'Green routing' can cut car emissions without significantly slowing travel time

December 14, 2011, University at Buffalo

The path of least emissions may not always be the fastest way to drive somewhere. But according to new research from the University at Buffalo, it's possible for drivers to cut their tailpipe emissions without significantly slowing travel time.

In detailed, of traffic in Upstate New York's Buffalo Niagara region, UB researchers Adel Sadek and Liya Guo found that green routing could reduce overall emissions of carbon monoxide by 27 percent for area drivers, while increasing the length of trips by an average of just 11 percent.

In many cases, simple changes yielded great gains.

Funneling cars along surface streets instead of freeways helped to limit , for instance. Intelligently targeting travelers was another strategy that worked: Rerouting just one fifth of drivers -- those who would benefit most from a new path -- reduced regional emissions by about 20 percent.

Sadek, a transportation systems expert, says one reason green routing is appealing is because it's a strategy that consumers and transportation agencies could start using today.

"We're not talking about replacing all vehicles with or transforming to a hydrogen-fuel economy -- that would take time to implement," said Sadek, an associate professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering. "But this idea, green routing, we could implement it now."

In the near future, GPS navigation systems and could play an important role in promoting green routing, Sadek said. Specifically, these systems and programs could use transportation research to give drivers the option to choose an environmentally friendly route instead of the shortest route.

Sadek and Guo, a PhD candidate, presented their research on green routing at the 18th World Congress on in October.

In the UB study on green routing, the researchers tied together two computer models commonly known as "MOVES" and "TRANSIMS."

The Motor Vehicle Emission Simulator (MOVES), created by the Environmental Protection Agency, estimates emissions. The Transportation Analysis and Simulation System (TRANSIMS) simulates traffic in great detail, taking into account information including the location and pattern of signals; the grade of the road; and the trips people take at different times of day.

After incorporating Buffalo-specific data into TRANSIMS, Sadek and Guo ran a number of simulations, rerouting travelers in new ways each time.

After running the models numerous times, the researchers reached a "green-user equilibrium" -- a traffic pattern where all drivers are traveling along optimal routes. With the system in equilibrium, moving a commuter from one path to another would increase a user's overall emissions by creating more congestion or sparking another problem.

The simulations were part of a broader study Sadek is conducting on evaluating the likely environmental benefits of green routing in the region. His project is one of seven that the U.S. Department of Transportation has funded through a Broad Agency Announcement that aims to leverage intelligent transportation systems to reduce the environmental impact of transportation.

Explore further: SwRI demonstrates traffic management to minimize environmental impacts

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1 / 5 (3) Dec 14, 2011
That's a help but for real climate change for the better there needs to be a reduction of several hundred percent.
5 / 5 (3) Dec 14, 2011
there needs to be a reduction of several hundred percent.

Math fail.
Dec 14, 2011
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
1 / 5 (1) Dec 15, 2011
fewer cars is a better solution
not rated yet Dec 15, 2011
Can't get the people to stop buying high horsepower inefficient engines, but you think you can get them to follow a computer generated route to places they know. Fat chance !
1 / 5 (1) Dec 15, 2011
A really good high school project. Well done. This was high school, right?
not rated yet Dec 15, 2011
Many high-end GPS have a similar feature already. It's called "minimum fuel routing". Very popular in the RV industry.
not rated yet Dec 15, 2011
Rerouting cars along surface streets is only advantageous if the traffice signals are also optimally timed to minimize the time spent waiting at red lights. My daily commute time can vary by 20% dependent solely on the stochastic nature of the timing of traffic lights. The time spent waiting at red lights is decidedly NOT 'green.'
Unfortunately, in many cities the haphazard development of streets and positioning of lights makes optimal solutions impossible. In one 5-mile stretch of a boulevard near my home there are 21 traffic signals - an average of one every 1/4 mile, or one every 30 seconds travel time if the lights are with you, which they NEVER are.
not rated yet Dec 15, 2011
The time spent waiting at red lights is decidedly NOT 'green.'

Depends on your car. Those fitted with start/stop mechanisms are not affected (much) by waiting at traffic lights.

Or just go electric and then there's no additional cost at all.

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