ARB Research Seminar

This page updated May 20, 2013

Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Regional and Local Passenger Transportation Systems in California

Photo of Mikhail Chester, Ph.D.

Mikhail Chester, Ph.D., School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment and School of Sustainability, Arizona State University

May 09, 2013
Cal EPA Headquarters, 1001 "I" Street, Sacramento, CA



The energy and environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) of passenger transportation systems have shown that infrastructure and supply chains contribute significantly to a trip's footprint. Early transportation LCAs were largely focused on developing methods for quantifying indirect and supply chain effects. As the research has advanced it has become more focused on informing policies and decisions for future systems, and the importance of structuring analyses around prospective outcomes instead of retrospective footprints. This is particularly important for new public transit modes that are being positioned to help meet environmental goals.

Several recent projects will be presented to highlight key findings and the evolving life cycle thinking in this research. First, an LCA of Los Angeles Metro's Orange bus rapid transit and Gold light rail lines will show how new vehicle technology, low carbon energy, and improving transit service will significantly reduce the life cycle impacts of urban travel. Next, an LCA of California High Speed Rail will show how the construction of the new system will have major upfront impacts but if well-planned, could significantly reduce auto and air trips, thereby reducing statewide intercity transportation impacts. Finally, using Phoenix light rail, emerging integrated transportation and land use LCA methods will be introduced that show the life cycle co-benefits of residential building densification near the new line. The presentation will emphasize the importance of comprehensive environmental assessments in transportation policy and the need for broad thinking that includes both technical and behavioral dimensions.

Speaker Biography

Mikhail Chester, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor at the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment and affiliate faculty in the School of Sustainability, Arisona State Univeristy. Dr. Chester's research focuses on the energy and environmental life cycle assessment of transportation and large infrastructure systems. Dr. Chester's research has expanded the assessment boundaries of complex systems to improve our understanding of the environmental impacts of infrastructure policies and decisions. This has included current and future, public and private, on-road, rail, and air systems, across the US. Professor Chester has been involved in the development of life cycle damage cost valuation approaches for human health and environmental impacts including his participation in the National Academies Hidden Costs of Energy study. Dr. Chester's most recent research seeks to advance transportation life cycle assessment by integrating 1) uncertainty in behavior of passenger travel in future vehicle technology and infrastructure, and 2) neighborhood-scale land use energy and environmental effects for urban sustainability.

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