Tel Aviv University launches new Transportation Research Unit

Unit will take an interdisciplinary approach to research, addressing topics such as public transportation use, transportation policy.

Joining the global effort to devise more sustainable and efficient transportation systems, academics at Tel Aviv University launched a unit that will focus on the sector at a ceremony on Wednesday evening.
The Transportation Research Unit will be housed within the university’s geography and human environment department and will be headed by Moshe Givoni, who previously served as a visiting research associate at the University of Oxford’s Transport Studies Unit.
Research in the unit will focus on transportation and mobility, with an emphasis on understanding the social, economic and environmental impacts of the sector, Givoni explained.
In addition to its academic role, the unit aims to take an active part in the public debate on transportation policy, he added.
The unit will take an interdisciplinary approach to research, addressing topics such as public transportation use, transportation policy, the connection between transportation and economic development, transportation and the environment, high-speed trains and air travel in Europe, according to the university.
Evaluating the future of the transportation sector, Givoni emphasized the need to disconnect the link between economic growth and carbon- generating transportation and instead view this type of transportation for its emissions.
“Today we have a culture of a lot of carbon,” Givoni said.
The way to make the transition to low carbon transportation systems will not necessarily be by turning to electric cars en masse or developing sky-train networks, Givoni argued.
Although electric cars might solve problems of air pollution and noise, they still require huge amounts of infrastructure and potentially limit mobility, he said. Technology must also be used to promote tools like electric bicycles or in improving services in public transportation like digitalizing signage, Givoni explained.
Optimal solutions, he added, will focus on exploitation of time rather than saving time.
Givoni’s adviser in England, Prof.
David Banister – with whom he recently published the book Moving Towards Low Carbon Mobility – presented a study he conducted in London regarding such a transition.
Banister took a look at what mechanisms would be necessary to achieve a 60 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from transportation by 2025 and 80% by 2050.
A first approach would involve “pushing technology quite hard in the transportation sector,” explained Banister, who is the director of the University of Oxford’s Transport Studies Unit. Such a technological push would involve the widespread introduction of electric and hybrid cars, such that each vehicle would produce less than 100 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer.
“Every car in London at that stage would have to be at least as efficient as the Toyota Prius,” Banister said.
A second approach, however, would involve what Banister described as a “smart social policy.”
“This is looking more at lifestyle changes, with acceptance of and necessity for behavioral change,” he said. “This is saying we need to change the way in which we do things, the way in which cities are organized.”
The smart social policy would require less use of the private car, the possibility of car sharing and significant reduction of trip lengths, among other measures.
“What we’re looking at are possible futures,” Banister said. “Reality will be different from both of them.”
Ultimately, Banister and his colleagues concluded that Londoners would have to take advantage of all measures available in order to come near to reaching that 60% emissions reduction target – measures such as lower emissions vehicles, alternative fuels, pricing regimes, increased public transport use, walking and cycling.
“We are able to say that it is possible but it is also very difficult to achieve this level of change,” he said.
Although implementing new technological advances “is hugely important,” and more efficient vehicles are necessary, Banister emphasized that promoting these solutions alone would only bring London halfway to the target.
“We still have to think about the ways we can get people to travel less, with more efficient modes of transport, or use the local facilities,” he said.