Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

Travel tips from the UCS

Posted by Evan Herrnstadt on January 2, 2009

Having just returned from holiday celebrations, perhaps it’s time to begin planning summer vacation. The Union of Concerned Scientists released a report that helps travelers choose the least carbon-intensive mode of transport for their trips, based on a number of factors. There is a nice “rules of thumb” section at the end, though they are mostly fairly intuitive.  However, there are some counter-intuitive results, such as the finding that groups of three or more in an average car emit less carbon than three seats on an average train.  Although I imagine most travel is solo, this type of information is especially important to consider as we move toward potentially large transit expansions.

The most interesting points, IMO, involve the timing of travel:

Congestion has a noticeable effect on your fuel consumption and carbon footprint. When a car or SUV is stuck in traffic, its fuel consumption rate can be double the rate it gets at steady cruising speeds. So think about getting a GPS unit for your car that can alert you to traffic hot spots in real time and suggest ways to avoid them. (Some sell for as little as $150.) And think about changing your vacation schedule to avoid peak travel periods that keep you stuck in traffic…

Planes sitting on the tarmac emit 25 pounds of carbon dioxide per gallon of fuel burned, causing the report’s authors to recommend flying at the least congested times of the week or day.

This whole discussion also made me think of this graphic, from LAist, showing what the same number of commuters looks like in cars, a bus, and on bikes:


H/T: RFF Library Blog.

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