Urban planning students develop green recommendations for UW-Madison fleet – Office of Sustainability – UW-Madison
551 Urban and Regional Planning students didn’t have to travel far last spring to put their knowledge of sustainable transportation to good use.
With guidance from the Office of Sustainability and Transportation Serviceseighteen undergraduate and graduate students in by Professor Carey McAndrews The Climate Action Planning: Sustainable Transportation course produced a report with recommendations for making UW-Madison’s fleet greener.
Using data from transportation services, the class created an inventory of vehicles owned by UW-Madison. Students then estimated the fleet’s baseline greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions using the AFLEET Tool (Alternative Fuel Life-Cycle Environmental and Economic Transportation)created by Argonne National Laboratory.
Staff from across campus provided valuable input. Josh Arnold and Alex Frank from the Office of Sustainability shared their feedback with the class throughout the semester. Transportation Operations Manager Gabe Mendez introduced the fleet philosophy at the start of the course and outlined strategies the division was and was not considering.
The students came up with several recommendations for a greener fleet, including alternative fuels, fleet electrification and shorter trips, all of which were already on the radar, Mendez said.
“The class was really good at giving us numbers to be able to quantify. If we go 10% of the fleet to electric, what does that do? what it does? It helped us assess what might have a bigger impact, as well as the trade-offs,” Mendez said.
The final report is also valuable to the Office of Sustainability. Arnold said it provides a basis for the recommendations of the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, which is expected to be unveiled in fall 2022.
“We know transportation and fleet is only one piece of the puzzle,” Arnold said. “While there is a lot of very high level information in this document, it is also necessary to have very grounded and actionable recommendations.”
Using the campus as a living laboratory for sustainability
The idea that the campus can serve as a “living laboratory” for research and teaching has been part of the university’s sustainability vision for more than a decade. For example, the concept was highlighted in the 2010 Sustainability Initiative Task Force Report final report; this first document was based on student experience and learning, Professor McAndrews pointed out.
“I think the way these courses work is very true to the intent of this guiding vision of sustainability for the campus. It makes me proud to be part of campus, it makes me proud of Wisconsin, to have this approach and then to implement it,” McAndrews said.
For his class, Professor McAndrews said students form teams on their own instead of working independently. Some have specialized in carrying out analyzes or writing summary documents; a student came out and took pictures of campus vehicles.
“They said it was exciting and difficult, but they really felt they had to do something real,” McAndrews said.
Eyad Afifi, a graduate student in urban and regional planning, continued to refine the report over the summer and communicated with campus offices about the final document. He also helped present the report to Transportation Services and the Office of Sustainability.
Afifi noted that the project is “good in that it makes you understand what you are doing, like your little effort in the bigger picture. That’s what [McAndrews] told us in the first lesson that our effort, however small, has a huge impact.
By Hope Karnopp