The transportation sector is responsible for approximately 33 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion. That’s the largest share of any end-use economic sector, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
To help combat this crisis, Brian Gregor, a senior transportation analyst for the Oregon Department of Transportation, has developed an award-winning model that accounts for greenhouse gases in its analysis of the transportation sector.
On Friday, May 25, Gregor will be holding a seminar about this model, the Greenhouse Gas State Transportation Planning model, at Portland State’s Center for Transportation Studies.
“Students at PSU and elsewhere who are interested in sustainability, public policy and/or Oregon’s future will gain something from Brian’s talk,” said civil and environmental engineering Professor Kelly Clifton, who is organizing the seminar.
Gregor, who has a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Oregon, is the developer of several important transportation and land use models. GreenSTEP, his most recent project, is an innovative transportation model that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by factoring in what previous models didn’t: the uncertainty and large-scale changes definitive of the 21st century.
“We are leaving a stable period of time where many environmental and system characteristics affecting transportation were changing slowly,” Gregor said. “The future will be much more volatile in a number of important respects: fuel prices and availability, vehicle technology, climate and the environment, effect of computers and information technology.”
Gregor developed GreenSTEP when the Oregon Global Warming Commission asked him for a model that showed greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector. The model has since been the recipient of many awards, including the President’s Award for Planning from the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials.
By modeling factors such as rapid change in demographics, emerging transportation modes and new vehicle technologies, GreenSTEP answers the call for a unique model that provides insight into the “long-range potential benefits and risks” of sustainability strategies, as well as potential solutions to “bigger picture issues,” Gregor said.
Gregor will discuss the framework within which the model will operate: GreenSTEP accounts for travel in the context of household budgets, age and vehicle types. He will also outline the ways in which the model will help policy makers draft statewide transportation strategies for greenhouse gas emission reduction.
Both decision makers and students can find wisdom in Gregor’s seminar.
“While the model and analysis he describes is used mostly for policy and planning, one value to the public, and students in particular, is that it helps us understand the hard decisions we have to make about our future,” Clifton said.
“Achieving our greenhouse gas reduction goals is not going to be easy and will have implications for the next few generations. How we do that while maintaining our quality of life, without compromising our economy, preserving our values and tending to inequality is one of the greatest challenges facing the next generation,” she added.
Gregor’s talk is part of a larger seminar series sponsored by the CTS and the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium.
According to Clifton, the series presents “cutting-edge research and innovative practice from Portland and around the world” on a broad range of transportation-related topics. Free and open to the public, the seminars are held every Friday at noon in room 204 of the Distance Learning Wing of the Urban Center. They are also streamed live on the CTS website and then archived in both video and audio formats.
Previous speakers have included officials from the Portland Bureau of Transportation, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority and professors from the University of Calgary and the University of California, Berkeley. Gregor’s talk about sustainability in the transportation sector will follow this spring’s theme of “explaining transportation and land use models to a non-technical audience interested in learning more about how these tools are used in decision making,” according to Clifton.
Gregor’s message is aligned with the overall goals of the seminar series.
“We support the U.S. Department of Transportation’s strategic goals of fostering livable communities, improving safety and working to achieve environmental sustainability,” said Justin Carinci, communications director for OTREC.
Carinci added that “the seminar series helps us educate the current and future transportation workforce by providing access to the most inspiring and accomplished practitioners in their field.”