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Policy Design and Behavior Research – New Empirical Evidence

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Local Climate Policy for Transportation

Greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector can be addressed in three basic ways:

  • reducing the carbon content of fuels,
  • improving vehicle fuel economy, and
  • changing individual travel and vehicle choices to be more climate-friendly
  • Local and regional climate policies focus on the third category of emission reduction strategies - encouraging behavioral change. In California, most local and regional governments are currently experimenting with programs to reduce the carbon footprint of their communities, in response to state policy established in Senate Bill 375 in 2008. However, rigorous evaluation of program effectiveness remains uncommon. This project aims to help change this situation.

    Program evaluation studies are commonplace in many fields of applied research, especially when behavioral change is the program goal. These studies are designed to systematically evaluate the effectiveness of policies and programs in achieving measurable goals. Often, program evaluation studies are done during a pilot or demonstration phase of the program so that the research results can be used to fine tune the program before it is expanded to apply to a larger population.

    The universe of local climate policies that address transport sector emissions can be divided into six categories:

    1. Encouraging “smart growth” land use to bring origins and destinations closer to each other, e.g. infill projects, strip mall redevelopment projects;

    2. Restricting parking through fees and/or supply changes, e.g. downtown parking meters, satellite parking facilities;

    3. Encouraging alternative modes (including carpools) by making them cheaper, safer, faster, and more convenient, e.g. real-time information at bus stops, bicycle boulevards;

    4. Restricting driving through pricing and/or supply changes, e.g. reduced speed limits, selected road “diets”;

    5. Implementing “soft measures” that utilize social norms and peer pressure to achieve behavior change; and

    6. Encouraging the use of lower carbon technologies, both fuel efficient vehicles and low-carbon fuels, e.g. targeted rebates, preferential parking.

    We aim to conduct pilot evaluations of the effect of programs in each of the above categories on greenhouse gas emissions. We will then use these program evaluation experiences to develop standard methodologies that practitioners across the nation can use to evaluate the performance of their own programs. To accomplish this, we are looking to partner with local governments that are currently implementing programs in each of these categories. Please contact us via email if you are interested in collaborating on this initiative.