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Report/Paper: Implementing the Most Effective Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Strategies to Quickly Reduce Oil Consumption
Published 1 January 2007 by Parsons Brinkerhoff

This report from leading engineering firm Parsons Brinkerhoff aims to help local and regional government agencies prepare for fuel supply disruptions by reviewing lessons learned from previous fuel supply disruptions and recommending the transportation demand management strategies that offer the most potential to quickly reduce fuel and oil consumption. It uses the Seattle, Washington region as a case study, but is applicable to metropolitan regions throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Published 1 January 2007 by Parsons Brinkerhoff,
Kathy Leotta

[ View or download the full report. ]

[ See also the paper that preceded this report, Fuel Price, Availability, and Mobility. ]

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

In its report, Saving Oil in a Hurry, the International Energy Agency (IEA) makes the case for why pre-planning for an oil supply disruption is important:

“…pre-planning is essential in order for transport demand restraint measures to succeed during an emergency. It is not enough for countries to have a list of measures to use; they must be ready to implement those measures on very short notice. To do this, they generally must develop detailed plans and make certain investments ahead of time. Communicating this plan to the public also appears very important; if the public is not well informed of plans ahead of time, and supportive of them, they may be less likely to cooperate and do their part to help the plans succeed during an emergency. Strong support and cooperation from the business community is also essential. In general, providing clear information to the public – that the public can trust – seems to be an important element of any plan.”

The research presented in this report strives to help local and regional government agencies prepare for fuel supply disruptions by:

1. Describing our fuel supply vulnerabilities,

2. Reviewing lessons learned from previous fuel supply disruptions,

3. Identifying the transportation demand management strategies that offer the most potential to quickly reduce fuel and oil consumption,

4. Suggesting implementation timeframes and potential barriers to implementation for these strategies, and

5. Recommending pre-planning actions to better prepare for an oil supply disruption.

As a case study, this report describes strategies that could be implemented in the central Puget Sound region, and also briefly describes how implementation of some of these measures could differ in other regions.

This research does not focus on important long-term strategies that can reduce fuel consumption, such as changes to land use, taxation, vehicle mix, or the transportation infrastructure. Its goal instead is to examine strategies that are relatively low-cost and that can be implemented fairly quickly to improve the fuel-efficiency of the transportation system, and thereby improve its sustainability in times of crisis.

Potential Oil Challenges

Domestic oil production in the United States peaked in about 1970. Since then the U.S. has become increasingly reliant on imported petroleum products. As our dependence on imported oil deepens and supplies dwindle — as many experts agree is inevitable — the U.S. and other areas of the world may begin to aggressively implement transportation demand management (TDM) strategies to conserve energy.a These are strategies that promote the optimal use of the existing infrastructure and transit services, as well as policies and programs to reduce or shift the demand for transportation. Programs typically focus on carpooling, transit, alternative work arrangements, etc. These strategies may be particularly helpful should any of a number of possible oil supply disruptions occur, including:

1. Geopolitical disruptions.

2. Inadequate petroleum refining or processing capabilities.

3. Global peak in the production of oil (a long-term disruption in supply).

4. Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, in areas where petroleum is extracted, processed or shipped.

5. Coordinated terrorist attacks on critical energy infrastructure in the U.S. or abroad.

Although the U.S. and other countries have strategic stockpiles of crude oil, these are not always useful in a supply disruption. This report describes several current and future limitations of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) for responding to oil or fuel supply disruptions.

In addition, there is now consensus within the scientific community that the transportation sector is contributing to global climate change through the burning of gasoline and diesel, and the subsequent release of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the air. Although this report does not attempt to predict the potential severity of or timeframe for climate change impacts, at some point governments may choose to take more drastic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The TDM strategies described in this report could be used to help reduce emissions, although they would likely be much more effective when accompanied by price signals, such as fuel tax increases, carbon emissions taxes, parking charges, or some form of fuel rationing.

Lessons Learned from Previous Fuel Supply Disruptions

Reviewing impacts of previous fuel supply disruptions can shed some light on how travel behavior might be affected by future fuel supply disruptions. Lessons learned are presented from three fuel supply disruptions:

1. Oil shortages in the U.S. from 1973 to 1981,

2. A fuel blockade in the United Kingdom in 2000, and

3. Fuel shortages in North Carolina immediately following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

a TDM is usually referred to as mobility management in Europe and parts of Asia.

Oil Shortages from 1973-1981

In 1973, several Arab nations instituted an oil embargo against the U.S. and Holland in response to U.S. support of Israel in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. By the time the embargo ended six months later, world crude oil prices had tripled, and fuel consumption in the U.S. had declined by about two percent. Additional geopolitical events in 1978 and 1980 resulted in a decrease in global oil production of nearly five percent between 1979 and 1980, and an additional six percent decrease between 1980 and 1981. Several surveys were conducted after these oil crises to assess how and why people changed their travel behavior. The lessons learned from these crises include:

• Changes in non-work trips may occur far more frequently than changes in work trips.

• Fuel availability has affected travel behavior much more than price.

• Transit systems have only limited capabilities for quickly increasing service to respond to fuel price increases or shortages.

• Although planners in the 1970s and 1980s concluded that fuel shortage planning and response should occur at the lowest levels of government, currently fuel shortage planning occurs primarily at the state level.

U.K. Fuel Blockade in 2000

More recently, the United Kingdom experienced a fuel shortage following a blockade of oil refineries. The U.K. fuel blockade began on September 5, 2000, when an increase in the price of crude oil prompted major oil companies to announce an increase in the price of fuel. Within a week, protesters had blocked six of the U.K.’s eight refineries and over half of Britain’s filling stations were shut. By the time the protest began to end, on September 14, 2000, it was estimated that 90 percent of filling stations were empty of fuel.1

Due to the reliance on just-in-time delivery of fuel, food, and other supplies, the country engaged in “panic buying” of food and fuel, and the impacts were widespread. Following were some of the lessons learned from the U.K. fuel crisis:

• Panic buying of fuel as well as food may be expected during future fuel shortages, especially if the fuel shortages are extreme.

• Rationing schemes (for food and fuel) may be necessary in extreme shortages.

• Working at home does not appear to be an option for a large portion of the population.

• A post-shortage survey indicated that public transport, walking or cycling offered viable alternatives to commuting by car for a significant number of people.

• Ride sharing was not a popular option in the U.K., however analysis indicated that households that owned more vehicles tended to increase ride sharing.

• Conventional bus travel was not a popular alternative for shopping, because of difficulty of use, the inflexibility of the route, lack of reliability, and the cost. Households with more children did not choose to shop by public transport, but the number of children did not appear to affect shopping on foot.

• Few indicated they would do their shopping less frequently, and few indicated they would use the internet for shopping.

• Women expected more disruption to their activities than men.

• Discretionary trips were the first to be reorganized during disruptions, with discretionary trips for children’s activities being the first to suffer.

North Carolina’s Fuel Shortages due to Hurricane Katrina in 2005

Hurricane Katrina made landfall at New Orleans on Monday, August 29, 2005. The hurricane destroyed much of the U.S. gulf coast and also affected the rest of the nation by damaging energy infrastructure. The entire southeastern U.S., for example, was affected when the Colonial and Plantation pipelines were temporarily shut down. These two pipelines delivered about 90 percent of North Carolina’s fuel, so the closure of the two pipelines represented a huge supply disruption. Lessons learned from this fuel supply disruption include:

• Government agencies should confirm that they have identified all fuel supply vulnerabilities and planned for them accordingly .

• Government agencies at all levels should reassess how they can quickly secure fuel in emergencies.

• In some areas of the U.S. transit agencies may need to remind decision makers of the importance of maintaining transit service during fuel shortages.

• Energy contingency planning primarily occurs at the state level, and some local agencies expressed that they felt they were “on their own” in dealing with fuel supply disruptions. Ideally, energy contingency planning would occur at all levels of government, and be coordinated between these different levels of government.

• Since the 1970s, land use patterns have generally continued to develop in ways that are energy inefficient.

• In an emergency, reliance on just-in-time delivery of fuel and other goods is problematic.

• Government agencies at all levels should better understand their daily fuel requirements, and buy some fuel under firm contracts that obligate the fuel supplier to provide that fuel under most circumstances.

• Over the long-term, regions should strive to become more self sufficient regarding fuel supplies (e.g., reduce dependence on a single pipeline or supplier).

Summary of Conclusions from Previous Oil Supply Disruptions

Following are conclusions drawn from a revisiting of lessons learned from previous fuel shortages.

Mode Changing:

• Changes in non-work trips may occur far more frequently than changes in work trips.

• Transit systems have only limited capabilities for quickly increasing service to respond to fuel price increases or shortages due to a small supply of extra vehicles and drivers.

• In some areas of the U.S. transit agencies may need to remind decision makers of the importance of maintaining transit service during fuel shortages.

• Ridesharing has typically not been widely used as a means of reducing fuel consumption.

• Where transportation options are available, people indicate that they will use them. A post-shortage survey in the U.K. indicated that public transport, walking and cycling offered viable alternatives to commuting by car for a significant number of people. However, conventional bus travel was not a popular alternative for shopping.

• Unlike the 1970s and 80s, today there are many opportunities for telecommuting and on-line commerce. However, the degree to which telecommuting and on-line commerce might help mitigate fuel shortages is unclear. In the U.K. working at home did not appear to be an option for a large portion of the population, and few indicated that they used the internet for shopping. However, since 2000 the use of the internet for shopping has become more commonplace (although in a fuel emergency delivery companies would likely suffer from fuel shortages as well). Similarly, in the last several years the communications tools helpful for telecommuting (high-speed internet access, web conferencing, etc.) are much more widely available.

Fuel Supplies:

• Fuel availability has historically affected travel behavior much more than price.

• Panic buying of fuel as well as food may be expected during future fuel shortages, especially if the fuel shortages are extreme.

• In an emergency, reliance on just-in-time fuel delivery is problematic.

• Government agencies at all levels should reassess how they can quickly secure fuel in emergencies.

• Government agencies at all levels should better understand their daily fuel requirements and typical fuel supply (especially for police, fire, transit, and other essential services), and buy some fuel under firm contracts.

• Over the long-term, regions should strive to become more self sufficient regarding fuel supplies (e.g., reduce dependence on a single pipeline).

Energy Emergency Planning:

• Although planners in the 1970s and 1980s concluded that fuel shortage planning and response should occur at the lowest levels of government, currently nearly all fuel shortage planning occurs at the state level.

• Perhaps because fuel contingency planning primarily occurs at the state level, some local agencies expressed a sense that they were "on their own" in dealing with fuel supply disruptions. Ideally, energy contingency planning would occur at all levels of government, and be coordinated between these different levels of government.

• Rationing schemes (for food and fuel) may be necessary in extreme shortages.

• Since the 1970s, land use patterns in the U.S. have generally continued to develop in ways that are energy inefficient.

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