How can we alter our carbon footprint? Estimating GHG emissions based on travel survey information


The city of Montreal has taken recent initiatives to significantly reduce overall greenhouse (GHG) emissions from the transport sector and has made large investments in alternative transportation. In particular, the city has called upon the participation of all businesses and institutions to further these goals. In light of these recent plans, this study identifies with two objectives: first, to develop a methodology for estimating GHG emissions generated by commuters to McGill University’s downtown campus; and secondly, to better understand who, how, and when each commuter to McGill generates travel-related GHG. Mode split, travel distance, age, gender and job category were uncovered by a 2011 travel survey that we conducted across the University, from which daily individual GHG emissions are estimated. Details about these trips not only reveal who the largest polluters are and where they are coming from, but also the seasonality of their emissions. These associations are then used to narrate scenarios which present alternatives to the structure of individuals’ commutes by examining the outcomes of selected shifts in travel behavior on total GHG emissions.

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    71 of the 3,216 respondents were removed for this test, as their age was undisclosed. .


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We would like to thank the McGill Office of Sustainability and McGill Campus and Space Planning for their feedback and guidance at various stages of this project. We would also like to thank Daniel Schwartz, from IT customer services, for his assistance in developing the online survey and managing the distribution of the survey to the McGill community. Thanks to Naveen Eluru, Jacob Mason and Cynthia Jacques, for their help throughout the survey design process. We would also like to thank Guillaume Barreau for modeling the transit trips to McGill in Google maps. Finally, we express our gratitude to the McGill sustainability projects fund for providing funding for this project.

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Correspondence to Marianne Hatzopoulou.

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Mathez, A., Manaugh, K., Chakour, V. et al. How can we alter our carbon footprint? Estimating GHG emissions based on travel survey information. Transportation 40, 131–149 (2013).

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  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Commuting
  • Travel survey
  • Scenario analysis