Research Recap, June 27: Sustainable Transport Behavior, Agreeable Taxes, Electric Vehicles in India

Study finds that 45 percent of Americans would support a gas tax if its revenue contributed to global warming reduction efforts. Photo by Steve Rhodes.

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

Sustainable Transport Behavior

Transport technology advancements will not be enough to attain international greenhouse gas reduction targets, reduced automotive travel will also be required, a University of California, Berkeley research team asserts. Their report reads, “We find that innovation in a single area such as fuel economy does not offer a realistic, affordable, or resilient pathway to the LDV emission reductions necessary by mid-century.” The team posits that in order to meet the established 2050 targets, dramatic behavioral changes must occur, such as increasing carpooling, and decreasing average trip distances and total number of trips. These necessary behavioral changes will likely only be possible through policy implementation, the researchers state.

Agreeable Taxes

Americans are willing to support increased transportation taxes if the tax revenue recipients are clearly communicated and revenue is distributed to popular causes, such as global warming, a national survey by the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) indicates. In investigating the example of a $0.10 gas tax hike, the survey found that when tax revenue recipients are unknown, the tax support level is 24 percent; when the tax revenue recipient is communicated to be global warming reduction efforts, the tax support level increases to 45 percent.

Personal Vehicle Priorities

A New Maritz Research study found that fuel economy will be the top factor in the next vehicle purchase for 41 percent of Americans, as well as that 42 percent of Americans feel that fuel economy will be “extremely important” to consider in their next vehicle purchase. The study polled roughly 200,000 American consumers.

Support for Land Use Policy

Yale University researchers found sizable public support for land use laws and the promoting of transportation alternatives in a new study. Among the study’s most notable findings are the following:

  • 58 percent would support “changing your county’s zoning rules to require that neighborhoods have a mix of housing, offices, industry, schools, and stores close together, to encourage walking and decrease the need for a car”
  • 58 percent would support “changing your county’s zoning rules to decrease suburban sprawl and concentrate new development near the center of cities and towns, reducing commuting times”
  • 50 percent would support “changing your county’s zoning rules to promote the construction of more energy-efficient apartment buildings, instead of less efficient single-family homes”
  • 80 percent would support “increasing the availability of public transportation” in their county”
  • 77 percent would support “constructing bike paths and installing bike lanes on city streets”

Bike Helmet Debate

Bicycle helmets reduce the risk of head injuries by nearly 30 percent, according to researchers at the University of New South Wales. These findings were based on hospital data from the 18 month period following Sydney’s enacting of a mandatory helmet-use law in 1991. The researchers examined the ratio of cyclist and pedestrian arm-and-leg-injury to head-injury ratio to find that head injuries fell by 29 percent in the months following the new law. These findings oppose those of a similar study from University of Sydney researchers, which did not find that wearing helmets had a significant effect on the incidence of head injuries. Additionally, the same University of Sydney research team asserts that mandatory helmet laws should be repealed as they discourage bicycling.   

Electric Vehicles in India

GM deepened its electric vehicle development in New Delhi, where GM India began testing its Chevrolet Beat Electric Vehicle. The effort is part of GM’s goal of assessing the feasibility of electric vehicles in major metropolitan areas. GM India also hopes to exhibit the effectiveness of electric vehicle technology for its potential Indian customers, as well as identify possible areas of cost savings. The Beat Electric Vehicle is powered on a 300-cell, 20 kWh Lithium-ion battery that has a range of up to 130 km (81 miles).

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