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Open Access Publications from the University of California
White papers by ITS researchers.
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.

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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 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.

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Cover page of User Perceptions of Safety and Security: A Framework for a Transition to Electric-Shared-Automated Vehicles

User Perceptions of Safety and Security: A Framework for a Transition to Electric-Shared-Automated Vehicles

(2019)

The confluence of vehicle electrification, sharing and pooling, and automation alters petroleum-fueled, human-piloted, and privately-owned and operated vehicles for personal mobility in ways that raises such questions as, “Are such systems safe and secure?” and, “Who is being kept safe and secure from what (or whom)?” Answers are implied by filling in the “who” and “whom” of the second question: system, product, producer, road, and user. This white paper focuses on (actual and potential) users of systems of electrically-powered, shared, and automated vehicles (e-SAVs) as well as other road-users, e.g., pedestrians and cyclists. The role of user perceptions of safety and security are reviewed to create an initial framework to evaluate how they may affect who will initially use systems of e-SAVs for personal mobility and how safety and security will have to be addressed to foster sustained transitions. The paper will primarily be a resource for e-SAV user research, but will also inform system development, operation, and governance. This white paper offers an overarching framework grounded in the social theory of “risk society” and thus organizes past work that, typically, focuses on only one of the constituent technologies or on one dimension of safety or security, e.g., collision avoidance as a subset of road safety.

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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.

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Cover page of Exploring the Role of Natural Gas in U.S. Trucking (Revised Version)

Exploring the Role of Natural Gas in U.S. Trucking (Revised Version)

(2019)

The recent emergence of natural gas as an abundant, inexpensive fuel in the United States could prompt a momentous shift in the level of natural gas utilized in the transportation sector. The cost advantage of natural gas vis-à-vis diesel fuel is particularly appealing for vehicles with a high intensity of travel and thus fuel use. Natural gas is already a popular fuel for municipal and fleet vehicles such as transit buses and taxis. In this paper, we investigate the possibility that natural gas could be utilized to provide fuel cost savings, geographic supply diversity and environmental benefits for the heavy-duty trucking sector and whether it can enable a transition to lower carbon transport fuels. We find that a small, cost-effective intervention in markets could support a transition to a commercially sustainable natural gas heavyduty fueling system in the state of California and that this could also advance some of the state’s air quality goals. Our research shows that an initial advanced natural gas fueling system in California could facilitate the expansion to other U.S. states. Such a network would enable a faster transition to renewable natural gas or biogas and waste-to-energy pathways. Stricter efficiency standards for natural gas Class 8 trucks and regulation of methane leakage along the natural gas supply chain would be necessary for natural gas to contribute substantially to California’s climate goals as a trucking fuel. To date, industry has favored less expensive technologies that do not offer the highest level of environmental performance.

Cover page of Exploring the Role of Natural Gas in U.S. Trucking (Revised Version)

Exploring the Role of Natural Gas in U.S. Trucking (Revised Version)

(2019)

The recent emergence of natural gas as an abundant, inexpensive fuel in the United States could prompt a momentous shift in the level of natural gas utilized in the transportation sector. The cost advantage of natural gas vis-à-vis diesel fuel is particularly appealing for vehicles with a high intensity of travel and thus fuel use. Natural gas is already a popular fuel for municipal and fleet vehicles such as transit buses and taxis. In this paper, we investigate the possibility that natural gas could be utilized to provide fuel cost savings, geographic supply diversity and environmental benefits for the heavy-duty trucking sector and whether it can enable a transition to lower carbon transport fuels. We find that a small, cost-effective intervention in markets could support a transition to a commercially sustainable natural gas heavyduty fueling system in the state of California and that this could also advance some of the state’s air quality goals. Our research shows that an initial advanced natural gas fueling system in California could facilitate the expansion to other U.S. states. Such a network would enable a faster transition to renewable natural gas or biogas and waste-to-energy pathways. Stricter efficiency standards for natural gas Class 8 trucks and regulation of methane leakage along the natural gas supply chain would be necessary for natural gas to contribute substantially to California’s climate goals as a trucking fuel. To date, industry has favored less expensive technologies that do not offer the highest level of environmental performance.

Cover page of Understanding the Early Adopters of Fuel Cell Vehicles

Understanding the Early Adopters of Fuel Cell Vehicles

(2019)

In this study, the author presents results from a survey of 906 FCV and 12,910 BEV households in California. They investigated the sociodemographic profile of FCV buyers and compare them to BEV households. FCV and BEV households are similar in many areas. There is no significant difference in household income, number of people in the household, number of vehicles in the household, gender, or level of education. However, FCV and BEV households do differ in some key areas. Compared to BEV households, FCV households are slightly older; less own their own home; more live in an apartment, condo, or townhouse; they have owned more alternative fuel vehicles previously (but fewer BEVs); they have higher VMT; and slightly longer commutes. These differences may explain why these households choose to adopt a FCV. As fewer FCV households own their home, and more live in multi-unit dwellings they may have more barriers to accessing recharging from home, which may be why they selected a FCV rather than a BEV. Their slightly longer commutes and higher VMT may mean they perceive FCVs to be a better fit with their household’s travel patterns, though their commutes are well within the range of a BEV.

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Cover page of Mobility Data Sharing: Challenges and Policy Recommendations

Mobility Data Sharing: Challenges and Policy Recommendations

(2019)

Dynamic and responsive transportation systems are a core pillar of equitable and sustainable communities. Achieving such systems requires comprehensive mobility data, or data that reports the movement of individuals and vehicles. Such data enable planners and policymakers to make informed decisions and enable researchers to model the effects of various transportation solutions. However, collecting mobility data also raises concerns about privacy and proprietary interests. This issue paper provides an overview of the top needs and challenges surrounding mobility data sharing and presents four relevant policy strategies: (1) Foster voluntary agreement among mobility providers for a set of standardized data specifications; (2) Develop clear data-sharing requirements designed for transportation network companies and other mobility providers; (3) Establish publicly held big-data repositories, managed by third parties, to securely hold mobility data and provide structured access by states, cities, and researchers; (4) Leverage innovative land-use and transportation-planning tools.

Cover page of State-of-the-Knowledge White Paper Series: How Zero-Emission Vehicle Incentives and Related Policies Affect the Market

State-of-the-Knowledge White Paper Series: How Zero-Emission Vehicle Incentives and Related Policies Affect the Market

(2019)

How, and how effectively, different electric vehicle (EV) related policies will work is an immediate and important question for California as the state updates its EV policies. Adding urgency, Assembly Bill (AB) 615, which was signed by the Governor, requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to produce a report by December 2018 on related topics, in consultation with the University of California Institute of Transportation Studies (UC ITS). Senate Bill (SB) 498, also signed, also requires CARB reporting with somewhat different but overlapping topics. The need is to define the state of the research on policies to support EV deployment in a manner that is directly usable by California in updating policies. The specific need for CARB is material estimates of these factors (called out in AB 615): "impact of income caps, increased rebates for low-income consumers, and increased outreach on the electric vehicle market, as well as a quantification of emissions reductions attributable to the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project."

This white paper is one in a series summarizing recent research findings for the state of California. The topic of the series is evaluating the important components of electric vehicle adoption and its effects. The goals of these white papers are to: 1. Synthesize the best published and on-going research available on each topic; 2. Highlight important research gaps and propose areas for future research; 3. Provide the reader with a framework for understanding the various dimensions of each topic; 4. Make a clear link between research findings and policy implications, if possible; and 5. Be accessible to an informed and interested, but non-technical audience.