What will it be surface-transport profile-wise, once the pandemic ends? – 2

So, let’s explore this idea some more. Part 1 can be read here.

Speaking of which, in the earlier installment it was duly pointed out that sold in the U.S. each year are approximately 17 million new cars with at least 850,000 of those, or five percent, being of the zero-emissions-vehicle variety. Post-pandemic, will that trend continue? Not just this, but will the same degree of driving be maintained – an aggregate 3.2 trillion-plus miles annually? Will it be less? Will it be more?

Where greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are concerned, the amount outputted into the atmosphere, just from the road-based surface transportation sector alone, is considerable.

In America, it is estimated that on the road operating at any one time are 40 million motor vehicles. Assuming 95 percent of them – give or take, are non-ZEV- (zero-emissions vehicle) types, then 38 million – or thereabouts, are internal-combustion-engine powered.

It has been firmly established that for every gallon of gasoline burned, 19.64 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) is released into the air as a result. Assuming a per-motorist yearly average 10,000 miles driven meaning an average 27.4 miles traveled daily, and assuming also an average vehicle fuel economy rating of 27.4 miles per gallon, then consumed by each car is 1 gallon of gasoline per day, again, on average. It has become a pretty much accepted notion that for the most part cars are parked (non-operating) for 23 of those 24 daily hours which would indicate, that driving those average 27.4 miles is accomplished over an hour’s time. So, for that hour, for 40 million motor vehicles during that time, a total of 40 million gallons of gasoline is consumed which means an aggregate 785.6 million pounds of CO2 emissions released into domestic air. Multiply that by 365 days and so from just these vehicles entering the air is CO2 to the tune of 286.744 billion pounds.

Remember, this does not include any and all other vehicles operating at other times. Total number of registered motor vehicles in America of all kinds: 263 million.

Now thinking about the traffic situation during the stay-at-home/shelter-in-place period and how in some cases it may have been reduced by as much as half, that being the case, then the amount of CO2 emissions that would have been emitted via 40 million cars and light-duty trucks and what-not per-24-hour period normally, that, too, would be halved. But, that isn’t even what’s key here: Essential here is the understanding that the effect this had on air quality and corresponding views and visibilities, was substantial, not to mention a heavy burden on human and animal health related to this reduction was lifted – that’s what’s key.

Now think about the relief gotten from the full cocktail of health-damaging pollutant emissions the transportation sector contributes in substantial amounts not being what it typically is, pollutants like oxides of nitrogen (NOx), ozone (O3), fine and ultra-fine particulates and volatile organic compounds (VOC), to name but five.

That said, the clearly observable cleaner-air trend that in this instance directly resulted from the fewer numbers of operating motor vehicles on the road during the quarantine period, just from this alone, well, imagine if that trend continued.

As it has to do with NOx, so important to note is that for the highly detrimental-to-health NOx (precursor emissions common to both ozone and fine particulates) air-toxics, among all sectors by far the largest contribution comes from transportation.

Looking to Santa Cruz for clues

Emphasized also in Part 1 was that post-pandemic, there is the opportunity, potential for “a whole new mobility era, paradigm” to develop.

Expanding on that idea further, Santa Cruz, California, located on the Golden State coast north of Monterey, for a town relatively small in size it is in no way transportation-starved or transportation-deprived – or is it?

Well, it just so happens that various transportation options are under consideration for a specific area corridor, one that connects Santa Cruz with Watsonville.

Many options, both rubber-tired and fixed-guideway-based, are currently being evaluated. These include bus-based, rail-based and other. Propulsion selections include: CNG (compressed natural gas), diesel, electric and hybrid. There is much more about all options being considered here.

Area-serving main thoroughfares include: 1) the north-and-south-running California State Route (SR) 1; 2) the northeast-southwest-running SR 17; 3) that of the largely north-south-running SR 9; 4) the east-west aligned SR 129; and 5) the both east-west and northeast-southwest coursing SR 152. SR 1, alternatively known as the Pacific Coast Highway, connects Santa Cruz and Watsonville along the coast.

Area train service, meanwhile, is provided by the Santa Cruz, Big Trees & Pacific and the Union Pacific, a portion of whose mainline hugs the edges of the side-by-side communities of Watsonville and Pajaro. One other railroad operating in the region is the narrow-gauge Roaring Camp and Big Trees, its headquarters located in the town of Felton. Last but not least, is the right-of-way linking Watsonville and Davenport, that particular piece of real estate now owned by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC). As of June 14, 2018, a new operating agreement has been approved for that line.

That all said and as it relates, to be determined still is what the final transportation selection for the Watsonville-to-Santa Cruz corridor will be. Intended to be a multi-use corridor, the idea of the plan is to provide traffic-congestion relief along the oftentimes traffic-clogged SR 1 in the area, predominantly.

So, what shall it be RTC? Regarding the final selection among the alternatives in question may the smartest choice be the one chosen.

(Disclosure: For those neither having first-hand area knowledge nor an area map at one’s disposal, the below photo is provided to give one a somewhat better feel for what at least part of the land in question looks like, that is, from above, anyway).

Watsonville Municipal Airport with an overcast sky and the Pacific Ocean off in the distance

Image above: DanDawson

This post was last revised on May 10, 2020 @ 8:12 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

1 thought on “What will it be surface-transport profile-wise, once the pandemic ends? – 2”

  1. Whatever options are being considered, no single one will be THE ONLY ANSWER and dominate . The current composition ( mix ) of our existing modes of transport, will change slowly, over time – especially, when pushed from the top by government agencies

    But that ” Vehicle Mix ” – and many other ” Traffic Parameters ” will change rapidly, if a ” Bottom Up ” approach is adopted ; meaning, on their own , vehicle owners switch-over to those modes of transport which have least ” Harm Quotient ” , as far as pollution is concerned

    How this can be achieved, is explained at :

    Transport : an Integrated Logistic Plan ?


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