The City Streets Project


Picture a city street.

It is a busy thoroughfare, home to restaurants, shops, offices and gas stations.  It is paved with asphalt and concrete, and may be landscaped with plants and trees.  Its vehicle traffic is regulated with stoplights and traffic signs.

We need the important services our street provides, but greenhouse gas emissions are an unintended consequence of its use and maintenance.  To achieve the level of greenhouse gas reduction needed to stabilize our climate, we must do much more than encourage energy efficiency and promote renewable energy.  We need to dramatically rethink the way we use space, the way we move from place to place, and the way we build our communities.

Our city streets offer rich opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Different allocations of space in street right-of-ways can encourage walking, bicycling and mass transit instead of car use.  Street trees can reduce air temperatures and shade the sidewalk for pedestrians.  Permeable pavements can increase filtration of rainwater into the ground, reducing loads and energy use in sewage treatment facilities.  There are numerous other examples, ranging from programming streetlights to changing parking patterns.

The City Streets Project examines at the design, function and regulation of a major city street with an eye toward reducing related greenhouse gas emissions.  Working with experts in urban design, water use, traffic management, parking policy, human behavior and energy efficiency, we will select a typical street and identify wasteful design and use.  We establish a vision for the design and use of that street would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Then we identify barriers to making that vision a reality in the form of rules, statutes, practices, funding decisions and governance.  Finally, we work to eliminate those barriers through education and policy development.

This research is part of an initial collaboration between CLEE and the Center for Resource Efficient Communities at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design. Published reports: 

For more information on this project, please contact Steve Weissman at or 510-642-0508.