For almost ten years, Daniel Son has worked to help make the metropolitan Washington region’s transportation system more environmentally efficient and sustainable. As a Transportation Engineer at COG, Son analyzes air quality and vehicle emissions data to help local leaders plan for the region’s transportation future.
As a graduate of Texas A&M University with a Master’s degree in Engineering and a former PhD research assistant at the University of Virginia, Son applies his analytical skills to forecast future trends and help area officials and planners better understand the impact of transportation projects on vehicle emissions and air quality.
“I enjoy being able to use my technical expertise to help the region,” said Son. “On-road mobile emissions are one of the major sources of air pollution, which is why it is important for agencies to track emissions as part of their transportation planning process.”
In the Department of Transportation Planning at COG, Son’s work helps inform regional leaders on the Transportation Planning Board (TPB). Below are some highlights of his recent work:
Son analyzes transportation projects to see if they meet air quality standards
Working with staff in COG’s Department of Environmental Programs, Son collects data and analyzes transportation projects approved by the TPB to see if they meet air quality standards.
The analysis is the first step for the projects to become part of the region’s long-range transportation plan, Visualize 2045. For this year’s plan, Son is studying transportation projects – such as adding toll lanes to I-495 and I-270 in Maryland, expanding Bus Rapid Transit in Montgomery County, widening US 15 in Virginia, increasing Metrorail capacity, and expanding the bike lane network in the District of Columbia – to ensure any future vehicle emissions remain below approved limits.
After the analysis is complete, the TPB will review the results and vote to include the transportation projects in Visualize 2045.
He studied vehicle registration data to understand how different types of vehicles may impact emissions levels
Every few years, Son and his team compile information for registered vehicles from the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to analyze the characteristics of cars, trucks, and buses in the region. From the data, Son looks at trends in vehicle age, composition, and fuel source, which helps planners understand how these vehicles may affect the region’s air quality.
For example, the recent TPB analysis found that there are more newer vehicles and electric vehicles on the region’s roads, which may produce less emissions than older or non-alternative fuel vehicles.
Reflecting on his work, Son says, “Measuring mobile emissions is like performing in a symphony orchestra. It takes inputs from a lot of different sources like the players playing different instruments, and needs to come together for the results to make sense, or to create a harmonious sound.”