Keep the clunker? Smart routes curb emissions

Looking for an easy way to burn less gas and cut down on carbon emissions while driving – without shelling out for a more energy efficient vehicle? 

Take surface streets instead of freeways. New research from the New York’s University at Buffalo shows that “green routing” like that can cut down on emissions without greatly slowing travel time.

University researchers conducted computer simulations of traffic in upstate New York and found that rerouting travelers helped reduce overall carbon dioxide emissions by 27 percent for area drivers while only lengthening trips by about 11 percent. 

And not even all travelers are required to change their paths to see a change. Rerouting just one-fifth of drivers means a 20 percent emissions reduction.

In their study, the Buffalo researchers used sophisticated modeling systems for traffic and emissions and ran simulations to arrive at a “green-user equilibrium,” in which all the drivers on the road were traveling along optimal routes. 

The researchers believe that it won’t be long before GPS navigation systems and online maps could provide drivers the option to choose an environmentally friendly route instead of the shortest route.

The Buffalo study is one of seven the U.S. Department of Transportation has funded that aims to leverage intelligent transportation systems to reduce the environmental impact of transportation. And it just goes to show that there are other ways to reduce emissions without requiring everyone to make the switch to electric cars.

“We’re not talking about replacing all vehicles with hybrid cars or transforming to a hydrogen-fuel economy – that would take time to implement,” Adel Sadek, an associate professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering said in a statement. 

“But this idea, green routing, we could implement it now.”

* Kristy Hessman, EarthTechling