An Economic and Life Cycle Analysis of Regional Land Use and Transportation Plans

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An Economic and Life Cycle Analysis of Regional Land Use and Transportation Plans


Travel and emissions models are commonly applied to evaluate the change in passenger and commercial travel and associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from land use and transportation plans. Analyses conducted by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments predict a decline in such travel and emissions from their land use and transportation plan (the “Preferred Blueprint” or PRB scenario) relative to a “Business-As-Usual” scenario (BAU). However, the lifecycle GHG effects due to changes in production and consumption associated with transportation and land use plans are rarely, if ever, conducted. An earlier study conducted by the authors, applied a spatial economic model (Sacramento PECAS) to the PRB plan and found that lower labor, transport, and rental costs increased producer and consumer surplus and production and consumption relative to the BAU. As a result, lifecycle GHG emissions from these upstream economic activities may increase. At the same time, lifecycle GHG emissions associated with the manufacture of construction materials for housing may decline due to a shift in the plan from larger luxury homes to smaller multi-family homes in the plan. To explore the net impact of these opposing GHG impacts, the current study used the economic production and consumption data from the PRB and BAU scenarios as simulated with the Sacramento PECAS model as inputs to estimate the change in lifecycle GHG emissions. The economic input-output lifecycle assessment model is applied to evaluate effects related to changes in economic production and consumption as well as housing construction.

This study also builds on the findings from two previous studies, which suggest potential economic incentives for jurisdictional non-compliance with Sustainable Communities Strategies (SCSs) under Senate Bill 375 (also known as the “anti-sprawl” bill). SB 375 does not require local governments to adopt general plans that are consistent with the land use plans included in SCSs, and thus such incentives could jeopardize implementation of SCSs and achievement of GHG goals. In this study, a set of scenarios is simulated with the Sacramento PECAS model, in which multiple jurisdictions partially pursue the BAU at differing rates. The PRB is treated as a straw or example SCS. The scenarios are evaluated to understand how non-conformity may influence the supply of housing by type, and holding other factors constant, the geographic and income distribution of rents, wages, commute costs, and consumer surplus.



Dr. Caroline Rodier is Associate Director of the Urban Land Use and Transportation Center (ULTRANS) at the University of California, Davis. Her major areas of research include transportation and environmental planning and policy analysis. She has extensive experience applying land use and transportation demand models to evaluate the travel, economic, equity, and air quality effects of a wide range of transportation and land use policies, including intelligent transportation systems technologies, high occupancy vehicle lanes, transit improvements, road pricing, and land use control measures. Most recently, she has applied the Sacramento PECAS model with the SACSIM model to evaluate the equity, consumer surplus, and producer surplus of the Blueprint Plan for the Sacramento region. Dr. Rodier has also provided extensive research support to the California Air Resources Board in their development of the scoping plan for California Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, including an international review of the modeling evidence on the effectiveness of transit, land use, and auto pricing strategies.


Dr. Elliot William Martin is an Assistant Research Engineer at the Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC) within the Institute of Transportation Studies at University of California, Berkeley. He holds a PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering and a dual Masters in Transportation Engineering and City Planning, all from University of California, Berkeley. Previously, he worked as an Assistant Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Computer Science.


Margot Spiller works as a junior specialist at the Urban Land Use and Transportation Center. She received her B.S. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and M.S. in Transportation Engineering and City Planning from University of California, Berkeley. She ultimately plans to work as a transportation engineer and planner. Her research interests include the land use and transportation connection and emissions reductions from the transportation sector. This is her second co-authored report.


Dr. John Abraham has been involved in computer simulations of transportation systems since 1989, when he developed commercial software for pipeline simulations. In 1992, he began to study urban systems, emphasizing models of the interaction between land use and transportation. Dr. Abraham’s 1994 M.Sc. thesis explored the locational choices of multi-worker households in an urban setting by extending the state-of-the-art in behavioral modeling techniques. His 2000 PhD thesis investigated calibration and validation processes for urban models.


Dr. John Douglas Hunt is a professor in Transportation Engineering and Planning in the Civil Engineering Department at the University of Calgary. Dr. Hunt received his B.Sc. at the University of Alberta in 1981 and his PhD at Cambridge in 1988. Dr. Hunt’s research interests include mathematical modeling of transportation-related aspects of human behavior, with primary areas of focus in the interaction between transportation and land use; stated response techniques for obtaining data for estimation of model parameters; and automobile parking behavior and parking policy. His recent and on-going activities include: developing a land use and transport model of Edmonton using the MEPLAN framework; participating in a study to compare land use and transport models of Sacramento based on alternative modeling frameworks; advising two British Rail subsidiaries, Union Railways and European Passenger Services, on the forecasting of the demand for international rail services using the Channel Tunnel; conducting a study using stated response techniques to measure and quantify Calgarians’ attitudes to elements of urban form, including mobility, density, taxes and the environment; developing a model of mode and parking location choice in Calgary using the EMME/2 framework; investigating methods of representing the joint choice of workplace location, home location and travel mode to work using data collected in Calgary. Professor Hunt was the recipient of the departmental teaching excellence award in 2002.

June 2012
Land use planning
Transportation planning
Climate change
Life cycle analysis
Land use model



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