Researchers at the University of Buffalo have shown that drivers can cut their carbon emissions without significantly slowing their travel time.
The idea is ‘green routing’ – where taking a different route with may have less traffic (and, thus, less stopping and starting) can save on fuel consumption and, thus, carbon emissions.
The University of Buffalo researchers used detailed computer simulations of traffic in Upstate New York’s Buffalo Niagara region to find that green routing could reduce overall emissions of carbon monoxide by 27 percent for area drivers, while only increasing the length of their trip by 11 percent.
Adel Sadek and Liya Guo, the University of Buffalo researchers behind the report, note that “Funneling cars along surface streets instead of freeways helped to limit fuel consumption, for instance. Intelligently targeting travelers was another strategy that worked: Rerouting just one fifth of drivers — those who would benefit most from a new path — reduced regional emissions by about 20 percent.”
Sadek, a transportation systems expert, says one reason green routing is appealing is because it’s a strategy that consumers and transportation agencies could start using today.
“We’re not talking about replacing all vehicles with hybrid cars or transforming to a hydrogen-fuel economy — that would take time to implement,” said Sadek, an associate professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering. “But this idea, green routing, we could implement it now.”
In the near future, GPS navigation systems and online maps could play an important role in promoting green routing, Sadek said. Specifically, these systems and programs could use transportation research to give drivers the option to choose an environmentally friendly route instead of the shortest route.
The study is part of a larger study being conducted by Sadek, who is looking to evaluate the likely environmental benefits of green routing in the region. But in this study, they found that after reaching a “green-user equilibrium” – “a traffic pattern where all drivers are travelling along optimal routes” – that if they moved one driver from one path to another they would increase the driver’s overall emissions by creating more congestion or another problem.
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