Addressing Freight Emissions in San Jose: Seven Objectives to Reduce GHGs

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MTI researchers present key strategies and objectives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from freight
October 5, 2022
San José, CA

Emissions from freight represent approximately 30% of transportation greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually in the United States. However, many local climate action plans (CAPs) and freight plans developed by local and regional governmental agencies exploring more sustainable freight systems, put little emphasis on freight emission reduction strategies. New Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) research, Routes to Lower Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Freight Transportation in the City of San José, examines and presents strategies for the City of San José, California to reduce GHG emissions from freight.

The authors conducted a geospatial analysis of freight data within the City of San José and an analysis of relevant literature and successful freight reduction strategies implemented globally. Findings enabled the authors to identify seven key objectives to reduce GHG emissions from freight:

  1. Manage freight demand and address consumer expectations (e.g., encouraging off-peak deliveries and better curb management);
  2. Use low emissions modes and multimodal solutions for freight (e.g., low-emission freight vehicles or cargo bicycles for first- and last-mile solutions);
  3. Optimize freight assets and environmental resources (e.g., explore sharing hubs and warehouses, encourage truck size adjustments based on load and space);
  4. Focus on the last mile (e.g., allowing low-emission freight vehicles in bus lanes, use of cargo bikes);
  5. Deploy alternative sources of fuel and energy efficiency measures (e.g., incentivizing green freight, developing alternative fuel readiness plan);
  6. Engage the stakeholders (e.g., businesses, freight operators, environmental agencies) and explore collaborative opportunities (e.g., establish freight outreach groups, encourage partnerships and collaborations with government agencies and universities); and
  7. Develop a data sharing platform, which should include data-sharing protocols and standards.

“Greenhouse gas emissions, like those from freight transportation, contribute to air pollutants that are detrimental to human and environmental health,” explain the study’s authors. “Focusing on emission reduction benefits our industry and our communities.”

While this study focused on GHG emissions from freight in a single city, the lessons gleaned from this case can be applied broadly to other cities and regions. Communities seeking to meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions must focus on emissions from freight as a major contributor. Although strategies to advance alternative vehicle fuel and energy-efficient technologies are often pursued by higher levels of government, municipalities can play an important role in the deployment of alternative fuel freight vehicles and energy efficient measures by incentivizing green freight, developing an alternative fuel readiness plan, engaging in partnerships, and adopting other GHG-reduction strategies.

MTI is hosting a Research Snaps webinar on this topic on December 6, 2022.


At the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University (SJSU) our mission is to increase mobility for all by improving the safety, efficiency, accessibility, and convenience of our nations’ transportation system. Through research, education, workforce development and technology transfer, we help create a connected world. Founded in 1991, MTI is funded through the US Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants, including those made available by the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 (SB1). MTI is affiliated with SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.

Dr. Serena Alexander is an MTI Research Associate, an Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning and Director of Urban Online at San José State University. Her research focuses on developing cutting-edge strategies to address climate change and climate justice. Kyle Laveroni, Maxwell Friedman, & Janani Thiagarajan are graduate students in San José State University’s Urban and Regional Planning program.

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