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Sustainability

Recent Developments

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This section describes recent developments related to transportation-related sustainability. If you would like to suggest a recent development on this topic, please submit a short description to AASHTO (including any pertinent links) on the  Share Info with AASHTO form.

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USDOT Issues State of Practice on Low-Speed Automated Shuttles

The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a report on the state of the practice regarding low-speed automated shuttles, prepared by the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. Low-speed automated shuttles can hold up to 15 passengers, have a top speed of 25 miles per hour or lower, and are used for circulator or on-demand service in parking lots or large campuses. Although there have been hundreds of demonstration or pilot projects worldwide, most use only one or two vehicles. The report provides an overview of the development of vehicle characteristics and service types, the organizations building and deploying the vehicles, barriers to implementation, and strategies to mitigate the problems. The report also provides suggestions for additional research. For more information, link to the report. (11-1-18)

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Study Looks At Sustainability Implications of On-Demand Ride Services

A study from the National Center for Sustainable Transportation evaluates how on-demand ride services could improve sustainability and mobility outcomes. The study gathered information from stakeholders within California regarding actions that could enable on-demand services to provide more sustainable and accessible transportation systems. Actions might include incentives for trips with multiple passengers, improving intermodal connections, and improving access to underserved populations. For more information and study findings, link to the report. (September 2018)

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USDOT Announces Automated Vehicle 3.0 Guidance

The Transportation Department has issued new federal guidance for automated vehicles, "Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0" (AV 3.0). The updated guidance states that USDOT will interpret and adapt the definitions of “driver” or “operator” as appropriate to recognize automated systems, identify and support the development of automation-related voluntary standards, and affirm continuing work to preserve the ability for transportation safety applications to function in the 5.9 GHz spectrum. Also, the guidance announces that the Federal Highway Administration plans to update the 2009 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices to take into consideration new connected and automated vehicle technologies. For more information, including a video, link to the USDOT’s web page. (10-4-18)

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Paper Outlines Policy Steps to Guide Transition to Electric Vehicles

A white paper issued by the National Center for Sustainable Transportation describes policy options for transitioning to plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) as a way to reach worldwide carbon reduction goals. The paper discusses the technical progress to date in transitioning to EVs and outlines the policies and programs necessary to address the challenge of completely displacing combustion engines. Policies include ending fossil fuels for light-duty vehicles; financial signals to encourage EV buyers and producers; multi-year commitments from PEV manufacturers; education campaigns; and coordination of efforts to meet charging needs, including greening of the electric grid. For more information, link to the report. (July 2018)

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Report Addresses Data Sources to Measure Long-Distance Travel

The National Center for Sustainable Transportation has published a report on measuring long-distance travel. The document, Advancing Understanding of Long-Distance and Intercity Travel with Diverse Data Sources, drew on five survey datasets, a mobile-device based dataset, and semi-structured interviews to address research questions related to how best to measure long-distance travel, how long-distance travel influences well-being, and how access to long-distance travel varies among socio-demographic groups. To access the report and related policy brief, link here. (Sept. 2018)

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Report Examines Market for Used EVs in California

The National Center for Sustainable Transportation has issued a report on the emerging secondary market for plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) in California. The report finds that purchasers of used PEVs, which include both battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, tend to have slightly lower income than purchasers of new vehicles but higher than the average car buyer. The report also finds that the vehicles have good resale value, that purchasers of second-hand PEVs were satisfied with the cars, and that having the high-occupancy vehicle privileges that California provides as an incentive was a significant motivator for some buyers. In addition, the report finds that a small percentage of used vehicles are being moved out of state, which could impact the state’s air quality goals. For more information, link to the report (April 2018).

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Landscape Architects Issue Guide on Sustainable Transportation

A new guide on designing sustainable transportation infrastructure has been released by the American Society of Landscape Architects. The guide provides discussion of and resources for planning and designing more sustainable regional, urban, neighborhood, and street transportation systems. The guide says that well-designed transportation infrastructure is multimodal, efficient, flexible, and affordable. The guide is intended to reverse the negative trends that conventional, car-centric approaches to transportation have created for people and the environment. For more information, link to the guide. (8-20-18)

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APTA Recognizes Transit Organizations for Sustainability Efforts

The American Public Transportation Association has honored six member organizations for their achievements in sustainability. Capital Metro of Austin, Texas, Valley Metro of Phoenix, and Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART), received gold, silver, and bronze level recognition, respectively. Capital Metro was recognized for reducing energy use by over 13 percent by using more efficient air conditioning and updating outdoor lighting. Valley Metro reduced its air emissions by installing solar panels and employing alternative fuels bus fleets. HART was recognized for building the first large-scale driverless rail system in the U.S. Earlier this year, APTA recognized three transit agencies in California and Georgia for achieving silver level status. For more information, link to the announcement. (8-1-18)

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Nominations Open for FHWA’s 2019 Environmental Excellence Awards

The Federal Highway Administration is accepting applications for its 2019 Environmental Excellence Awards. The awards recognize outstanding transportation projects, processes, and partners that use FHWA funding sources to go beyond “business as usual” to achieve environmental excellence. The 2019 EEA Program represents a joint effort among three FHWA offices: the Office of Project Development and Environmental Review, Office of Natural Environment, and Office of Human Environment. The Program features a range of categories designed to highlight best practices occurring across the U.S. Applications are due through Sept. 14, 2018. For more information, visit the FHWA EEA website or email the EEA program at EEAwardsNomination@dot.gov. (8-1-18)

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Report Addresses Incorporation of Green Infrastructure, Public Health

The Willamette Partnership and the Oregon Public Health Institute have released a report regarding the use of green infrastructure to promote health equity in urban and rural places. The report highlights how green infrastructure such as street trees, bioswales in rights-of-way and parking lots, and adding to the tree canopy can also improve physical activity, mental health, and social cohesion. The report also addresses community engagement to promote health benefits, siting and design of infrastructure, and how to measure health improvements. The report recommends that the use of funding sources that are compatible for multiple sectors should be prioritized. The report also includes strategies for avoiding gentrification and displacement as well as educational and technical resources for planners. For more information, link to the guide or join the July 27 webinar. (7-10-18)

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Roadmap for Clean and Modern Transportation Issued by NRDC

A report presenting a strategy for a sustainable, more accessible, and more equitable transportation system has been issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The report proposes several “building blocks” for modern transportation, such as pedestrian- and bike-friendly streets, cleaner and more efficient vehicles, better land use planning, improved public transit, smarter investments, and more equitable community design. The report also discusses the anticipated benefits for rural, suburban, and urban communities. The roadmap’s recommendations are specific to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions and includes real-world examples. For more information, link to the report. (7-19-18)

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Ohio DOT Uses INVEST for Bridge Replacement Project

The Ohio Department of Transportation used the Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool (INVEST) to help the agency consider sustainability when evaluating a new bridge over the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland. ODOT incorporated the INVEST scoring system and evaluation criteria to select a contractor and to track sustainability goals over the course of the project. During the project, the agency improved peregrine falcon habitat, reduced energy consumption, and recycled 100 percent of materials used. ODOT plans to use the tool for two other projects to meet the silver sustainability rating. For more information, link to the FHWA article. (7-9-18)

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Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool Updated

The Federal Highway Administration has announced the Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool (INVEST) Version 1.3. This update to the INVEST tool includes minor editorial corrections and clarifies criteria related to the tracking environmental commitments, integrated planning, travel demand management, and energy efficiency. The FHWA has issued a table of modifications and a guide to translating evaluations to the new version. INVEST is a web-based self-evaluation tool that allows users to assess sustainability in system planning, project planning, design, and construction. For more information, link to the announcement. (4-23-18)

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FHWA National Dialogue to Focus on Automated Vehicles

The Federal Highway Administration has announced a workshop to promote a national dialogue regarding the deployment of autonomous vehicles. The dialogue will focus on automation planning and policy; digital infrastructure and data; multimodal safety and infrastructure design; operations; and truck platooning. The dialogue will convene various stakeholders throughout the United States such as equipment manufacturers, technology suppliers, transportation network companies, associations, and public-sector partners. A preliminary webinar is scheduled for May 8 and the workshop is scheduled for June 7, 2018, in Detroit. For more information, link to the announcement. (4-20-18)

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NREL Helps to Expand Plug-In Electric Ownership in Columbus, Ohio

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has released a report on the adoption of electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Columbus, Ohio. The city of Columbus won the Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge in 2016, with the goal of expanding plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) ownership. The NREL’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Projection model was used to create scenarios of charging infrastructure based on travel patterns generated by INRIX, a commercial mapping/traffic company. The report also uses charging load data to inform the impact of PEVs on the electric load. To reduce the range anxiety barrier and provide a “safety net” for unexpected charging events, the city must develop 400 Level 2 plugs at multi-unit dwellings and 350 Level 2 plugs at nonresidential locations to put 5,300 PEVs on the road by 2019. For more information, link to the report. (4-14-18)

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Report Issued on Volpe’s National Transportation Symposium

The Volpe National Transportation Systems Center has released a final report on a thought leadership series held from September to December 2017. The Ongoing Transformation of the Global Transportation System addressed future challenges and opportunities affecting multimodal transportation systems in safety, infrastructure, innovation, and accountability. The report highlights several topics, including cyber security for connected vehicles, car speed and travel time, and transportation inequities. The report also provides new data on the performance of the nation’s highways. For more information, link to the report. (2-27-18)

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Shared Mobility Best Practices Highlighted in FHWA Paper

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a white paper on integrating shared mobility services into transportation planning. The white paper addresses the impacts of both traditional shared mobility services, such as taxis and transit, and emerging technologies, such as bike sharing and transportation network companies, on travel behavior. The white paper supplements several FHWA publications and provides best practices from 13 metropolitan areas. The white paper highlights several approaches to shared mobility in planning that include leadership from an individual or agency to formulate an approach; focusing on high-level strategic visions for specific efforts; stakeholder engagement; and focusing on research and information from others for mobility planning. The report also identifies opportunities and challenges facing metropolitan areas, emerging strategies, and areas for future research. For more information, link to the white paper. (February 2018)

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Report Shows Economic Benefits of Reduced Vehicle Miles Traveled

The National Center for Sustainable Transportation has released a report on the local economic benefits of efforts to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT). The report addresses residential benefits of reducing VMT and indicates that home prices are higher in neighborhoods with good pedestrian characteristics. The report also indicates that businesses in locations where streets were closed or where traffic lanes were reduced saw a positive impact on their retail sales. The report recommends a “systems view” of metropolitan transportation that has a hierarchy of networks, from high-throughput metropolitan arteries to local, multi-modal, neighborhood planning with connections between the different levels of the system. For more information, link to the report. (November 2017)

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Road Weather Management Program Report Shows Progress

The Federal Highway Administration has released the 2017 progress report on its program that helps to improve transportation system performance during extreme weather conditions. The report indicates that state departments of transportation have shown increased interest in understanding performance of their systems, but they are still figuring out how to collect and report measures. The report also evaluates the effectiveness of FHWA-supported road weather management tools and technologies, illustrating a high rate of adoption by state DOTs for some of them and limited adoption for others. In addition, the report finds an increase in collaboration and data sharing with DOTs. For more information, link to the report. (October 2017)

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Colorado DOT Study Indicates Road Usage Charge Viewed as Fair

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has announced the completion of a road usage charge (RUC) pilot program. The four-month statewide pilot assessed how a pay-by-mile system compares to the current gas tax. The pilot tested the feasibility of various mileage-reporting choices, including manual reporting and both GPS and non-GPS-enabled mileage-reporting devices. The project found that 88 percent of participants felt their personal information was secure, 81 percent agreed that an RUC is a fair funding method, and 73 percent felt the amount they would have owed was the same or less than expected. CDOT was awarded $500,000 under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act to conduct a second pilot in 2018. The full project report provides an overview of RUC methods in other states and a history of the Colorado pilot since 2007. For more information, link to the full report on the pilot. (12-12-17)

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FHWA Newsletter Highlights California Coastal Program

California’s North Coast Corridor (NCC) Program is addressed in the Federal Highway Administration’s new issue of its Successes in Stewardship newsletter. The 40-year program was created to promote economic growth and enhance the coastal environment along a 27-mile stretch of Interstate 5 that connects nine coastal cities in Southern California. The newsletter highlights the joint development of the Public Works Plan and the Transportation Resource and Enhancement Program that provides a blueprint for implementing the NCC program. The newsletter also discusses the planned expansion of multimodal projects including 30 miles of bicycle and pedestrian paths, more than 30 overpasses, and four rail under-crossings. The installation of sound walls along the NCC project area and the construction of new bridges to improve coastal environments are also part of the project. For more information, link to the newsletter. (November 2017)

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Boston Landing Station Awarded Sustainable Infrastructure Award

The Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure has awarded the Envision Silver Sustainable Infrastructure Award to a commuter rail station in Boston. The Boston Landing Station was completed as part of a public-private partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to provide rail access to the Allston-Brighton neighborhood. The station connects pedestrian walkways, bike paths, bus routes, and roads and provides bike storage areas. The station also is equipped with LED lighting and was constructed with over 50 percent of recycled content and 95 percent of locally sourced materials. In addition, commuter times are expected to reduce by 20 minutes or more for those traveling to downtown Boston. For more information, link to the announcement. (11-7-17)

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FHWA Report Outlines Strategies for Sustainable Highway Rest Areas

Strategies for sustainable design and operation of highway rest areas are outlined in a report issued by the Federal Highway Administration. Sustainable strategies include green building design elements, such as daylighting, passive heating and cooling techniques, and choosing sustainable materials. Operations strategies also can reduce energy and water usage, cut waste, and minimize environmental impacts, the report said. These include on-site renewable energy systems that use solar, wind, and geothermal resources. The report also includes case studies from state transportation agencies in Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Georgia, and Vermont. For more information, link to the report. (10-30-17)

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Report Assesses Electric Vehicles for Commercial, Nonroad Uses

The Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has issued a report on the potential for using electric vehicles for government, commercial, and industrial purposes. The report focuses on highway vehicles that are not personal transport; non-highway modes such as rail, watercraft, and airport support; and non-road equipment used directly or in support of other uses. The report finds that electric vehicles are poorly suited for long-haul trucking but have potential for other vehicles where savings on fuel costs could be significant, such as transit buses, school buses, regional and local delivery trucks, utility service vehicles, and refuse trucks. The report also finds that low supply and low demand is hampering the development of options for commercial fleets, and that successful development will be a long process involving research and development, manufacturing, purchasing, and new regulations. For more information, link to the report. (10-20-17)

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Featured Case Study

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    Arizona DOT’s Sustainable Transportation Program has implemented solutions such as this roundabout and other features on US 89.

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