Illinois finds itself amongst the leaders in greenhouse gas emissions nationally in 2015, emitting over 200 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. Chicago, the biggest city in Illinois, presents a concentration of human activity that creates opportunity for the city to coordinate efforts to reduce greenhouse gases thus improving the quality of life for citizens locally, nationally, and globally. The City has identified five categories in order to achieve GHG reduction targets: buildings, clean and renewable energy sources, transportation, waste and pollution, and adaptation. While there have been efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Chicago over the last decade, proof of successful reduction is minimal when approached through each of these five categories individually rather than collectively.
Through comparable data presented from 2005, 2010, and 2015 (Figure 2) it is evident that there has been an overall reduction in carbon emissions, from ~36.9 million metric tons in 2005 to ~32.6 million metric tons in 2015. This data categorizes these GHG emissions further into five main sectors: residential buildings, commercial and institutional buildings, manufacturing industries and construction, transportation, and waste. While holistically it seems that greenhouse gas emissions are consistently lowering, through the categorization of these different sectors of emission sources the data clearly communicates which sectors are reducing their emissions consistently and which are not. Through isolating the sources of these emissions the data begins to communicate how to create more sustainable practices in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. The entire transportation sector more broadly contributes to 25% of all local emissions. Through the isolation of this sector, (Figure 4) transportation is broken down into on-road transportation, off-road transportation, aviation, railways, and waterborne navigation. While on-road transportation only contributes 16% of all GHG emissions in Chicago, on-road transportation accounts for 63% of GHG emissions specific to the transportation sector. Railway operation locally, Amtrak, CTA, Metra, etc., contribute only roughly 5% of sector emissions, thus proving as a more environmentally efficient and sustainable form of transportation. Through emphasizing development patterns that encourage more efficient and sustainable models of transit, Chicago is in turn combating the problem of greenhouse gas emission.
In order to combat greenhouse gas emissions which contribute largely to global climate change, we must investigate and deploy sustainable development patterns that serve to emphasize the reduction of the use of on-road transportation in Chicago. One development pattern in response to these emissions is transit-oriented development, the new urbanist method of creating dense, mixed-use developments relative to public transportation thus eliminating the need for the residents to own an automobile. TOD can be understood as urban development’s response to a combination of urban forces: congestion, inefficiency, carbon emissions, and sprawl. This development pattern not only eliminates the residents need for a car but also works in creating walkable/cyclable neighborhoods as well as in establishing connectivity and density, thus increasing mobility while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.
Transit-oriented development seeks to bring together compact, walkable communities and quality rail systems in order to create low carbon lifestyles, enabling people to live, work, and play locally without depending on on-road transportation for mobility. The U.S. Institute for Transportation and Development Policy defines TOD as an “answer to the unsustainable, car-dependant, and transit-poor urban sprawl that has characterized the growth of cities around the world in the last century”. This lifestyle reduces energy consumption and driving by 85% and reduces the area’s carbon footprint by 44%, therefore contributing a consistent emphasis on sustainable development through the lense of reducing carbon emissions attributed to transportation.
1. Aecom. “CITY OF CHICAGO GREENHOUSE GAS INVENTORY REPORT 2015” (2017): 1-50
2. Center for Neighborhood Technology. “Transit-Oriented Development in the Chicago Region Efficient and Resilient Communities for the 21st Century” (2013):1- 62
3. Institute for Transportation & Development Policy. “TOD Standard.” ITDP.org https://www.itdp.org/tod-standard/ (accessed 2018)
4. Transit Oriented Development Institute. “Sustainability.” TOD.orghttp://www.tod.org/sustainability.html (accessed 2018)
5. U.S. Energy Information Administration. “Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions by State, 2000-2015” (2018): 1-30