Modelling energy and carbon dioxide emissions from transport

I attended the annual GIS Research UK conference (GISRUK) last week and have some very interesting work to report back to transport geographers.

Transport Geography and GIS have much in common, yet there is relatively little in terms of joint research spanning both fields. There have been efforts to overcome that, with many researchers proudly donning both GIS and Transport hats. There has, for example been a recent Special Issue on Geographic Information Systems for Transportation in the Journal of Transport Geography, as well as papers illustrating the benefits of linking transport models to GIS systems (e.g. Lektauers et al 2012). Despite this progress, there is much to do in terms of collaboration between the fields.

This article reports three papers at the intersection between Transport Studies and GIS, two of which were presented at the conference.

Modelling home to school travel in England

This entertaining talk by Nick Bearman shows the great at the University of Liverpool in modelling the CO2 costs of travelling to school at the national level. This involves simulating every single trip of this nature made using a combination of free software tools: R, PostGIS and QGIS for the maps. To find out more take a look at the slideshow below or read the paper that’s available on Nick’s website.

Transport-related CO2 emissions in Beijing

Ma Jing from the University of Leeds presented her PhD work on modelling the CO2 emissions from transport in Beijing, China. Using a spatial microsimulation model, she was able to simulate how emissions vary over space and at the individual level. Ma is currently writing a chapter on scenario analysis which involves transport policies, urban planning and technology analysis, and simulate the transport CO2 emission from people’s daily urban travel into 2030 in Beijing, China.

The energy costs of travel to work

The final presentation on a similar topic is the talk I did at the end of my PhD. It summarises in 20 slides my entire thesis – quite a challenge


Each of these presentations demonstrate the benefits of using GIS tools to explore important questions in transport studies. Interestingly, in every case these questions relate to the energy and environmental consequences of transport. This is an important area, both from a historical perspective on Transport Geography and for the future of humankind on the planet


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