Research Recap, October 3: Parklets in Los Angeles, BioFuels & The Environment, Bikesharing Best Practices

Biofuels may not actually be all that eco-friendly. Photo by Matt Kroneberger.

Welcome back to “Research Recap,” our series highlighting recent reports, studies and other findings in sustainable transportation policy and practice, in case you missed it. We’re sorry we haven’t been posting at TheCityFix, but we’re back in action, bringing  you the best in sustainable transport best practices, news and solutions.

Biofuels Shock

The Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA), an initiative of the Swiss Federal Government, has released a study indicating that production chains of biofuels may actually cause higher net environmental damage than their fossil fuel foils. By shifting the environmental impact to landside agricultural production of biofuel crops, such as rapeseed, soy or corn, environmental impacts ranging from marine eutrophication to mineral depletion run the gambit of net higher degradation when compared to Swiss fossil fuel standards.


German Priorities for Transit

An analysis of public transit use in Germany and the United States, jointly released by Virginia Tech and Rutgers University, finds that Germans are five times as likely to ride public transit and come from much more socio-economically diverse backgrounds compared to their American counterparts on transit. The study finds that policy choices have differentiated the two nations in their development post World War II. Germany has since invested more in public transport infrastructure while simultaneously placing disincentives- such as taxes- on driving as a mode choice while the United States lacks high ridership due to, “the lack of complementary policies” as the explanation for “the continuing struggle of public transport.”


Changing Parking Spaces to Parks

The Luskin School for Public Affairs at UCLA has produced a report documenting the costs, best practices for implementation and value chains for “parklets”. Parklets are reclaimed public spaces that occupy underused rights of way and typically replace parking spots. The report delineates style variations including size, materials used, design, scale, and interactive features (including exercise machines) across several cities in Canada and the United States. The report chronicles how these spaces are designed to give added vitality and expanded accessibility to urban spaces cramped with cars and undervalued pedestrian space.


Modest MPG Gains

The University of Michigan has released a report indicating that the U.S. auto industry has increased fuel economy of all new vehicles sold for the first time in five months. The modest gain, 0.2 miles per gallon (or 0.085 km/ liter) signals a wider trend in fuel economy standards that have increased 18-percent to 23.8 miles per gallon since 2007. Though the past year has been the best on record for new vehicle fuel economy, E.U. and Japanese fuel efficiency standards are at 43.3 mpg and 42.6 mpg respectively.


Walkable Suburbanism

New research from The George Washington University and Locus, an initiative of Smart Growth America, has found that walkability in 43 areas with “regionally significant” walkability have attracted 23-percent more of Washington D.C.’s urban development for new apartments; 59 percent of all new office space in DC has been developed in these same zones since 2009, a 10% increase over the previous 8 years. The report indicates that there is a “pent-up demand for walkable urban spaces” in the D.C. Metropolitan Area.


Collective Cycling

The USDOT Federal Highway Administration has released a comprehensive report on bikesharing, and its succesful implementation in communities across the U.S.  The report, which recognizes the increasing groundswell for biking as a means of transportation generally, has found bikeshare systems  that avoid the inherent flaws of theft and low-utility brought on by distance between stations greatly increase usership. Additionally, the report finds that co-location to other forms of transport and pre-registration payment methods for bikeshare systems help avoid theft and increase utility


Electric Vehicles & Policy

Both UCLA and Berkeley law have co-authored a policy brief, “Electric Drive by ’25: How California Can Catalyze Mass Adoption of Electric Vehicles by 2025” which analyzes the recent past effectiveness of electric vehicles in the state and analyzes sucessful policies for future implementation. Among the retinue of policy tools that the report outlines, extensive subsidies from the state government for energy infrastructure and tax breaks are deemed necessary to implement an effective overhaul of California’s auto consumption industry.

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