Scholars of the Environment Chair present preliminary research data

Studies tackle urban mobility and the use of natural gas vehicles

The number of vehicles in São Paulo is constantly growing. At the beginning of this year, estimates pointed to a figure of 6 million cars registered in the city. In the state of São Paulo, the assessment is 0.7 cars per person, according to Ricardo Campante Vale, who holds a master’s degree from USP Ribeirão Preto. This information was given during the seminar for Discussion of Research Projects in Economics and Environment, sponsored by the Economics and Environment Chair of the Escolhas Institute in partnership with Insper, held earlier this month, in São Paulo. The data is part of the study The Cost of Urban Immobility in São Paulo, developed with a grant from the Chair’s Scholarship Program.

“Consider that a car carries five people, and soon we will have one car per person, occupying space that should be saved,” he says. Vale explains that congestion generates costs in several areas, such as the environment, through pollution generated, and the social cost caused by idleness that prevents people working and performing activities that generate well-being. “We have organized our society in such a way where everyone goes to school or work at the same time, causing an increase in the demand for transportation. When this occurs, a cost shock is generated because there is congestion and, with that, the time taken to commute is greater. This study endeavors to calculate the loss of welfare to commuters in this process,” he explains.

The research scholar emphasizes that, except for short trips made on foot, more than 50% of trips are made by bus or car; that is, trips that will cause congestion. “When individuals leave their house in a car to commute to work, they can only see their own costs; how much they will pay for the trip and how long they will be in traffic. But they have little or no idea of the cost they are imposing on others. If everyone goes out at the same time, the costs increase for everyone,” he says.

“When we think of living far from the city center, the question to ask is just what is the loss of well-being according to where people are living. One of the conclusions is that those who live in the periphery usually travel more and, therefore, have a greater loss,” he says. This observation agrees with the study Quanto Custa Morar Longe?, in the process of being finalized by the Escolhas Institute.

For the next steps, Vale says he will use the features of Google Maps to estimate the time the commuter will spend in transit, from source and destination coordinates, according to the times when traffic is flowing and the times when there is total gridlock. In addition, he will analyze the cost of immobility in São Paulo from the income of commuters. “Using segmentation, it is possible to know who is losing more: whether it’s the richer or poorer people, whether it’s those who live farther or nearer the city center,” he explains.

Increase in the natural gas fleet

Another study that forms part of the Chair’s Scholarship Program, presented during the seminar, aims to measure the increase in the fleet of cars that use compressed natural gas (CNG) in Rio de Janeiro, and the impact this has on other fuels. Written by Roberto Amaral, an economist at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV), the research relates the issue to the environment because CNG, as a fuel, is a cleaner than gasoline and diesel.

Amaral says that although Brazil has the second largest fleet of CNG vehicles in the world, second only to Argentina, studies on the subject are still very limited. “The increase in the CNG fleet is like a demand shock to the price of gasoline. By converting to the use of this type of fuel, the consumption of gasoline will fall. The estimate is that this occurs because the energy unit of CNG is much cheaper. With the fall in prices, we expect an increase in the CNG fleet,” he says.

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