Skip to main content
eScholarship
Open Access Publications from the University of California
White papers by ITS researchers.
Cover page of Improving the Transfer of Knowledge from Scientists to Policy Makers: Best Practices and New Opportunities to Engage

Improving the Transfer of Knowledge from Scientists to Policy Makers: Best Practices and New Opportunities to Engage

(2022)

Many scientific projects are intended to inform public policy, however there are often difficulties transferring or translating research from scientists to policy makers. This paper reviews the existing literature on the quality of communication between scientists or field experts and policy makers and the challenges they face in conveying their research. A majority of best practice recommendations related to effective communication are rooted in anecdotal evidence and have not yet been subjected to systematic scientific study. This is, in part, because the nature of public policy makes data collection, randomization, or correcting for confounding factors extremely challenging. Studies that do put these recommendations to the test are most commonly fielded as national surveys of field experts and policy makers in comparative contexts. Few studies examine this subject in the United States, however, and most find mixed results as to the efficacy of well-accepted scientific communication strategies. Further, existing work often fails to account for the impact of reputation on the willingness of scientists to engage in policymaking and the willingness of political actors to seek and accept expert input in the policymaking process, unless it confirms pre-existing biases. The authors explain how this gap in the literature has important consequences for the quality of policies produced and suggest future avenues of research in the pursuit of sincere evidence-based policymaking.

View the NCST Project Webpage

Cover page of The Current and Future Performance and Costs of Battery Electric Trucks: Review of Key Studies and A Detailed Comparison of Their Cost Modeling Scope and Coverage

The Current and Future Performance and Costs of Battery Electric Trucks: Review of Key Studies and A Detailed Comparison of Their Cost Modeling Scope and Coverage

(2022)

This project aims to assess the current and future performance and costs of battery electric trucking, through reviewing key recent studies in the U.S. and presenting a detailed comparison of their cost modeling scope and coverage. This white paper presents a review of 10 recent studies of the total cost of ownership (TCO) of battery electric trucks (BET), now and in the future, compared to a baseline diesel truck, for the following 3 important types of truck: heavy-duty long-haul trucks, medium-duty delivery trucks, and heavy-duty drayage/short-haul trucks. The researchers break down the studies into their estimates for a range of important cost and operating factors, such as vehicle purchase cost, efficiency, fuel cost, maintenance cost, required range and thus battery pack sizing, and other factors. Of note are differences in major assumptions of studies and variables that are included or excluded from consideration. The authors do not judge these studies against each other but attempt to derive general findings that are robust across studies, areas of significant difference, and areas for further research. Overall, TCO estimates across the studies, for a given truck type, can vary dramatically, though often several studies cluster together. But as this study explores, the differences in TCO link directly to differences in assumptions, parameters and other differences across the studies. The studies vary in important ways that should be taken into account when comparing TCO estimates. Policy makers should consider the context of truck type, truck use and other factors when reading such studies, and pay attention to assumptions. Policies should reflect the wide range of situations that trucks may encounter and avoid assuming a simple average TCO across all situations.

View the NCST Project Webpage

Cover page of Challenges and Opportunities for Publicly Funded Electric Vehicle Carsharing

Challenges and Opportunities for Publicly Funded Electric Vehicle Carsharing

(2022)

Over the last six years, from 2016 through 2021, a wave of new federal, state, and local funding has supported carsharing services that use electric vehicles and install electric vehicle chargers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and address climate change. In addition, many of these same funding programs allow support for the location of services in underserved communities with fare levels that enable community members to access these services. This study first explores the potential climate change benefits for carsharing services and the need for these services in underserved areas by reviewing the available published literature. Next, the study discusses the evolution of carsharing in the U.S., including non-profit, for-profit, and recent government-funded carsharing, drawing on published reports, newspaper articles, and expert interviews. Finally, the authors draw conclusions of relevance for future government-funded carsharing programs.

View the NCST Project Webpage

Cover page of What Happened and Will Happen with Biofuels? Review and Prospects for Non-Conventional Biofuels in California and the U.S.: Supply, Cost, and Potential GHG Reductions

What Happened and Will Happen with Biofuels? Review and Prospects for Non-Conventional Biofuels in California and the U.S.: Supply, Cost, and Potential GHG Reductions

(2021)

This paper examines past and future trends for non-conventional biofuels in transportation in the next decade and beyond in California and the U.S., drawing on existing literature. It finds policy was geared toward expanding use of technology-ready biofuels in the 2010s; hydroprocessed renewable diesel from lipid feedstocks and biogas were beneficiaries alongside conventional ethanol and biodiesel. Cellulosic ventures largely failed due to lack of technological readiness, high cost, and an uncertain and insufficient policy environment. Policy goals for competitive cellulosic fuels remain, yet fuels from technologies already in the market may suffice to meet low carbon fuel policy targets, at least in California until 2030, considerably more oilcrop-based biofuels. How much biofuel will be needed there and elsewhere to meet climate targets hinges critically on the pace and scope of zero emission vehicle, and particularly electric vehicle, rollout. Analysis of unintended market consequences like indirect land use change has evolved over the decade but remains uncertain; current policy structures do not comprehensively safeguard against increased emissions. Market activity for non-conventional fuels has targeted biojet. Pioneer plants using new conversion technologies, if successful, will take some time to scale. Technoeconomic analyses (TEAs) for such non-conventional fuels point to no clear biofuel conversion technology winner as yet, given uncertainties. TEAs are evolving to reduce uncertainty by concentrating more on robust returns in the face of uncertain policies, potential additional cost-cutting for new technologies given what is known about processes involved, and potential revenue-raising through new coproducts or shifting product slates. Policies are needed to make initial financing more secure. Additional policy and societal attention to appropriate use of biomass, and land more generally, in a low carbon future is needed to clarify likely feedstock supply for biofuels that will enhance climate goals with low risk of unintended consequences.

View the NCST Project Webpage

Cover page of Practitioner Guide: An Inventory of Vehicle Design Strategies Aimed at Reducing COVID-19 Transmission in Public and Private Pooled and Shared Transportation

Practitioner Guide: An Inventory of Vehicle Design Strategies Aimed at Reducing COVID-19 Transmission in Public and Private Pooled and Shared Transportation

(2021)

The COVID-19 pandemic has had dramatic impacts on transportation globally, reducing travel and deterring travelers from using shared and pooled modes such as public transit, carpooling, car-sharing, pooled ride-hailing, and micromobility. These modes are critical components of a decarbonized and equitable mobility future, but already comprised a small fraction of pre-pandemic travel in the U.S., and will likely remain further suppressed in the wake of the pandemic if people continue new mode choice habits. Those who do continue to rely on public transportation are disproportionately at risk due the degree that these modes leave them susceptible to disease transmission. For pooled and shared travel to return to and ideally surpass pre-pandemic levels, it is important to implement solutions to reduce the real and perceived risks of infectious disease transmission. This white paper presents an inventory and typology of vehicle design strategies that have been proposed or implemented with the aim of mitigating the risk of COVID-19 transmission in pooled and shared travel modes. Researchers organized these strategies into a COVID-19 Risk-mitigating Vehicle Design Typology and identified the mechanisms by which they may help diminish the risk of COVID-19 transmission. It is intended as a resource for policy-makers, transportation service operators, vehicle manufacturers, and scientists who are tasked with evaluating strategies to mitigate disease transmission risk in shared and pooled transportation services

Cover page of Local Policies for Better Micromobility

Local Policies for Better Micromobility

(2021)

This report highlights key themes from a series of ten interviews with U.S. cities with micromobility programs in their jurisdictions (Atlanta, GA; Austin, TX; Chicago, IL; District of Columbia; Denver, CO; Los Angeles, CA; Oakland, CA; Portland, OR; San Diego, CA; Seattle, WA). The research aims to shed light on both the regulatory process and identify best practices for dockless bike and scooter sharing policy. The following themes emerged among the cities interviewed: a) Data-sharing requirements for scooters and dockless bikes are critical for evaluation and monitoring for compliance with policies like equitable distributional requirements; b) Clear parking regulations for dockless bikes and scooters must balance flexibility and preserve community space ; c) Fines are effective tools to reduce bad behavior from users of micromobility devices, e.g., incorrect parking, or reckless riding behavior; and d) Clear classifications of micromobility devices will allow cities to target guidance and update regulations over time to improve clarity and outcomes. Finally, the paper concludes that more research is needed to refine these findings in this new and rapidly growing micromobility marketplace.

Cover page of Charging Forward: Deploying Electric Vehicle Infrastructure for Uber and Lyft in California

Charging Forward: Deploying Electric Vehicle Infrastructure for Uber and Lyft in California

(2021)

With recent policies such as the Clean Miles Standard in California and Lyft’s announcement to reach 100% electric vehicles (EVs) by 2030, the electrification of vehicles on ride-hailing platforms is inevitable. The impacts of this transition are not well-studied. This work attempts to examine the infrastructure deployment necessary to meet demand from electric vehicles being driven on Uber and Lyft platforms using empirical trip data from the two services. The Widespread Infrastructure for Ride-hail EV Deployment (WIRED) model was developed to examine a set of case studies for charger installation in San Diego, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area. A set of sensitivity scenarios was also conducted to measure the tradeoff between explicit costs of infrastructure versus weighting factors for valuing the time for drivers to travel to a charger (from where they are providing rides) and valuing the rate of charging (to minimize the amount of time that drivers have to wait to charge their vehicle). There are several notable findings from the study: 1) DC fast charging infrastructure is the dominant charger type necessary to meet ride-hailing demand, 2) shifting to overnight charging behavior that places less emphasis on daytime public charging can significantly reduce costs, and 3) the necessary ratio of chargers is approximately 10 times higher for EVs in Uber and Lyft compared to chargers for the general EV owning public.

Cover page of Setting TNC Policies to Increase Sustainability

Setting TNC Policies to Increase Sustainability

(2021)

Cities and states across the U.S. are assessing fees or taxes on transportation network company (TNC) platforms, such as Uber and Lyft. The goals of these policies include traffic and emissions mitigation, as well as revenue generation, among other objectives. This research aims to assess the goals and effectiveness of these fees in achieving some of these policy objectives, primarily congestion and emissions mitigation. The analysis addresses a core difficulty in comparing TNC fees—some fees are assessed per mile and others per trip. The researchers compared 21 fees implemented by state and local governments across the United States and apply a methodology to compare these diverse fees and taxes based on a hypothetical ride informed by Uber’s fare calculator, as well as other sources. The findings show that when adjusted for comparison, the highest fees, by a wide margin, are assessed in downtown New York City and Chicago (during peak hours). A key policy implication of this research is that most fees or taxes are not large enough to affect enough travelers' choices to hail a TNC, and most do not differentiate between solo and pooled/shared rides. Only San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, and New Jersey differentiate between solo and shared rides, which is likely to influence travelers in choosing to share a ride. This is problematic given that increasing passengers per vehicle mile traveled is an essential strategy in managing congestion and reducing emissions associated with all vehicle travel, including TNCs.

View the NCST Project Webpage

Cover page of What California Gains from Reducing Car Dependence

What California Gains from Reducing Car Dependence

(2020)

Cars provide an unparalleled level of mobility but have negative financial, public health, environmental, and social impacts. Reducing the need for driving in California would produce a range of household- and community-level benefits. Driving is associated with adverse health effects (e.g., obesity, high blood pressure, depression, injuries, fatalities), while commuting by walking or biking provides numerous physical and mental health benefits. A reduction in driving would also improve public health by decreasing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. It would save substantial sums of money:  households spend about $9,000/year or 16% of their expenses on private vehicle ownership (2017 data) and the state spends over $500 million per year on highway maintenance. A less car-dependent society would also be more equitable for those with limited income or limited physical abilities who cannot drive, to the benefit not just of those individuals but the community as a whole. While it is not realistic in the foreseeable future for most Californians to live without their cars, it is possible to decrease car dependence. Doing so requires a shift away from a century-old prioritization of the goal of reducing vehicle delays over other important goals. Creating a less car-dependent world is not necessarily more costly to the public and can be achieved over time through changes in land use and transportation planning practices. Answers to many of the frequently asked questions about such efforts are provided.

View the NCST Project Webpage

Cover page of Lessons Learned for Designing Programs to Charge for Road Use, Congestion, and Emissions

Lessons Learned for Designing Programs to Charge for Road Use, Congestion, and Emissions

(2019)

Pricing externalities from vehicle use such as road damage, vehicular emissions (both greenhouse gases and local pollutants), and congestion has become an important topic in the transportation sector in recent years. Road user charge pilot programs are being explored in various states in the U.S.; cities like New York and San Francisco are following in the footsteps of Stockholm and London by announcing plans to implement congestion pricing; and numerous cities and countries have announced gasoline vehicle phase-outs or bans. In this study, we provide an overview of the academic literature related to vehicle pricing, we examine case studies of locations where pricing has been implemented, and we investigate the design choices for programs that would address each of three major externalities related to vehicle use: road damage, emissions (both greenhouse gases and local pollutants), and congestion. Our analysis finds opportunities for integrating technology across multiple pricing programs—by relying on overlapping systems, programs can be implemented more efficiently and provide tremendous cost savings.

View the NCST Project Webpage