Sunday, January 1, 2012

Promoting Transit Utilization

McKinsey's 2009 report, "Pathways to a Low-Carbon Economy," estimated that by 2030, global transport will account for 11.4 Gigatons of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e) per year under a business as usual (BAU) scenario, but this amount can be reduced by 8.2 GtCO2e, down to 3.2 GtCO2e, by pursuing the measures that McKinsey has identified. This is a huge amount.

The transportation sector of the US economy accounted for 1.8 GtCO2e, or 27%, of the 6.6 GtCO2e of emissions in 2009, according to "Fast Facts" from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to seminal research by Princeton University professors Steven Pacala and Rob Socolow, a decrease in vehicle use may reduce emissions by 1 GtCO2 annually or 25 GtCO2 in total between 2004 and 2054. This reduction may be achieved through actions including urban design, mass transit, and telecommuting. These reduced emissions from decreased car travel are in addition to and equivalent in the impact of the reduced emissions from increased vehicle efficiency.

So, how can we help stimulate better urban design and increased utilization of mass transit and telecommuting? I propose an approach in a new white paper, "Promoting Transit Utilization," that draws on ideas from both behavioral economics and from neoclassical economics. One important component of this approach involves marketing transit utilization just like any other product or service--think automobiles and financial services. One example is our new "Walk" products, designed to stimulate a culture shift in demand for walking and other alternate forms of transportation.

Let us know what you think!