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Sustainable Mobility

The sustainability issues now of global concern cover numerous aspects of transportation, including greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, energy footprints, congestion, and mobility. This encompasses the reliability and cost of travel and quality of life, especially in urban areas. These issues are particularly critical for California, and therefore, central to the Institute’s mission to serve the state. California’s leadership in sustainability has accelerated with Governor Brown’s ambitious goals. His bold Executive Order B-30-15 aims to reduce GHG emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The watershed Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, AB 32, established a goal of reducing state emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. These efforts are supported by the 2012 Executive Order B-16-12, which calls for 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles in California by 2025. Another major California effort, SB 375, calls for integrating land use, public transit, road transportation, and housing strategies to reduce local pollution, GHG emissions, and transportation infrastructure costs.

Current and future ITS research supports these efforts — for example, in the development of critical new state infrastructure, including electric vehicle–charging stations, hydrogen–fuel stations, vehicle-grid integration, and high-speed rail. New technology and data analytics central to ITS research are leading to more efficient energy footprints at the individual scale, and they are redefining demand and supply on an economic scale. To understand and support the new field of mobility in the sharing economy, ITS leverages research that spans impact analysis, user-choice modeling, behavioral economics, policy, life-cycle assessment, and urban planning.

As the Institute works to build a sustainable transportation future in California and beyond, our impact will be measured not only by the scholarly articles and technological contributions of our researchers, but also by their impact on policy, following a long UC Berkeley legacy of faculty influence on policymaking at the state and federal levels.

 The Port of Oakland generates truck traffic that impacts air quality in West Oakland. State regulations that banned the oldest, dirtiest diesel trucks reduced emissions of unhealthy pollutants from these trucks  by half in a matter of months, as Robert Harley, left, and his research team found in a 2012 study.

Q&A Robert Harley: Air Quality and Sustainable Transportation
Carl W. Johnson Chair in Engineering; Professor and Chair, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Transportation interests: I study transportation-related air pollution problems. Most of my group’s research in this area has been about on-road sources such as gasoline-powered automobiles and diesel-powered heavy-duty trucks. The main questions we address are understanding how air pollution contributions from on-road sources change over time, and how effective are new catalytic converters and exhaust-particle filtering systems for controlling diesel emissions. We also study air pollution related to off-road engines, including railroad locomotives and marine vessels.

Background: In cities around the world, motor vehicles are a major contributor to air-pollution problems, especially in California, where the electric power sector is relatively clean. Automotive sources are in close proximity to people, so the potential for exposure and adverse health effects is high. 

Pressing research questions: There has been significant success in controlling emissions from light-duty passenger vehicles over the last several decades. In contrast, major new efforts to control diesel-truck emissions are still unfolding. Another key future challenge is to think about how current use on petroleum-derived fuels can be reduced through more efficient vehicle and engine designs, and through use of 
all-electric and hybrid powertrains