Monday, December 15, 2008

Operationalizing Sustainability

In a practical sense, sustainability may be defined as a process that supports a standard of living or quality or life forever given the known availability of natural resources and population trends. Wikipedia has a comprehensive definition.

As chair of the Freeway Operations Simulation Committee of the Transportation Research Board I intend to steer national discussion in this direction. Sustainability is the overarching principle that is engulfing most types of engineering and operations practice and research.

Congestion and energy consumption reductions are large components of sustainability. These, in turn, are affected by freeway and traffic operations. Our committee is embarking on an effort to establish sustainability parameters and requirements for freeway and traffic simulation models including vehicle fleet parameters, fuel consumption parameters, and modules capturing real time pricing and demand shifts in response to fuel, toll and congestion levels.

So far, my understanding of the status quo is roughly as follows:
  • Green mobility policies and incentives: HOT lanes, tax credits for electric vehicles, light rail lite, etc.
  • Green management options: Signal coordination, corridor-wide ramp metering, variable speed limits, peak hour shoulder lanes, etc.
  • Green travel choices: hybrid car, parking cash out, locate close to work or school, etc.
  • Green trip decisions: carpooling, 4X10 work schedule, telecommuting, etc.
  • Green parameters for traffic simulation: __________________________?
In other words, there is a lot of room in improving simulation models to explicitly account for green options.

1 comment:

Peter Kay said...

The real problem I have with "Sustainability" is that by most people's definition, including Wikipedia (" the capacity to maintain a certain process or state indefinitely", nothing is really sustainable.

Technically, the Sun is not operating in a sustainable way. It's burning through its energy source in a way that can't go on forever.

Hence, you really can't build anytyhing in a truly sustainable way.

Sustainability has to have a different measure. Perhaps giving it a reasonable time horizon. Maybe a generation, or two at the max.

So the idea would be that given existing consumption rates and known supplies, could activity X go on for 40 years? 80 years? If so, it's sustainable.

Otherwise, not.

But to hold to an "indefinite" time horizon, essentially creates a standard which impossible to meet.