Research Papers: Sustainable Transportation

From Farms to Fuel Tanks: Stakeholder Framing Contests and Entrepreneurship in the Emergent U.S. Biodiesel Market

By Shon R. Hiatt, W. Chad Carlos

Wiley Strategic Management Journal


Although scholarship has demonstrated that market categories offer important signals to entrepreneurs about which goods and services are valued, little research has considered how entrepreneurs make sense of and exploit opportunities when contestation over category meaning persists. Using the emergent U.S. biodiesel market as a context, we present a framework to explain how the salience of different stakeholder frames shapes entrepreneurs’ perceptions of market opportunities and influences their market-entry strategies. By showing how framing contests affect entrepreneurial outcomes, this study illuminates the underlying cognitive mechanisms that impact market meaning and offers important implications for the literatures on entrepreneurship, market-category evolution, framing contests, and grand challenges.

The Market Impact and the Cost of Environmental Policy: Evidence from the Swedish Green Car Rebate

By Cristian Huse, Claudio Lucinda

The Economic Journal


We quantify the effects of the Swedish Green Car Rebate (GCR), a programme to reduce oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions in the automobile industry. We find the GCR increases the market shares of ‘green cars’ and its cost to be $109/ton CO22 saved, thus five times the price of an emission permit. Since the main green cars in Sweden are flexible‐fuel vehicles (FFVs), which can switch between petrol (gasoline) and ethanol, we also account for fuel choice, which increases the cost of the programme. Finally, we show that consumers would have purchased FFVs regardless of the rebate provided by the GCR.

Can compact rail transit corridors transform the automobile city? Planning for more sustainable travel in Los Angeles

By Douglas Houston, Marlon Boarnet, Gavin Ferguson, Steven Spears

Urban Studies


Directing growth towards compact rail corridors has become a key strategy for redirecting auto-oriented regions towards denser, mixed-use communities that support sustainable travel. Few have examined how travel of near-rail residents varies within corridors or whether corridor land use–travel interactions diverge from regional averages. The Los Angeles region has made substantial investments in transit-oriented development, and our survey analysis indicates that although rail corridor residents drove less and rode public transit more than the county average, households in an older subway corridor with more near-transit development had about 11 fewer daily miles driven and higher transit ridership than households along a newer light rail line, a difference likely associated with development patterns and the composition and preferences of residents. Rail transit corridors are not created equally, and transit providers and community planners should consider the social and development context of corridors in efforts to improve transit access and maximise development.

The declining role of the automobile and the re‐emergence of place in urban transportation: The past will be prologue

By Marlon Boarnet

Regional Science Association International


The dominant view among transportation scholars is that transportation history flows from older to newer travel modes, with each mode being superior to and, for the most part, displacing the earlier modes. America, an early adopter of widespread automobility, was in this view a harbinger of trends that would follow elsewhere, and hence the US experience of passenger travel based almost completely on car travel was a signal of things to come. Yet this paper argues that interpreting from the US experience with the interstate highway era misses key points. The interstate system, and the planning that surrounded it, was developed during a brief period of time when transportation policy was centralized, standardized, and largely divorced from questions of local impacts and place‐based political pressures. That made the years immediately after the 1956 Interstate Highway Act unusual in the broader context of transportation planning. The US has recently witnessed a return of pre‐interstate urban transportation planning realities, and transportation in large US cities is now multi‐modal, contextualized by ties to land use and neighbourhoods, and fraught with the politics and incrementalism of the pre‐interstate era. Regional science research, grounded in the era of national highway construction, can adapt to the realities of modern urban transportation planning by focusing more on collaboration and financing in ill‐defined institutional settings, environmental externalities and non‐market impacts, and retrospective project evaluation.

California’s Early Transition to Electric Vehicles: Observed Health and Earth Quality Co-Benefits

By Rob McConnell et al

Science of the Total Environment


The transition to electric vehicles is projected to have considerable public health co-benefits, but most evidence regarding air quality and health impacts comes from projections rather than real-world data. We evaluated whether population-level respiratory health and air quality co-benefits were already detectable at the relatively low levels of zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs: battery electric, plug-in hybrid, hydrogen fuel cell vehicle) adoption in California, and evaluated the ZEV adoption gap in underserved communities. We conducted a zip code-level ecologic study relating changes in annual number of ZEVs (nZEV) per 1000 population from 2013 to 2019 to: (i) annual average monitored nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations and (ii) annual age-adjusted asthma-related emergency department (ED) visit rates, while considering educational attainment. The average nZEV increased from 1.4 per 1000 population in 2013 (standard deviation [SD]: 2.1) to 14.7 per 1000 in 2019 (SD: 14.7). ZEV adoption was considerably slower in zip codes with lower educational attainment (p < 0.0001). A within-zip code increase of 20 ZEVs per 1000 was associated with a − 0.41 ppb change in annual average NO2 (95 % confidence interval [CI]:-1.12, 0.29) in an adjusted model. A within-zip code increase of 20 ZEVs per 1000 population was associated with a 3.2 % decrease in annual age-adjusted rate of asthma-related ED visits (95 % CI:-5.4, −0.9). Findings were supported by a variety of sensitivity analyses. Observational data on the early phase ZEV transition in California provided a natural experiment, enabling us to document the first real-world associations between increasing nZEV and changes in air quality and health. Results suggest co-benefits of the early-phase transition to ZEVs but with an adoption gap among populations with lower socioeconomic status which threatens the equitable distribution of possible co-benefits.

Transit-Oriented Development Opportunities Among Failing Malls

By Hilda Blanco, Alexander Wikstrom

National Center for Sustainable Transportation


This paper explores opportunities for the redevelopment of failing regional shopping malls as Transit-Oriented Developments (TODs) to improve transit ridership, focusing on Southern California. In effect, the study suggests an alternative to the typical sequence of first providing transit infrastructure and then changing land uses and densities to develop a TOD around new transit stations. Instead, the study suggests that failing shopping malls can provide the footprint for their redevelopment as TODs that could then be linked to transit lines. The study focuses on several major topics and reviews recent literature on the following steps in the argument for this policy: 1. The rationale for redeveloping declining malls as TODs, the supporting federal and California policies for TODs, and evidence for how different characteristics of TODs and their combination can reduce vehicle miles traveled, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions; 2. The issues that hinder the development of TODs around transit stations, e.g., difficulties in up-zoning, land assembly; loss of existing affordable housing; 3. Changes in retail, focusing on factors affecting the closing of shopping malls, e.g., the effect of Internet shopping on shopping malls, and the increasing failure of shopping malls; and 4. The potential and rationale for the redevelopment of failing regional malls into TODs. In conclusion, the paper identifies follow-up studies to test the viability of the approach, including: a. identifying failing malls in specific metropolitan regions; b. analyses of potential sites as transit markets—including studies of the density of the development around failing malls, population characteristics, current level of transit service, etc.; c. studying the feasibility of providing different types of transit stations adjacent to the identified redevelopment sites; d. the development of a model (s) of how such malls could be redeveloped, including the steps to achieve TOD objectives, and, especially, modeling the types of housing, the number of housing units, as well as different mixes of affordable and market rate housing that such TODs could contain at different height and bulk standards, alternative retail and housing mixes, as well as different parking restrictions; and iii e. proto-types of public-private partnerships (Friedman 2016) that could be used in the redevelopment process, for example, in the case of California, examining the feasibility of raising revenue with California’s scaled back tax increment financing, and potential rezoning and affordable housing scenarios. Such studies would also require an understanding of different lender-owner arrangements in the failing malls, and the feasibility of redevelopment and public private partnerships under different shopping mall lender-owner arrangements.

Emissions reduction policies and recent trends in Southern California’s ambient air quality

By Fred Lurmann, Ed Avol, Frank Gilliland

Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association


To assess accountability and effectiveness of air regulatory policies, we reviewed over 20 years of monitoring data, emissions estimates, and regulatory policies across several Southern California communities participating in a long-term study of children’s health. Between 1994 and 2011, air quality improved for NO2 and PM2.5 in virtually all the monitored communities. Average NO2 declined 28% to 53%, and PM2.5 decreased 13% to 54%. Year-to-year PM2.5 variability at lower-pollution sites was large compared to changes in long-term trends. PM10 and O3 decreases were largest in communities that were initially among the most polluted. Trends in annual average NO2, PM2.5, and PM10 concentrations in higher pollution communities were generally consistent with NOx, ROG, SOx, PM2.5, and PM10 emissions decreases. Reductions observed at one of the higher PM2.5 sites, Mira Loma, was generally within the range expected from reductions observed in ROG, NOx, SOx, and PM2.5 emissions. Despite a 38% increase in regional motor vehicle activity, vigorous economic growth, and a 30% population increase, total estimated emissions of NOx, ROG, SOx, PM2.5, and PM10 decreased by 54%, 65%, 40%, 21%, and 15%, respectively, during the 20-year time period. Emission control strategies in California have achieved dramatic reductions in ambient NO2, O3, PM2.5, and PM10. However, additional reductions will still be needed to achieve current health-based clean air standards.

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