Emissions from our vehicles' tailpipes comprise a complex piece of how transportation impacts the environment. We study both the carbon emissions that have global impacts, as well as ultra-fine particle emissions which create local public health challenges. We investigate gases already regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as those air toxics not yet regulated. As our scientists and engineers collect and analyze real-world data, our social scientists study how citizens can participate in tailpipe emission solutions.
Sociology professor and TRC researcher Dr. Tom Macias is part of a team examining the public's understanding of tailpipe emissions. Dr. Macias believes the more socially networked people are, the more social capital they have and the more likely they are to be active citizens in society.
In a series of focus groups, Dr. Macias found that many citizens don't think about tailpipe emissions or their own behavior in causing them. When asked how they could reduce emissions, most suggested carpooling, walking and biking; however, knowledge did not translate to behavioral change. The research continues in an effort to understand how social capital affects people's motivations and barriers to behavioral change related to tailpipe emissions.