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Transportation 2014


How can CO2 emissions from the transportation sector be reduced?

Submit proposals:
Deadline:  July 20, 2014, at 11:59:59 PM U.S. Eastern Time
Rules:  All entrants must agree to the 2014 Contest Rules.
Prizes: Judges Choice and Popular Choice winners will be connected with and able to present to people who can support the implementation of their proposal, which may include policy makers, business executives, NGO and foundation officials, scientists, and others.  They will be recognized and publicized by the MIT Climate CoLab and invited to showcase their proposals at a conference held at MIT fall 2014, where a $10,000 Grand Prize will be awarded. (See 2013 conference.)


Guidelines from Advisors and Fellows


The movement of people and goods is critical for the functioning of economies. Transportation also allows access to basic necessities such as places of employment for income attainment, health-care, education, government, and other daily services. Tourism travel has become a growing international market, also heavily relied upon by many low-income countries.  In fact, transportation has become an enabler of the global, connected economy.  However, that increase in activity has caused transportation energy demand to rise, and due to this sector’s oil dependence, CO2 emissions to grow.  CO2 emissions from transportation are growing at the highest rate among those from all end-use sectors.

Contest Focus

The main question of this sub-contest — “How can CO2 emissions from the transportation sector be reduced?" — is straightforward, but the response may be as multifaceted and complex as the transport system itself.

Solid proposals should offer innovative ideas, or build upon existing ones, which either:

  1. Describe specific actions that will significantly reduce emissions from a particular mode of transportation, or in a particular place, OR
  2. Provide a coherent and scalable way to integrate multiple actions that individually reduce emissions.

 All responses should include the following:

Technology And Policy Solutions

Actions to address CO2 emissions involve a mix of social and physical activities. For instance, proposals for the transportation sector could consider the following actions:

  1. Increasing drivetrain efficiency or reducing losses, such as driving resistance (air drag and rolling resistance).
  2. 2.Switching from gasoline or diesel to alternative, low-carbon fuels.
  3. Encouraging consumers to buy smaller or more lightweight vehicles.
  4. Encouraging manufacturers to diversify their product lines.
  5. Reducing travel by encouraging behavioral changes, such as carpooling or mode-shifts.

In this short list of examples, number 1 involves technology improvements for vehicles, or “physical actions”: the United States Environmental Protection Agency's CAFE regulations can help speed their development and introduction. 

Number 3 is mostly a “social” approach, involving government policy aimed at inducing individuals to change their habits, but can be aided by physical infrastructure such as HOV lanes, mobile phone apps (carpooling) or public transit terminals (for mode-shifts).

Number 4 asks the private sector to work collaboratively with government to create a paradigm shift in industry and federal incentives.

Other technological actions include the development and deployment of entirely new transport technologies that will release either fewer emissions per passenger-kilometers or freight tonne-kilometre, or drastically reduce emissions from existing transport modes. Other approaches — including telecommuting — might involve avoiding transport activity altogether or provide users with more information to make informed choices on their mobility.

Policy actions including land-use, transport planning or economic incentives have consequences for transport activity and thus emissions. The distances people must travel to access work and other services are determined by the locations of their residences, businesses, schools, and other services. These travel options are also affected by geography and the location of where roads and public transit facilities are built (or not built). The two are both intimately related to issues of land use and transportation planning and thus have direct impacts on overall CO2 emissions, particularly in urban areas. Proposals that aim to increase mobility in concert with creating greater access are strongly encouraged.


Resources for Proposal Authors

British Columbia Sustainable Energy Association:

International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), 2012. Global Transportation Energy and Climate Roadmap: 

International Energy Agency, 2013. World Energy Outlook: 

US Sustainability Directors Network:

Mineta Transportation Institute, February 2012. "Integration of Bicycling and Walking Facilities into the Infrastructure of Urban Communities.

Mineta Transportation Institute, March 2010. "Carsharing and Public Parking Policies: Assessing Benefits, Costs, and Best Practices in North America."

Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, University of California - Berkeley, August 2009. "Electric Vehicles in the United States: A New Model with Forecasts to 2030.

Union of Concerned Scientists, April 2012. "State of Charge: Electric Vehicles’ Global Warming Emissions and Fuel-Cost Savings across the United States

Norton, Emily and Jenny Rushlow, March 2013. "Deploying Eletric Vehicles in MA: A Policy Overview.

Federal Transit Administration, August 2011. "Flooded Bus Barns and Buckled Rails: Public Transportation and Climate Change Adaptation.

Sims Gallagher, Kelly and Erich Muehlegger, Feburary 2008. "Giving Green to Get Green: Incentives and Consumer Adoption of Hybrid Vehicle Technology.

Schrank, David, Bill Eisele, and Tim Comax, December 2012. "Urban Mobility Report" Texas A&M Transportation Institute. 


Contest photo source: ~~ zorro ~~