Johns Hopkins takes on transport & climate research for USDoT

University chosen to lead new transportation centre focused on environmental solutions
Air Quality & Weather Systems / March 10, 2023
By Adam Hill
decarbonisation green technology research alternative fuels © Dhvstockphoto |
Mitigating the environmental effects of transport will be a key focus (© Dhvstockphoto |

Johns Hopkins University has been selected by the US Department of Transportation to lead the Center for Climate-Smart Transportation.

The centre will research ways in which the effects of transport - currently the largest contributor to climate change in the US - can be mitigated, with an emphasis on equity and environmental justice.

Johns Hopkins will use a USDoT grant of $10 million over five years to collaborate with a consortium which includes experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Texas Austin, the University of Utah, Morgan State University (part of the network of historically Black colleges and universities) and Diné College, a public tribal land-grant college serving the Navajo Nation.

“Climate change should be at the centre of transportation decisions at all levels,” says Shima Hamidi, PhD, Bloomberg Assistant Professor of American Health in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering, which spans Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Whiting School of Engineering.

Hamidi, principal investigator and director of the Center for Climate-Smart Transportation, adds: “Without comprehensive mitigation and resiliency strategies implemented at all levels of government, greenhouse gas emissions from transportation—and the associated health and quality-of-life impacts of climate change—will only increase in the next two decades.”

The USDoT’s University Transportation Centers have served as the agency’s research arm since 1988, informing transportation policy and practice at the local, state, and federal level. This year’s grants are funded through the Biden administration’s infrastructure package through 2026.

Alternative fuels such as solar and biofuels will be an initial priority. Electric vehicle technology in its current form is not a path to net-zero emissions, since on average 60% of the electricity used by these vehicles is generated from non-renewable fossil resources, Hamidi notes.

Reducing vehicle miles traveled and promoting transit investment as effective climate solutions will also form part of the new centre's work.

“These goals will be achievable through collaboration with local communities and states across the US to co-create solutions that meet needs and align with common values around climate change,” says Hamidi. “Addressing environmental justice through community-centered research will be the focal point of all programmes and activities at the Center for Climate-Smart Transportation.” 

The centre will draw in resource from across Johns Hopkins, including the Ralph O’Connor Sustainable Energy Institute, which focuses on energy, alternative fuels, and climate change; the Bloomberg American Health Initiative at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, which focuses on five areas, including climate change and environmental challenges; and the Center for Community Health: Addressing Regional Maryland Environmental Determinants of Disease (Charmed), which focuses on capacity building and community-centered research in climate change, and environmental justice.

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