Full Title: Effects of the Built Environment on Transportation: Energy Use, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and Other Factors
Author(s): Porter, C.D.; Brown, A.; Dunphy, R.T.; Vimmerstedt, L.
Publisher(s): U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Publication Date: 3/2013

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Description (excerpt): 

This is one of a series of reports produced as a result of the Transportation Energy Futures (TEF) project, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-sponsored multi-agency project initiated to identify underexplored strategies for abating greenhouse gases and reducing petroleum dependence related to transportation. The project was designed to consolidate existing transportation energy knowledge, advance analytic capacity-building, and uncover opportunities for sound strategic action.

Urban form has evolved in response to a variety of demographic, social, economic, technological, and policy drivers. While direct authority over land use resides primarily at the local level, the federal government’s transportation and housing policies have indirectly influenced the built environment. These policies accelerated mid- and late-20th century trends of decentralization and declines in population density that were driven by increasing automotive mobility and the post-World War II baby boom. Suburbanization now shows some signs of slowing or reversing in response to demographic, economic, and cultural changes, renewing interest in smaller homes in urban settings. Local governments are increasingly implementing smart growth policies in attempts to manage growth and land use change, and constrain sprawl, with governments at higher levels supporting initiatives through funding, technical assistance, and incentives. This study examines the energy implications of the built environment, and the role the federal government could play.

This report reviews and summarizes literature on the relationships between the built environment and transportation-related energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, along with implications for factors such as economic growth and quality of life. This report is one of a series of reports and tools, several of which address transportation demand, developed as part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Transportation Energy Futures (TEF) project, under the leadership of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory. This report was developed under a National Renewable Energy Laboratory subcontract with Cambridge Systematics, which provided subject matter expertise. In addition to findings from the published literature, the report contains unpublished perspectives that are based on Cambridge Systematics’ experience.