling, and emissions. This report will be submitted to interim environment and natural resource committees of the Oregon Legislature by October 2010 for their consideration and any possible action during the 2011 legislative session. The 2009 Oregon Legislature adopted House Bill 2186, which directed DEQ to study potential requirements regarding the maintenance or retrofitting of medium- and heavy-duty trucks in order to reduce aerodynamic drag and otherwise reduce greenhouse gas emissions. DEQ also plans to study potential restrictions on engine use by parked commercial vehicles, including but not limited to medium- and heavy-duty trucks. Study group members will work with DEQ staff to report findings and recommendations for legislation to the interim legislative committees on environment and natural resources by October 1, 2010.

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Abstract: Climate change may be the most serious and urgent issue facing the transportation sector. Transportation is both a major producer of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and is also vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. Major reductions in GHG emissions from the transportation sector will be needed in order to avoid the most serious effects of climate change. Travel models can play an important role in evaluating strategies for reducing transportation sector GHG emissions, but prevailing travel models do not address a number of factors that significantly affect GHG emissions. The GreenSTEP model was developed to fill this gap. The model estimates household level vehicle travel, energy consumption, and GHG emissions. GreenSTEP is currently being used to assist the development of ODOT's Statewide Transportation Strategy for reducing GHG emissions and Metro's Climate Smart Communities scenario planning process.

Speaker Bio: Brian Gregor is a senior transportation analyst for the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) where for the past 15 years he has worked on a variety of transportation and land use modeling and analysis projects. He is the principal developer of the GreenSTEP and Land Use Scenario DevelopeR (LUSDR) models. He has also worked on the development and application of Oregon's Statewide Integrated Model (SWIM), lead the automation of ODOT's modeling processes...

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Portland State University, Urban Center (SW 6th and Mill), Parsons Gallery, Level 2

Special Transportation Seminar:

Join us for a presentation by Projjal Dutta, NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s first-ever Director, Sustainability. He tries to reduce MTA’s environmental footprint and quantify carbon benefits that accrue to the region from transit. This unrecognized service, if priced, can generate substantial resources for transit.

Sponsored by PSU's College of Urban and Public Affairs and the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium

The video begins at 2:48.

Abstract: Diesel engines are the most efficient combustion engine currently available. Their power, durability and economy make them the engine of choice for a wide variety of applications, most notably in freight movement. Their exhaust, long regarded as a nuisance for the smoke and odor, is increasingly implicated in elevated risk for cardiovascular, neurological and respiratory adverse health impacts, as well as being a notable contributor to other environmental impacts like regional haze and climate change. The state of Oregon, since 2001 has undertaken a voluntary, incentive supported approach to owners and operators of existing diesel engines to reduce emissions using a variety of strategies with mixed results. This discussion will summarize that effort, evaluate the economics of cleaning up diesel engines as a public health strategy and outline the potential for further mitigation.