Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

Urban land use and transportation planning for climate change mitigation

Dr. Benjamin D. Leibowicz
Assistant Professor
Operations Research & Industrial Engineering
The University of Texas at Austin
Friday, January 31, 2020
2:30-3:30 pm Tickle Building 410


Cities account for 75% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from energy use, and their share is increasing due to rapid urbanization. While compact urban forms with public transit are viewed as important strategies for reducing emissions, environmental benefits must be weighed against the costs of public transit infrastructure, road improvements to alleviate congestion in dense urban space, and more expensive housing resulting from land use restrictions. The literature largely lacks a theoretical framework for assessing these trade-offs. This paper derives analytical insights into urban land use and transportation planning for climate change mitigation by formulating a social planner’s utility maximization problem. The planner chooses the residential densities of urban zones as well as investments in road and public transit infrastructures that link these zones to the city center. Road travel is subject to congestion. Any feasible solution must accommodate a fixed total population and ensure that residents of all zones have the same maximum utility. GHG emissions associated with housing, road travel, and public transit generate damages. Analytical results show that incorporating GHG damages into urban planning always leads to an optimal solution with a more compact urban form, and reduces automobile travel in each zone if a specific condition involving the marginal congestion cost and the marginal effectiveness of road investment is satisfied. Numerical examples demonstrate that near-optimal emissions reductions and utility improvements can be achieved via public transit investment and mode shifting even if the planner inherits and cannot modify a sub-optimal land use and road configuration.



Dr. Benjamin D. Leibowicz is an Assistant Professor in the Graduate Program in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. The program is part of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Dr. Leibowicz holds a courtesy appointment in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, and also supervises student research in the Energy and Earth Resources Graduate Program.

Dr. Leibowicz develops mathematical models and methods to improve decision making on energy and environmental policy and strategy issues. His primary research interests are energy systems, energy and climate policy analysis, integrated assessment modeling, sustainable cities, technological change, and innovation. He approaches these topics from an interdisciplinary perspective and develops modeling frameworks that combine methods from optimization, economics, game theory, stochastic control, and general equilibrium. Dr. Leibowicz’s ongoing research projects are funded by federal agencies, industrial corporations, private foundations, and national laboratories, among others. He currently serves on the Editorial Board of Energy Sources, Part B: Economics, Planning, and Policy, and on the Steering Committee for the City of Austin’s 2020 revision of its Community Climate Plan. He has served for four years as a Cluster Chair or Co-Chair at the INFORMS Annual Meeting. Prior to joining UT Austin, Dr. Leibowicz received both PhD and MS degrees in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University, and earned a BA in Physics with a minor in Economics from Harvard University. While working toward his PhD, he was a research fellow in the Energy and Transitions to New Technologies groups at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.