Metropolitan transportation systems provide benefits to individuals, businesses, and the nation. However, reliance on the automobile for most urban trips contributes to environmental pollution, oil dependence, accident casualties, traffic congestion, and obesity. By comparison, public transport, bicycling, and walking are generally assumed to be healthier, more energy efficient, and less polluting modes of urban transport. Governments around the globe, concerned with the costs of negative trends in urban transport, have begun to grapple with the complicated problem of how to mitigate the impacts of current metropolitan transport systems effectively, efficiently, and in a manner that is politically tenable.
Achieving a more sustainable transport system requires balancing environmental, social, and economic aspects of urban transport. Environmental sustainability conserves natural resources, minimizes pollutants, and mitigates impacts on ecosystems, such as climate change. Social sustainability includes considerations of health and safety, accessibility, and the distribution of benefits and costs among groups of society. Economic sustainability focuses on economic growth, cost effectiveness, and financial viability. Researchers at the Metropolitan Institute work on all three dimensions of sustainable transport. The list below provides an overview of current and past projects relating to sustainable transport.
Project 1: Analysis of Determinants of Bicycle Use in the Washington Metropolitan Area.
Funded by the Mid-Atlantic Universities Transportation Center (MAUTC) and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Principal Investigator: Prof. Buehler, 2010-2011; Students: Dan Sonenklar, Andrea Hamre, and Paul Goger.
This project seeks to gain a better understanding of determinants of bicycle use in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Region—with a special focus on the role of gender, age, ethnicity, income, trip purpose, access to bicycle infrastructure, trip distance, and variability of bicycle policies across municipalities. We compare characteristics of cyclist in the Washington D.C. region and national averages, based on the most recent 2008 Regional Household Travel Survey and the new 2009 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS). Multiple regression analysis identify determinants of bicycling in the DC region. Goal is to provide recommendations for Washington D.C. area governments on how to best increase the share of trips by bicycle—with a focus on policies, infrastructure provision, and programs.
- Link to Project Poster with preliminary results
Project 2: Analysis of Bicycling Trends and Policies in Large American Cities: Lessons for New York.
Funded by the Research and Innovative Technology Administration / United States Department of Transportation, Washington, DC, and the University Transportation Research Consortium, New York, NY. Co-Principle Investigator: Prof. Buehler, 2008-2011.
This research report reviews trends in cycling levels, safety, and policies in large North American cities over the past two decades. We analyze aggregate national data as well as city-specific case study data for nine large cities (Chicago, Minneapolis, Montréal, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Toronto, and Vancouver). Cycling rates have risen much faster in the nine case study cities than in their countries as a whole, at least doubling in all the cities since 1990. The case study cities have implemented a wide range of infrastructure and programs to promote cycling and increase cycling safety: expanded and improved bike lanes and paths, traffic calming, parking, bike-transit integration, bike sharing, training programs, and promotional events. We describe the specific accomplishments of the nine case study cities, focusing on each city’s innovations and lessons for other cities trying to increase cycling.
- Link to project site
- Link to final report: Analysis of Bicycling Trends and Policies in Large American Cities: Lessons for New York
Project 3: Mobilitätsmuster junger Menschen im Wandel? Analysis of Trends in Young People’s Mobility Patterns—An International Comparison of Eight Countries.
Funded by Institute for Mobility Research (IFMO), Principal Investigator for United States: Prof. Buehler. 2010.
There is initial evidence that young people’s mobility patterns have changed over the last two decades. For example, in Germany since the 1990s the number of registered vehicles per capita has decreased for young males. In addition, once reaching driving age teenagers seem to delay getting a driver’s license. Moreover, automobile mileage driven by young adults has been decreasing significantly and surveys show modal shifts away from the car. Similar developments have been observed in other industrialized countries.
The project focuses on three key facets of mobility: mobility tools, every day travel, and long distance travel. The project investigates trends of young people’s mobility (specifically the age group between 16 and 35) in industrialized societies over the last decade. The objective is to identify changes in mobility behavior. Reasons for changes in mobility may include: (1) changes in the population structure (e.g. longer education times, more urban population); (2) changes in the economic structure (e.g. incomes); (3) changes of values and life styles (e.g. environmental awareness); and (4) changes in the transport supply (e.g. car sharing schemes, better public transport, more bike paths and lanes).
Project 4: Strategies to Increase Affordable Housing near Transit.
Funded by U.S. Department for Housing and Urban Development. Livable Communities Initiative. Co-Virginia Tech Principal Investigators: Prof. Buehler and Casey Dawkins. Students: Jeremy Sewall and Cindy Lintz.
In this third paper in the “Affordable Housing near Public Transit” paper series, we discuss the role of federal, state, and local plans in promoting the preservation and expansion of affordable housing opportunities near transit. The report describes how policies are coordinated at different scales and highlights the role of local and regional plans, discussing tools such as regional coordinated housing and transportation plans, specific area plans, local inclusionary zoning regulations, and financing streams tied to specific planning requirements. Following our review of planning requirements, we examine how each of these plans is utilized within three different regions. The case studies examined in this paper include the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, the Denver, Colorado metropolitan area, and the San Francisco, California metropolitan area. The paper concludes with a discussion of overall themes and lessons learned from the cases.