Research Recap, June 14: Walkability in Asian Cities, Mobility for an Aging Population, Costly Fuel Alternatives

An average walkability rating of 13 Asian cities yielded a score of 58 out of 100, showing the importance of pedestrian infrastructure to ensure safety. Photo by Espen Faugstad.

Welcome to “Research Recap,” our series highlighting recent reports, studies and other findings in sustainable transportation policy and practice, in case you missed it.

Improving Walkability in Asian Cities

The Asian Development Bank, in collaboration with the Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities, released a new report on the poor state of pedestrian facilities in 13 Asian cities. The report highlights the pedestrian-friendliness of Asian cities and rates the pedestrian infrastructure to propose solutions to increase walkability in cities like Cebu, Philippines; Colombo, Sri Lanka; Davao, Philippines; and Ha Noi, Vietnam. The report considered nine different aspects of walkability for the survey, including safety, amenities and disability access. Out of the 4,600 pedestrians interviewed, 41 percent stated that sidewalks are in a poor condition. Interview subjects also stated that they would prefer cleaner sidewalks and a stronger emphasis on safer pedestrian crossings. The average walkability rating for the 13 cities was 58 out of 100. Download the report.

Mobility Options for an Aging Population

A new report by Transportation for America looks at the mobility options of the aging baby boom generation. According to the report, by 2015, more than 15.5 million Americans 65 and older will live in communities where public transportation service is poor or non-existent. Based on these grim statistics, TfA’s report, “Aging in Place, Stuck without Options,” ranks metro areas by the percentage of seniors with poor access to public transportation, and present other data on aging and transportation. The worst ranking among metropolitan areas with populations over 3 million is Atlanta, with 90 percent of its seniors with poor access to options other than driving in less than four years. Download the report.

The Relationship Between Rising Gasoline Prices and Transit Ridership

A new study by Cynthia Chen, Don Varley and Jason Chen seeks to understand the relationship between public transit ridership and fluctuations in the price of gasoline and transit fare. The researchers find that, although small, the rise in gasoline prices plays a role in transit ridership, which serves as empirical evidence that transit ridership responds differently to a rise in gasoline prices or transit fare than the fall of prices. In effect, the researchers recommend combining these two results in policy—increasing gasoline prices and decreasing transit fares—to encourage ridership. As for the relationship between service and fare, the researchers point to the “demand follows supply” hypothesis.

Analyzing Fuel Alternatives

Researchers from MIT’s joint program on the Science and Policy of Global Change recently released an analysis of the economic viability of coal-to-liquid (CTL) conversion as an economic fuel option. Coal-to-liquid conversion as fuel is more costly than current energy technologies, both in terms of its production costs and greenhouse gas emissions. But, MIT asserts, the process has been gaining interest as a possible option due to energy security concerns. Researchers looked at the varying stringency of future carbon policies, the availability of biofuels and the ability to trade carbon allowances on an international market, when considering CTL technology. Researchers also looked at whether this technology would use carbon capture and storage technology that could lower GHG emissions but add to the cost of producing fuel. The study found that CTL could be economically viable in coal-rich countries like the United States and China, but it would be difficult to implement because of climate policies.

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