IEA project saves 150,000 gallons of fuel annually

January 8, 2013 | By | Reply More

 fuel-experiment-map-with-markingsAlmost an entire year has gone by from when this project was just a concept to the completion of installation –but it’s finally happened. The complete environmental impact projections for this project is that it will save 30,000-150,000 gallons of gasoline each year and reduce carbon gas emissions by 600,000-3,000,000 pounds per year.

This started as an idea, and as things developed over a one year period of time many believers came forth and changed it from an idea into a vision, and then into reality. Although I put a lot of time into this, it would have been absolutely impossible to do this without the help and time of a great many others.

The Background:

One of the new turnouts for drop offs, and the sign allowing school drop offs.

Nearly 3,100 students, administrators and teachers drive or are driven to and from my school each day. There are no buses. Sure, there are a few students who walk, ride their bikes and carpool, but other than that each student arrives and leaves in a separate car. This has created a major traffic problem with a nineteen year history both before and after school about 180 days each year. Most of the traffic creeps as it funnels into a single road leading down a rather significant and steep hill before it then terminates in front of my school. The creep for a car can last as long as fifteen minutes. Then a car must grind its way back up the steep hill after dropping off its passenger.

So what are the problems with this? A wasted fifteen minutes of precious time waiting in traffic, wear on the vehicles, a surprisingly large consumption of fuel, an incredibly high amount of carbon gas emissions, and global warming.

The Solution:

Traffic turnout project meeting. Bob Osborne (L), Chris Carter (C), Manoj Mahindrakar (R)

The solution is rather simple. Why not install a traffic turnout at the top of the hill and before the funnel, leaving students with a five minute walk to school helping increase blood flow to the brain and providing some students with the only exercise they will have all day long? But, would this traffic turnout solve the problem, and if so, how can we take this from concept to completed solution?

I knew such a solution would cost money. But from attending many city planning meetings, I already knew about California Assembly bill 2766* which could provide funding for such a project that would reduce carbon gas emissions, and so funding for installation should not be a problem. I also knew that this concept fit in well with the Green City plan for Aliso Viejo, and that this could be viewed as conforming of the ‘Safe Routes to School’ plan for the city.

*California Assembly Bill 2766 (AB2766), signed into law in 1990, permits a vehicle registration surcharge fee to be used towards projects that reduce motor vehicle emissions such as zero emission vehicles, bike lanes, and trip reduction programs. Funds may also be used for related planning, monitoring, enforcement, and technical studies. Funds are available to public agencies

The Steps:
  1. As an intern for the city of Aliso Viejo, I had access to individuals who I could go to in order to pitch such an idea. So I scheduled a meeting to see if there would be interest or an instant ‘no”. It turns out that there was interest.  


  2. I had to design an experiment and perform analysis to see how this might reduce fuel consumption and gas emissions. For this, I was fortunate enough to be able to consult with one of our International Energy Alliance advisors, Robert G. Tryon, PhD, to help come up with the experiment design. I also consulted with my Aliso Niguel High School AP Physics teacher, Robert Jansen. The design involved driving up the hill while video recording my instantaneous MPH and instantaneous fuel consumption. I realized while performing the analysis that it’s really a pseudo instantaneous fuel consumption since the fuel consumption display really updates every two seconds. The video, research and analysis can be viewed by clicking on the links at the bottom of this article. In the analysis I had projected that perhaps ten percent of the school population might opt to use this traffic turnout solution, which would yield a savings of 30,000 gallons of gasoline and a reduction of 600,000 pounds of carbon gas emissions. 
  3. In another meeting with the city I presented my results. At this meeting, the city then expressed concerns and reasons for why the solution could be a problem. But there was still interest and so the city and I each went off to figure out how to address and dissolve the concerns. 
  4. It was time to get the matter brought before the city board members in an official manner so that if this project moved forward, they will have heard of it already. So I pitched the idea at a public board meeting. I was not asking for a decision, but instead brought the problem to their attention and let them know that solutions were being working on. Turns out the board members seemed happy to hear of this potential solution since their own children attend my high school and they experience the traffic problem themselves every day. 
  5. In yet another meeting with the city there was more discussion of concerns and solutions. But some issues still remained, and so again, we went off looking for more solutions. 
  6. From my experience in government positions, I realize that decision makers like to be able to support their decisions with the knowledge that they are doing what the public wants. So I approached my high school principal with the idea of directly petitioning the target population on school premises during the one time of the year when everyone has to visit the school –registration at the beginning of the school year. Our school principal very graciously granted me and my Aliso Niguel High School Energy Club permission to petition on school property during registration hours. My club and I managed to secure about 1,600 signatures in favor of the traffic turnout idea over a period of five days. 
  7. I had another meeting with the city to show the petition results and further discuss solutions for the concerns. 
  8. In a final meeting with all of the decision makers diagrams were brought out and discussion ensued. In attendance were my high school principal, Chris Carter, my high school activities director, Manoj Mahindrakar, the Aliso Viejo City Manager, Mark Pulone, the Aliso Viejo Director of City Planning, Albert Armijo, the city of Aliso Viejo Engineer, Shaun Pelletier, and the Lieutenant from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Bob Osborne. In the end, it was decided that this was an idea that would work and that there should not be only one turnout, but instead four new traffic turnouts at the top of the hill. 
  9. Funding was then secured and bids for installation were solicited. Last week, during our school Winter Break, the turnouts were installed.
  10. The final step will be to launch an informational campaign to ensure people know these turnouts are available. Then we need to put a feedback mechanism in place to see what people think, and we needed to measure the results.
The Conclusion:

1,600 parent and student signatures in favor of traffic turnout.

At first I projected a savings of about 30,000 gallons of fuel per year and a reduction of about 600,000 pounds of carbon gasses. But after receiving 1,600 signatures on the petition for the new traffic turnout, I realized that the true savings could be as high as 150,000 gallons of fuel per year, and a reduction of up to 3,000,000 pounds of carbon gasses.

On a personal level, this project allowed me to use three skills that I had been developing since seventh grade in a way that would help my community: I wanted to use a combination of political and legislative knowledge and experience, mathematical analysis skills, and environmental knowledge to solve real life problems that will help preserve our future.

The Acknowledgements: 

Robert G. Tryon, PhD and Chief Technology Officer of Vextec;
Chris Carter, Aliso Niguel High School Principal;
Brian Brosamer, Aliso Niguel High School Assistant Principal;
Manoj Mahindrakar, Aliso Niguel High School Activities Director;
Robert Jansen, Aliso Niguel High School physics teacher;
Jason Mosier, Aliso Niguel High School physics teacher;
Mark Pulone, Aliso Viejo City Manager;
Albert Armijo, Aliso Viejo Director of City Planning;
Shaun Pelletier, Aliso Viejo City Engineer;
Lieutenant Bob Osborne, Chief of Police Services Orange County Sheriff’s Department of Aliso Viejo;
Caroline Walters, Board Member International Energy Alliance;
Josh Himley, Vice President Aliso Niguel High School Energy Club;
Daria Nahidipour, Treasurer Aliso Niguel High School Energy Club;
Cindy Saliba, Secretary Aliso Niguel High School Energy Club;
Jessica Murphy, Senior editor IEA, and IEA liaison to Aliso Niguel High School Energy Club;


Measure instantaneous speed and fuel consumption driving up Wolverine Way while leaving the school.

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Category: Collaborative Projects, Energy Club Activities, IEA activity

About the Author ()

I am in my second year of a five year combination BS physics/math and MS systems engineering program offered jointly through Haverford College and UPenn. Helping my community is a lot of fun and means a great deal to me. Through the IEA and other efforts, I've come to learn how much power many can have when there is a clear positive vision, motivation and momentum. "There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist." — Mark Twain

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