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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Real-World Carbon Dioxide Impacts of Traffic Congestion

  • Author(s): Barth, Matthew
  • Boriboonsomsin, Kanok
  • et al.

Transportation plays a significant role in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, accounting for approximately a third of the U.S. inventory. To reduce CO2 emissions in the future, transportation policy makers are planning on making vehicles more efficient and increasing the use of carbon-neutral alternative fuels. In addition, CO2 emissions can be lowered by improving traffic operations, specifically through the reduction of traffic congestion. Traffic congestion and its impact on CO2 emissions were examined by using detailed energy and emission models, and they were linked to real-world driving patterns and traffic conditions. With typical traffic conditions in Southern California as an example, it was found that CO2 emissions could be reduced by up to almost 20% through three different strategies: congestion mitigation strategies that reduce severe congestion, allowing traffic to flow at better speeds; speed management techniques that reduce excessively high free-flow speeds to more moderate conditions; and shock wave suppression techniques that eliminate the acceleration and deceleration events associated with the stop-and-go traffic that exists during congested conditions.

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