Thursday, March 2, 2017

What are the Health Benefits of Congestion Pricing?

Congestion Pricing, Air Pollution, and Urban Health (11 page pdf, Emilia Simeonova, Janet Currie, Peter Nilsson and Reed Walker, American Economics Association Meeting, Chicago, Jan. 2017)

Also discussed here: Driving Fee Rolls Back Asthma Attacks in Stockholm (Nala Rogers, Inside Science. Feb. 2, 2017)

Today we review research on the impact of the introduction of congestion pricing in Stockholm, in 2006, and the reduction of traffic that followed on the health of children in that city. Pollution levels in that city are lower than EPA’s standards. Results indicate that the pricing system caused a drop in traffic volumes by 25%, reductions in NO2 and particulate (PM10) pollution of 5 and 10% and a reduction in asthma cases by 12% in the first seven months which increased to 45% over the longer term (several years). While the benefits in other cities with fewer diesel vehicles (emitting PM) may not be as great, it is clear that there are benefits even when the air quality in a given city (such as Ottawa) is considered “good” and that there are negative health impacts that begin at lower thresholds than EPA standards project.


Key Quotes:

"We are already looking at an area that has much lower levels [of pollution] than the current [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] standards, and we are reducing those levels by a little bit…Yet we see these vast changes in the health status of children."

“The tax varies between 0 and 2.6 USD per vehicle, depending on the time of the day. There are no charges at night, on weekends and public holidays, or during July. The toll is automatically collected using license plate scanning technology as cars cross the perimeter of the congestion zone.”

"If you're just looking at the short-term effects of lower levels of pollution, you will probably be missing a big piece of the picture."

 “current standards for air pollution may not adequately protect children…there is mounting evidence that health shocks in infancy and childhood have long-lasting impacts on affected children …the mechanisms through which children are affected by traffic-generated pollution may differ from those in adults. Lung development continues post-natally until the adolescent years and is susceptible to negative environmental shocks”

“Children under the age of six are the most likely to experience acute asthma. For example, U.S. children 0 to 4 are 1.9 times more likely to have an asthma attack than children 12 to 17 “

“Our estimates show that permanent reductions in air pollution from automobiles, even in locations which have average pollution levels well below the current EPA standards, can have significant positive effects on children’s respiratory health. “

“Congestion pricing may not work the same way in every part of the world. For example, diesel vehicles are more popular in Sweden than in the U.S.. Diesel produces more nitrogen dioxide and particulates than gasoline, so Sweden may have more to gain from small reductions in driving.”

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Does Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Affect Dementia in Older Women?

Particulate air pollutants, APOE alleles and their contributions to cognitive impairment in older women and to amyloidogenesis in experimental models (8 page pdf, M Cacciottolo, X Wang, I Driscoll, N Woodward, A Saffari, J Reyes, M L Serre, W Vizuete, C Sioutas, T E Morgan, M Gatz, H C Chui, S A Shumaker, S M Resnick, M A Espeland, C E Finch and J C Chen, Translational Psychiatry, Jan. 31, 2017)

Also discussed here: Air pollution may cause 21 percent of dementias worldwide, study suggests (The San Diego Union-Tribune, Feb. 1, 2017)

And here: Early Onset Familial AD (Gabrielle Strobel, ALZFORUM)

Today we review research based on longer term exposure by female mice to PM 2.5 and how this could affect older women exposed to traffic-related air pollution in their risks of having dementia. Results indicate that women in the late 60s and 70s are 92% more likely to develop dementia if they live in areas that exceed EPA’s standards for PM2.5. The increase in the elderly and the greater risk of dementia has resulted in an overall increase in this disease, despite the improvements in levels of PM 2.5 over the last decade or two, as well as in the increase of deaths from Alzheimer’s, the sixth leading cause of death nationwide.


Key Quotes:

“Women aged 65 to 79 are 81 percent more at risk for general cognitive decline and 92 percent more likely to develop dementia if they live where fine particle matter exceeds the U.S. Environmental Agency’s standards”

“Cells in the brain treat these particles as invaders and react with inflammatory responses, which over the course of time, appear to exacerbate and promote Alzheimer’s disease,” “Since particles of this size are found in polluted air, the findings confirm recent evidence linking environmental factors, such as automotive-derived air pollution, to higher levels of dementia among people living near heavy traffic roads,”

“Residing in places with fine PM exceeding EPA standards increased the risks for global cognitive decline and all-cause dementia respectively by 81 and 92%,”

“ the evidence supports the schema that airborne PM accelerates neurodegenerative processes of ADRD through multiple pathways, including proamyloidogenic APP processing and other pathways independent of amyloid deposits.”

“We showed that nPM exposure increased both plaque formation and neurotoxic oligomers in cerebral cortex at 7 months (approximately equivalent to 35 years of human age, approaching peri-menopause). This implies that Aβ-dependent neurodegenerative processes in women with increased long-term PM exposure may precede cognitive declines or diagnosis of dementia, which is consistent with neuroimaging evidence for Aβ deposition even among cognitively intact individuals in their 50–60s.”

“As air pollution levels have been declining over the past 20 years, long-term exposure, especially during mid- or earlier life, may impart a greater risk”

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Estimating Greenhouse Gas Emissions for 100 Cities in the USA

Per capita anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissi...
Per capita anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions by country for the year 2000 including land-use change. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
An integrated approach for estimating greenhouse gas emissions from 100 U.S. metropolitan areas (12 page pdf, Samuel A Markolf, H Scott Matthews, Inês L Azevedo and Chris Hendrickson, Environmental Research Letters, Jan. 25, 2017)

Today we review an approach to estimate the emissions for a large number of cities in the USA which has advantages over the traditional bottom-up approach as well as likely being more accurate because it includes production as well as consumption of carbon emissions and fuels. Emissions from individual cities ranged from 5 metric tons per person in Tucson to 65 meteric tons per person in New Orleans. In gross terms, the average emission for the 100 cities examined was 27 million metric tons per year.

Key Quotes:

“over 80% of the United States’ population lives in metropolitan areas and roughly 75% of the earth’s natural resources are consumed in urban areas”

“bottom-up emission estimates for five sectors within a given city:
  1. use of electricity by the community,
  2. fuel use in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings (e.g.natural gas or fuel oil),
  3. fuel use for on-road passenger and freight motor vehicle travel,
  4. energy use in the treatment and distribution of potable water and waste water, and 5) emissions from the collection and degradation of solid waste generated by the community”
“the use of publically available national datasets to form metropolitan emission estimates significantly reduces the time, funding, and human capital that would otherwise be required for a traditional ‘bottom-up’ inventory”

“We find that total 2014 metropolitan CO2 emissions range from 4.1 million metric tons in Lancaster, Pennsylvania to nearly 170 million metric tons in the Houston, Texas; with an overall average of 27 million metric tons.”

Per capita emissions also show a wide variation: from 5 metric tons per person in the Tucson, Arizona to 65 metric tons per person in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana

“cities might consider conducting inventories about every 5 years and shift a greater portion of their time and energy toward mitigation efforts in the interim.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Air Pollution from Cruise Ships in Port and at Sea

Hoping for a fresh sea breeze aboard a cruise ship? Better hold your nose! (Karin Jäger, DW Environment, Jan. 26, 2017)

Also discussed here: NABU Cruise Rankings 2016 : Cruise ships fall short in environmental protection (MARES, Sep. 1, 2016)

And here: This stinks! - Clean up cruise ships! NABU's campaign for a cleaner cruise industry (10 page pdf, NABU Background Cruise Ships, 2015))

And here: NABU measures air pollution in ports (NABU)

And here: Scrubbers – An economic and ecological assessment (45 page pdf, Eelco den Boer, Maarten 't Hoen, DELFT for Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU), Mar. 13, 2015)

And here: The 0.1% sulphur in fuel requirement as from 1 January 2015 in SECAs (30 page pdf, European Maritime Safety Agency, Dec. 13, 2010)

Today we review examples of pollution from cruise ships both in port and now with previously never measured pollution, at sea. One ship emits as much air pollution over the same distance travelled as 5 million cars. 38% of the NO2 and 19% of particulates in the major German cruise ship port, Hamburg, comes from maritime traffic. Only 80 ships out of 55,000 worldwide have scrubbers installed to reduce the back soot emitted. Most of the 14,000 ships sailing in European SECAs < Sulphur Emission Control Areas> every year switched to low sulphur fuels instead of installing scrubbers. The UN, through the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), has the mandate to regulate the maritime environment internationally through its International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (so-called MARPOL protocol).


Key Quotes:

 "Pamphlets lead you to believe that there are blue skies and white ships - a dream-like setting…The truth is that clouds of black soot are emitted from the funnels."

 “In 2014 worldwide 22 million passengers went on an ocean cruise…There are more than 35 new cruise ships with a total capacity of around 100,000 passengers that will be introduced to the European market until 2020. “

"Eighty percent of the fleet of ships operating in Europe either do not use any exhaust gas cleaning system or, to meet the minimum legal standards in Northern Europe, they simply use a scrubber to reduce the sulphur emissions.”

“One cruise ships emits as many air pollutants as five million cars on the same distance! This is because sea going vessels use heavy fuel oil for their engines, a fuel that on land would have to be disposed of as hazardous waste. Heavy fuel oil can contain up to 3,500 times more sulphur than diesel that is used for land traffic vehicles.”

“most ship emissions occur in immediate vicinity of the coast, from where they are carried far into the hinterland. On a global level, two thirds of all ship emissions are generated within 400 km from the coast”

“The port and its often celebrated cruise ship entries are a massive problem for the city of Hamburg. Thirty-eight percent of the nitrogen oxides and 19 percent of the particulate matter in the Hanseatic city are from maritime traffic,”

“The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) of the United Nations sets the international framework for the regulation of pollutant reductions in sea shipping traffic. Its International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (so-called MARPOL protocol) defines in Annex VI the permissible limit values regarding sulphur and nitrogen oxides, and bans the deliberate emission of substances harmful to the ozone laye”

“- Today round about 80 ships out of 55,000 worldwide have scrubbers installed; according to industry insiders up to 300 additional systems are on order….The overall majority of the 14,000 ships sailing in European SECAs every year switched to low sulphur fuels (MGO) instead of installing scrubbers”

“NABU did air quality testings in different port cities, in particular next to cruise and ferry terminals….While 1,000 particles per cubic centimeter are harmless, NABU’s scientist found up to 400,000 (ppm/cm2) next to the terminals. Air pollution levels like this even surpass concentrations next to main roads with dense traffic between 50 to 80 times.”

Thursday, February 16, 2017

How is the Brain Damaged by Exposure to Traffic Related Air Pollution?

The Polluted Brain - Evidence Builds that Dirty Air Causes Alzheimer’s, Dementia (AAAS Science, Emily UnderwoodJan. 26, 2017) Also discussed here: Particulate Air Pollutants and White Matter Brain Aging (Abstract, Jiu-Chiuan Chen, Xinhui Wang, Mark A. Espeland, Helena Chui, Alzheimer’s and Dementia, Jul. 2014) And here: Traffic-related air pollution and brain development (21 page pdf, Nicholas Woodward, Caleb E. Finch and Todd E. Morgan , AIMS Environmental Science. May 6, 2015)

Today we review a series of research articles that reaffirm the health risks presented to people (and mice) who breathe in air polluted by vehicles and containing ultra-fine particles, in particular. Signs of memory loss and Alzheimer’s are evident in mice exposed to UFP. Levels of fine air particles within 50 m of major roadways are 10 times higher than at 150 m and those within 50 m stand a 12% higher risk of developing dementia. Tests involving prenatal mice showed that fetal damage can be done by fine particles without entering the placenta. The closer people live to major roadways, the smaller their celebral brain volume. What more do city planners and public health officials need to know about running highways and traffic through cities?


Key Quotes:

“Typically smaller than 0.2 µm in diameter, these “ultrafine” particles fall within a broader class of air pollutants commonly referred to as PM2.5 because of their size, 2.5 µm or less. When it comes to toxicity, size matters: The smaller the particles that cells are exposed to.. the higher their levels of oxidative stress, marked by the production of chemically reactive molecules such as peroxides, which can damage DNA and other cellular structures”

“living in places with PM2.5 exposures higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) standard of 12 µg/m3 nearly doubled dementia risk in older women. If the finding holds up in the general population, air pollution could account for roughly 21% of dementia cases worldwide”

 “Neuroimaging and neuropathological studies have found that brain aging processes predominantly affect white matter (WM) in late life. Older people living in areas with high exposures to ambient particulate matter (PM) are more likely to have cognitive declines.”

“among 6.6 million people in the province of Ontario, those living within 50 meters of a major road—where levels of fine pollutants are often 10 times higher than just 150 meters away—were 12% more likely to develop dementia than people living more than 200 meters away. “

 “In mice that breathed the dirty air, they have found, the brain’s microglia release a flood of inflammatory molecules, including tumor necrosis factor a, which is elevated in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease and has been linked to memory loss. The pollution-exposed mice also showed other signs of brain damage,”

 “adverse health effects of air pollution exposure increase with closeness to major road… UFP <ultra-fine particles> was reduced by approximately 80% at a distance of 150 meters from the roadway..Neither PM2.5 nor PM10 decreased substantially within 150 meters …and are decreased by less than 20% at a distance of 400 m vs. 50 m from a roadway. The rate of dilution of UFP was correlated with increased cardiopulmonary mortality, inversely with distance from roadways”

“The placenta may be more vulnerable to nanoparticle entry later in gestation, when the placental wall has thinned and is more vascularized, but also early in gestation before the placenta is fully formed …The period after the placenta is formed, but before maternal-fetal circulatory systems are fully developed, could be less vulnerable to pollution exposure, due to minimal blood flow to the fetus. Nanoparticles may even cause fetal damage without penetrating the placenta, e.g. in vitro, nanoparticles can cause DNA damage even when they do not cross a cell barrier .. We note that these are not exclusionary hypotheses, and both may potentially be occurring. “

 “Traffic related air pollution is correlated with numerous detrimental health outcomes: increased cardiovascular mortality from adulthood exposures, and low birth weight and cognitive disorders from gestational exposure. These epidemiological observations are largely verified in animal models. “

 “the closer people had lived to a major roadway—and thus the more PM2.5 they had likely been exposed to—the smaller their cerebral brain volume. The association held up even after adjusting for factors such as education, smoking, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How Will We Get Around Town in 30 years and What Obstacles Need to be Overcome?

What will the local transport system look like in 2045? The future local transport system (David Levinson, Transportist, Dec.19, 2016)

 Also discussed here: What key factors do you see driving these changes over the next 30 years? (David Levinson, Transportist, Dec.19, 2016)

And here: Future Demand - New Zealand transport and society: Scenarios to 2042 (23 page pdf, New Zealand Government, Nov. 2014)

Today we review an interview on the future local transportation with Marcus Enoch by David Levinson and a report looking ahead to 2042 as part of New Zealand project PT2045. Enoch sees the automation of vehicles, their conversion to electric and the rise of shared mobility, as opposed to owning a vehicle, as the three most important changes. There will be a lot more single passenger, two wheeled e-cars and goods will be delivered by robot cars. Manually driven cars on public roads will be prohibited in 25 years. Urban congestion will end before 2042 with fewer, if any, private vehicles on the road. Carbon emissions will fall dramatically.


Key Quotes:

“the most important change, will be the automation of vehicles – both private and public transport vehicles.” “The second most important change is the conversion of the vehicle fleet to being primarily electric.”

“The third change .. is the rise of shared mobility, mobility-as-a-service, where people won’t be owning cars, but instead will subscribe to a service, or buy the services on demand.”

“there will be a lot of single passenger vehicles. The best example I have is the Toyota iRoad vehicle, which is basically an enclosed motorcycle that’s safe and stabilised and, will, well before 2045, be automated. And it is safe because, not only is the vehicle designed well, with a roll bar and all that, but because all the other vehicles are also automated.”

 “there will be a substitution of logistic services for a lot of shopping trips, and we need to think about that. In urban areas the best model I have seen was a demo of using a small robot for delivering goods from stores to people’s homes”

“the political system is going to have to play catch up with the technological system, and legal system is also going to be playing catch up. ..Uber decided what service they were going to provide, and they did it illegally, and they got away with it” “From an economic perspective, at the point where it’s cheaper to provide an automated vehicle than it is to provide a manually driven vehicle, people will switch over.”

 “25 year timeframe is probably enough for the last manually driven car to be prohibited from driving on streets or public roads most of the time.”

 “Congestion is a thing of the past. Compared to 2014, fewer people can afford to travel across and between towns by private vehicle so many urban and regional roads are relatively free of private travellers. Inter-regional bus services have increased in popularity, connecting market towns to urban centres.”

“Compared to 2014, people are using all motorised forms of transport far less. People prefer exploring the digital world to travelling outside. Obesity and diabetes rates have increased because of a lack of physical exercise. People regularly try to manage their health by walking and cycling for recreation. Climate emissions from transport have fallen dramatically.”

Thursday, February 9, 2017

How Would Vancouver Transition to a Driverless City?

Turning Transportation Challenges and Opportunities Presented to the City of Vancouver by Autonomous Vehicles (93 page pdf, Cail Smith, Greenest City Scholars Report, Aug. 31, 2016)

Also discussed here: Vancouver Prepares For a Driverless Future That Includes Extra Space for Walking, Cycling, and Transit (Mobility, Jan. 17, 2017)

And here: Transportation 2040 Plan: A transportation vision for the City of Vancouver (City of Vancouver)

And here: Transportation 2040 (99 page pdf, Plan as adopted by Vancouver City Council, Oct.31, 2012)

Today we review plans and reports aimed at the future of Vancouver in 2040 which may include a transition to driverless or autonomous vehicles (AV) as well as meeting the target of having 2/3 of all trips made on foot, by bike or transit. With a 90% AV share, freeway congestion would be reduced by 60% from present levels and 30% of city traffic would be reduced by no need to search for parking. Garages could be converted to guest houses and garage lanes to useful parks or gardens. Shifting to AVs would save the average Canadian household $2,700 per year (4% of income) by decreasing insurance, fuel and parking costs, as well as saving the City of Vancouver $15 M/yr on maintaining and monitoring parking spots, while also reducing revenue from parking tickets by $53M/yr (also 4% of net revenue).


Key Quotes:

 “We need to ensure we are proactive in meeting our Transportation 2040 goals, and whether there are policies in the City’s toolkit to help minimize the risks and pressures automated vehicles might put on those goals.”

“Transportation 2040 plan – passed unanimously by Council in October 2012 – is a key policy direction that explicitly prohibits a net increase in motor vehicle capacity on City of Vancouver streets. Once driverless dreams become a reality, this creates an exciting opportunity for building complete streets that include wider sidewalks, protected bike lanes, and bus rapid transit lines.”

“In the next 30 years, the number of Vancouver residents aged 60 and over will more than double. An aging population means changes in travel patterns and more people with physical challenges getting around our city”

 “In the City of Vancouver, vehicles account for over 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. We can make a big difference by prioritizing sustainable transportation choices that use renewable fuels or use fuels more efficiently (transit, ride-sharing, and low-carbon vehicles), or don’t use fuel at all (walking, cycling)”

 Some key targets:

“By 2040, at least two-thirds of all trips will be made on foot, bike, or transit. The total number of trips by sustainable modes will grow significantly, while motor vehicle volumes will slightly decline.”

 “By 2020, the average distance driven per resident is reduced by 20% (from 2007 levels)”

“Although the Telsa Model S and Google Car are both well - known as “driverless” vehicles, they have very different capabilities. The Model S is only at level 3 so when its ADAS systems are engaged, the driver must still be ready to intervene at anytime. On the other hand, the Google Car is closer to level 4 or 5 and the driver is not expected to monitor the vehicle.”

 “Industry experts suggests that by 2040, AVs will be the primary means of transport” “I was able to convert the garage in a laneway house for my mother-in-law. Our whole neighbourhood is doing something similar. Our back lane is a great public space.”

“There also might be significant changes to or the removal of traffic signals, traffic markings and signage designed to communicate with users piloting motor vehicles. Research is already being done on autonomous intersection management (AIM) where an intersection “server” Communicates directly with vehicles rather than through traffic lights”

“If AVs are able to reduce the space between vehicles in a lane,.. that with 90% AV market share, freeway congestion would be reduced to 60% of its current levels. Additionally, if AVs can drive in narrower lanes, road space can be reallocated for walking, cycling and transit paths.”

“The time and VKT spent searching for parking also has a significant impact on congestion in the city; some researchers estimate 30% of city traffic can be attributed to people searching for parking “

“Fewer parking spots will also reduce maintenance and monitoring costs (a $15,153,000 expense for the City in 2015) and also reduce the revenue generated from parking ($53,178,000 revenue in 2015, around 4% of total revenue).

“In Canada, the average private vehicle sits idle for over 23 hours per day and costs over $9,000 annually if driven regularly …Initial research indicates that switching to SAVs could save individual households an average of $2,700 per year (4% of the average household budget) by decreasing insurance, fuel and parking costs “