Finding the greenest route possible

green-routing-ub.jpgIt’s time to skip the highway and hit the city streets.

OK, maybe it’s not that simple. But according to research from the University of Buffalo, driving along surface streets rather than along highways could potentially reduce carbon monoxide emissions. The research, led by UB researchers Adel Sadek and Liya Guo, is part of a larger project the duo is undertaking evaluating the likely environmental benefits of green routing in the region.

According to computer simulations of traffic in Buffalo, NY,’s Niagara region, so-called “green routing” could reduce emissions of carbon monoxide by 27% for area drivers, while increasing the length of trips by an average of just 11%.

One of the scenarios involves redirecting cars to surface streets rather than freeways, thereby reducing fuel consumption, the researchers suggest. In fact, the simulations indicate that even if only 20% of drivers were rerouted, regional emissions would decrease 20%.

adelsadek.jpgSadek, an associate professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering, said what’s intriguing about this concept is that it can easily be implemented today.

“We’re not talking about replacing all vehicles with hybrid cars or transforming to a hydrogen-fuel economy - that would take time to implement,” said Sadek. “But this idea, green routing, we could implement it now.”

Sadek and Guo, a PhD candidate, presented their research at the 18th World Congress on Intelligent Transportation Systems back in October. They used two computer models, the Motor Vehicle Emission Simulator (MOVES) and TRANSIMS for the research. MOVES is an Environmental Protection Agency model that estimates emissions.

TRANSIMS takes into consideration a number of factors, including simulating traffic in great detail, taking into account information including the location and pattern of signals; the grade of the road; and the trips people take at different times of day.

Green routing is nothing new. Several years ago, UPS re-engineered its routes to limit left-hand turns. The result was 3 million gals. of diesel fuel saved. Fleets are constantly optimizing their routes for a number of reasons.

Fleet managers will tell you that the biggest factor affecting fuel economy is the driver. It turns out, drivers, as well as the routes they take may play a significant role in emissions as well.

At some point in the future, I’m sure I’ll be able to look at my GPS and see options for shortest route, quickest route, and greenest route. Oh, the decisions I’ll have to make then.

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