Lucas Boucher

Scholarship Status: Awarded 1st Place
Scholarship Awarded: Best Transportation Vision Award
University: University of California, Irvine
Date of Graduation: June 2014


Essay:

My Transportation Vision: Sustainability Through Incentives
Transportation is exciting. Creating ways to transport people from home to work, school, or anywhere in between may take decades of planning, hundreds of people, and billions of dollars. However, it only takes one vision to make a major impact on the future. Whether it is building an extension of the Metro Gold Line in Los Angeles County or providing pavement rehabilitation along the I-5, a career in transportation is all about planning for the future. The great thing about the future is that my generation has the power to create it. When I imagine the future, I see large population and infrastructure growth able to sustain a clean environment, stable economy, and happy residents. My vision revolves around these three main components of sustainability: the environment, economy, and society. My vision involves increasing participation in transportation that promotes sustainability through providing incentives to the public and letting them adapt naturally to different forms of transportation. Through strong incentive programs including congestion pricing of highways and corporate sponsorships of transit stations, commuters will have greater reason to adopt a more sustainable way of life.  
California is famous for its sunny beaches, diversity, and extensive freeway network. However, California is infamous for something else: snarling traffic. With such a massive population spread throughout the Los Angeles region, it is no wonder that it could take an hour to drive twenty miles on the 405 on a Friday evening. Traffic not only frustrates drivers, it has a negative effect on the economy and the environment. Congestion pricing is one way to reduce traffic through providing an incentive to drive at less-traveled times throughout the day. By charging a small toll to those who drive during peak hours, people must choose to either pay the toll or avoid the toll by driving during non-peak hours. People who choose to avoid the toll would naturally adapt to new routines, such as adjusting their work schedules or participating in ride sharing. Congestion pricing will have a positive impact on the environment, economy, and the personal lives of the general public. People who change their driving times to non-peak hours benefit through avoiding a toll and encountering less traffic; those who choose to pay the toll will be happy to travel without heavy traffic, and the money collected through the pricing system can be used to fund other transportation projects with a focus on sustainability. Congestion pricing is already in play in Stockholm, Sweden, where traffic has been reduced by twenty percent during peak hours (Jaffe, 2012). Congestion pricing is a first step toward a more sustainable state, but why stop there?
Another step toward my vision for the future takes the focus away from driving completely. Southern California has many transit options that are not fully utilized by its residents, including light rail, heavy rail, and an extensive bus system.  One reason for this is that public transportation may be too expensive; high operating and maintenance costs are responsible for such high ticket prices. However, if there was another way to increase revenue to the transit companies, these companies could charge the public less money to use public transit. One solution is to obtain corporate sponsorships of public transit from big businesses. If commercial businesses sponsor transit facilities like a light rail station by providing funds to go towards its operation and maintenance, transit companies would be able to lower ticket prices. Lower ticket prices would lead to an increase in ridership. Transit companies could provide incentives to promote these sponsorships, including prime ad space, special signage recognizing the sponsors, or even retail opportunities depending on the type of business. Outside companies would be eager to sponsor transit facilities if it means increasing their profit and status as a corporate citizen. Yet another incentive involves the connection to the community and sustainability these sponsors would make. Companies who sponsor local transit facilities will be seen as integral parts of the community who support sustainable efforts that public transportation strives to promote.     
According to the first fundamental cannon of the ASCE Code of Ethics, “Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public and shall strive to comply with the principles of sustainable development” (ASCE, 2013). California is already taking steps toward becoming the leader in sustainable infrastructure. With light rail and heavy rail extension projects throughout California, public transit is ever expanding. The next step is to make people want to use public transit. Incentivizing public transit through congestion pricing and corporate sponsorships are effective ways to increase ridership due to the benefits they offer to society. As a civil engineer, it is my duty to serve the general public in the best means possible. A decrease in traffic and widespread use of transit would lead to a healthier economy, a cleaner environment, and a happier society. Through my vision, I believe California will become the leader in sustainable transportation.
References
American Society of Civil Engineers. (2013). Code of Ethics. Retrieved from
http://www.asce.org/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/

Eliasson, J. (2012, Sept.) How to solve traffic jams. Retrieved from
http://www.ted.com/talks/jonas_eliasson_how_to_solve_traffic_jams.html

Jaffe, E. (2012, Dec. 14). Traffic Jams, Solved. Retrieved from
http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2012/12/traffic-jams-solved/4160/

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