What will it be surface-transport profile-wise, once the pandemic ends? – 2

So, let’s explore this idea some more. Part 1 can be read here.

Speaking of which, in the earlier installment it was duly pointed out that sold in the U.S. each year are approximately 17 million new cars with at least 850,000 of those, or five percent, being of the zero-emissions-vehicle variety. Post-pandemic, will that trend continue? Not just this, but will the same degree of driving be maintained – an aggregate 3.2 trillion-plus miles annually?

Where greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are concerned, the amount outputted into the atmosphere, just from the road-based surface transportation sector alone, is considerable.

In America, it is estimated that on the road operating at any one time are 40 million motor vehicles. Assuming 95 percent of them – give or take, are non-ZEV- (zero-emissions vehicle) types, then 38 percent – or thereabouts, are internal-combustion-engine powered.

It has been firmly established that for every gallon of gasoline burned, 19.64 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) is released into the air as a result. Assuming a per-motorist yearly average 10,000 miles driven meaning an average 27.4 miles traveled daily, and assuming also that the average vehicle fuel economy rating is 27.4 miles per gallon, than consumed by each car is 1 gallon of gasoline per day, again, on average. It has become a pretty much accepted notion that for the most part cars are parked (non-operating) for 23 of those 24 daily hours which would indicate, that driving those average 27.4 miles is accomplished over the duration of an hour. So, over the course of an hour, for 40 million motor vehicles during that time, a total of 40 million gallons of gasoline is consumed which means an aggregate 785.6 million pounds of CO2 emissions released into domestic air. Multiply that by 365 days and so from just these vehicles entering the air is CO2 to the tune of 286.744 billion pounds.

Remember, this does not include any and all other vehicles operating at other times. Total number of registered motor vehicles in America of all kinds: 263 million.

Now thinking about the traffic situation during the stay-at-home/shelter-in-place period and how in some cases may have been reduced by as much as half, that being the case, then the amount of CO2 emissions that would have been emitted via 40 million cars and light-duty trucks and what-not per-24-hour period normally, that, too, would also be halved. But, that isn’t even what’s key here: Essential here is the understanding that the effect had on air quality and corresponding views and visibilities, was substantial, not to mention a heavy burden on human and animal health related to this reduction was lifted – that’s what’s key.

And, that’s just for carbon dioxide. Think about the relief from other, more health-damaging pollutant emissions the transportation sector contributes in substantial amounts, those like oxides of nitrogen (NOx), ozone (O3), fine and ultra-fine particulates and volatile organic compounds (VOC), to name but five.

That said, the clearly observable cleaner-air trend that in this instance directly resulted from the fewer numbers of operating motor vehicles on the road during quarantine period, just from this alone, well, imagine if that trend continued.

As it has to do with NOx, so important to note is that for the highly detrimental-to-health NOx (a precursor emission common to both ozone and fine particulates) air-toxic, among all sectors by far the largest contribution comes from transportation.

Looking to Santa Cruz for clues

Emphasized also in Part 1 was that post-pandemic, there is the opportunity, potential for “a whole new mobility era, paradigm” to develop.

Expanding on that idea further, Santa Cruz, California, located on the Golden State coast north of Monterey, for a town relatively small in size it is in no way transportation-starved or transportation-deprived – or is it?

Well, it just so happens that various transportation options are under consideration for a specific area corridor, one that connects the coastal community town with Watsonville, situated a little more inland.

Many options, both rubber-tired and fixed-guideway-based, are currently being evaluated. These include bus-based, rail-based and other. Propulsion selections include: CNG (compressed natural gas), diesel, electric and hybrid. There is much more about all options being considered here.

The three main thoroughfares that access town are: the north-and-south-running California State Route (SR) 1, the northeast-southwest-running SR 17 as well as that of the largely north-south-running SR 9. Train service, meanwhile, to the area is provided by the Santa Cruz, Big Trees & Pacific and the Union Pacific mainline a portion of which hugs the edge of both the Watsonville and Pajaro communities. The other railroad corridor in the region runs from Watsonville to Davenport, that piece of real estate owned by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC). As of June 14, 2018, a new operating agreement has been approved for that line.

To be determined still is what the final alternative transportation selection for this corridor will be. To be a shared-use corridor, the idea here is to provide traffic-congestion relief along the oftentimes traffic-clogged SR 1 in the area, predominantly.

Regarding the final selection among the alternatives in question may wiser heads be the ones to prevail.

Watsonville Municipal Airport with an overcast sky and the Pacific Ocean off in the distance

Image above: DanDawson

The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Want more? Sign up for our daily email.