Supporting an Adaptive Management Approach to Reducing Transportation Emissions

San Francisco, California

Featured image for the project, Supporting an Adaptive Management Approach to Reducing Transportation Emissions

Photo Courtesy of San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority


The City of San Francisco, CA and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which manages the city’s transportation multimodal sector, are pioneers in climate action and transportation sustainability. Since 1990, citywide greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced 23 percent however there are significant challenges ahead if the City is to meet ambitious midcentury climate goals. The San Francisco transportation sector, which generates approximately 44 percent of all citywide greenhouse gas emissions, has only been reduced 7 per cent since 1990. Therefore, in order to meet ambitious midcentury climate goals the transportation sector need to be transformed.


The transformation of San Francisco’s transportation sector to meet greenhouse gas emissions and sustainability goals is guided by a Transportation Sector Climate Action Strategy which is updated every two years as mandated by Proposition A,  passed by voters in 2007. This Strategy provides a visionary and realistic framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions through seven program areas which contain a number of specific strategies and targeted actions:


  • Prioritize Transit
  • Integrated Land Use and Transportation
  • Pricing and Congestion Management
  • Travel Choices and Information
  • Complete Streets
  • Shared, Electric, Connected and Automated
  • Electric Vehicles and Infrastructure


Over the past few years, the transportation sector in San Francisco has been evolving rapidly, with new travel options and fuel sources being integrated into the transportation system. However, it is not clear if the changes will complement or frustrate the city’s broader climate goals.  Therefore, a data driven platform and adaptive management approach, grounded in real time data that accurately reflects the local multimodal transportation system and the associated greenhouse gas emissions, is desired. This platform and approach will support more effective sector specific climate action plans, policies and projects.


Over the coming years the SFMTA and its partners are seeking to work on the following phases of this project. This TEX project is specifically focused on Phase 1 of this multiphase project.


Phase 1: Consumer behavior is changing within San Francisco and it has the potential to impact a number of policy goals such as the city’s ambitious climate policy framework.

This change is largely being driven by changes in the mobility and technology sectors. Examples of this change involve mobility and delivery service providers such as Amazon, Instacart, UberEATS, and FedEx that offer a range of delivery service throughout San Francisco. This work should focus on describing the environmental / climate impacts of service delivery vehicles / mobility service providers within San Francisco. The emphasis should focus on how the changes in consumer behavior are impacting trip typologies, vehicles miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions.  For example, are these services reducing overall trips, vmt and emissions? The output of the research should be a 3-5 white paper that also describes the ideal data environment that would allow for improved monitoring of this rapidly evolving component of SF’s transportation system. References to existing research / published material should also be developed.

Phase 2: Develop a robust data (qualitative and quantitative) platform that will guide the City in creating and maintaining the suite of indicators to support implementation of the Transportation Sector Climate Action Strategy

Phase 3: Create a clear and transparent data visualization and data dissemination tool that can be easily updated and maintained over time.

Project Team

Community Lead

Tim Doherty is Senior Planner for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). He joined in the fall of 2015 and is helping to lead the Sustainability Program and he is updating the Climate Action Strategy which provides a policy framework to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also increasing the resilience of the transportation system to future environmental change. Tim graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a BS in Biological Science. After graduation, Tim served for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras. Upon returning, he joined the National Park Service as a biologist in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. He received his MS from UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources and spent six years as a planner with the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission and three years with the NOAA Office for Coastal Management.

Scientific Lead

Tom Felter is the recently retired manager for the Energy Innovation Department at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, CA.  Ongoing work in his department includes study of the feasibility of zero emission vessels on the Bay and elsewhere, design and build of the mobile testing apparatus currently in use by the State of California for qualifying hydrogen fueling stations, valuable intellectual property in wind, solar and energy storage, and significant effort with industry to commercialize our efficient thermal management inventions this year.