Slowing down on the highway has been one of the most highly advertised ways to save fuel and reduce tailpipe emissions. Even better, the only side effects of doing so are more to time stop in the event of an accident, and maybe one less cup of coffee in the morning. Now, a study conducted in the Netherlands says the reduction in emissions could be as high as 30%.
CO2 Emissions by Speed
It should be noted that this figure is only valid for the Netherlands, although most people agree that it could still help out in nearly every country that has an extensive highway system. What makes the study interesting is exactly how the researchers came to the 30% number.
Only a small percentage of the emissions cutting will come from people slowing down while driving. A much greater portion will be provided by a shift from private to public transportation. Many people would need to add a great deal of travel time to their morning and afternoon commute if the speed limit was reduced. To combat this, the team believes more and more people would rely on the already robust public transportation system for longer commutes.
This, in turn, would free up space on the highways for people who don't have very far to travel to get to their place of employment. Fewer vehicles mean a more efficient flow and a decrease in traffic jams on or near access ramps.
50MPH Speed Limit
Looking at the longer term changes, the researchers believe the layouts of our cities and even the suburbs would change very drastically. People would move closer to their jobs to save as much time and money as possible. Businesses would also begin moving closer to communities in an attempt to bring in local consumers.
While this may be based on the infrastructure of the Netherlands, it definitely points out the need for a firmly established public transportation systems. It would be even more interesting to see what the introduction of plug-in electric vehicles and diesel/gasoline-electric vehicles would do the current estimate as well. Planetizen