Thursday, March 31, 2011

Does Ethanol in Fuel Make Vehicle Emissions Less Harmful?

The Health Impacts of Ethanol Blend Petrol (16 page pdf, Tom Beer, John Carras, David Worth, Nick Coplin, Peter K. Campbell, Bin Jalaludin, Dennys Angove, Merched Azzi, Steve Brown, Ian Campbell, Martin Cope, Owen Farrell, Ian Galbally, Stephen Haiser, Brendan Halliburton, Robert Hynes, David Jacyna, Melita Keywood, Steven Lavrencic, Sarah Lawson, Sunhee Lee, Imants Liepa, James McGregor, Peter Nancarrow, Michael Patterson, Jennifer Powell, Anne Tibbett, Jason Ward, Stephen White, David Williams and Rosemary Wood, Energies, 4(2), 352-367, Feb. 21, 2011)

Today’s review article from Australia compares the health impact, in terms of tail pipe emissions, from unleaded gas to fuel which has 5 and 10% ethanol. While the benefits of ethanol additive outweighs the negative impacts of particulate matter, as modern fleets reduce the amount of PM emissions the gap narrows. Overlooked or beyond the scope of this article is the impact of emissions in terms of greenhouse gas emissions which in turn is associated with greater health impacts from climate change. Some research indicates that ethanol blended fuel is less efficiently used by combustion engines than regular fuel which would indicate perhaps that such blends also have a negative health impact. A more holistic assessment is needed to resolve this question.

Key Quotes:

“Adding such small quantities of ethanol to petrol increases the vapour pressure, thus increasing evaporative emissions. The oxygen in the ethanol alters the combustion characteristics of the fuel leading to a different chemical profile of tailpipe emissions”

“the quantified health impact differential between ULP and ethanol fuelled vehicles drops from 2006 to 2011. This is because modern petrol vehicles, with lower emissions than their older counterparts, will make up a higher proportion of the fleet in the future”

“The effects of ethanol blends on regulated emissions—total hydrocarbons (THC) and carbon monoxide (CO) generally follow the well-established trend for the use of an oxygenated fuel, such as ethanol blended fuels. THC and CO emissions usually decrease with increases in ethanol content, whereas NOx emissions do not show such a clear trend”

“ Over 99% of the PM2.5 health costs are due to reductions in short and long term mortalities. Short term mortalities arise from respiratory illnesses, long term mortality from cancers”

“The overall quantified health benefit of using ethanol blends is overwhelmingly dominated by reductions in particulate matter”
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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Vulnerability of Communities to Climate Change Impacts

Reduction of flood and associated extreme weat...Assessing the Impacts of Local Knowledge and Technology on Climate Change Vulnerability in Remote Communities (29 page pdf, Christopher Bone, Lilian Alessa, Mark Altaweel, Andrew Kliskey and Richard Lammers, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.2011, Mar. 4, 2011)

Also discussed here: Climate Change, Health, and Vulnerability in Canadian Northern Aboriginal Communities (7 page pdf, Christopher Furgal and Jacinthe Seguin, Environ Health Perspect., Jul. 11, 2006)

The article reviewed today looks at the vulnerability of a community to environmental change, as estimated by the gap between local perception of the existing issues and the promise of new technology. Although the communities examined were in the far north and the issue water supply, the approach and the general conclusions seem to apply to (many?) other communities and in the wider context of climate change - health impacts generally – and specifically to the promise of new transportation technology, such as electrically powered vehicles and biofuels, for example, to deliver reduced or zero toxic emissions.

Key Quotes:

“Perceptions play a crucial role in the ability of a community to adapt to climate change as misguided views can impede a group’s response or ability to cope with external stresses, leaving them vulnerable”

“community vulnerability is exacerbated when community perceptions about their environment are adversely affected by the introduction of new technologies that alter the way in which they access traditional resources.. technology-induced environmental distancing (TIED)”

local knowledge[LK] accumulated knowledge base in a community over time regarding local climatic and hydrological systems. Local knowledge has become an important source of information for detecting local impacts from climate change, in addition to providing information for environmental monitoring, sustainable agriculture practices, natural resource use and land conservation”

“applied to two remote communities in western Alaska who are currently experiencing adverse climate change impacts and whose environmental perceptions are influenced by TIED due to the increase reliance on municipal water systems rather than traditional forms of non-municipal water collection”

“demographic changes lead to increases in community vulnerability over time. In the scenario without knowledge transmission, older agents die and their knowledge about the past local climate is lost from community perceptions”

“environmental knowledge can be retained for much longer in a community if its youth are engaged with traditional resource use that provides opportunity to experience changes in the local climate over time”

“The results demonstrate how demographics, the communication of knowledge and the types of ‘knowledge-providers’ influence community perception about changes to their local climate”
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What do the Rising Gas Prices and Car Dependence mean for the Suburban Poor?

Automobile Poverty - Part 1 (Steve Mouzon, The Original Green, Feb. 28, 2011)

Also discussed here: Automobile Poverty - Part 2 (Steve Mouzon, The Original Green, Mar. 1, 2011)

Today we review an interesting post that looks at the economics for low income people who chose to live in the suburbs and as a result depend on cars for transportation with an overhead cost of at least $7,000 a car per year. Add to this the end of cheap oil (a.k.a “Peak Oil”) and the huge increase in demand for cars and gas from the developing world, especially China and India, then you have a recipe for increasing poverty. Several comments on the blog pointed out the usefulness and thrift made possible in car sharing as well as advocating more use of public transit, cycling and walking where feasible – unfortunately these are often not available in suburbs and rural areas.

Key Quotes:

“The average cost of owning and maintaining a car (payments or lease, insurance, taxes, repairs, washing, oil, gas, parking, etc.) varies between $7,000 and $10,000 per year”

“If you live in sprawl, you are not economically viable without a car because you must drive everywhere..a family of four with everyone 16 or above most likely has 4 cars….4 x $7,000 = $28,000 per year for your cars..converting that $28,000 per year to home mortgage payments would buy you a house worth at least $350,000..a family of four which owns a $150,000 house in sprawl ..could afford a $500,000 house in a highly walkable place”

“The real value to living near work, in a walkable city, close to all amenities is the time you save everyday which can be put to use increasing your health, happiness and quality of life”

“If China and India do 2-1/2 times as well in their need for cars as the US, then there will be over a billion cars on the road in a few years.. Even if the supply does remain steady and Peak Oil doesn’t kick in, we’ll have a billion cars competing with our 300 million cars”

“what happens when the price of gas spikes to $20/gallon and you can’t afford to drive to all these places?..Who can afford that least? Those on the brink of poverty, of course…, if you’re poor, you’re less likely to be able to afford better food. Instead, you load up on the cheap calories of processed carbs, which increase obesity
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Monday, March 28, 2011

Does Cycling in Bad Air Outweigh the Benefits of Exercise?

US Navy 061020-N-4856G-018 Special Operations ...

Cycling: Health Benefits and Risks (1 page pdf, Panis LI, Environ Health Perspect, March 1, 2011)

Also discussed here: Do the Health Benefits of Cycling Outweigh the Risks? (8 page pdf, Jeroen Johan de Hartog, Hanna Boogaard, Hans Nijland, Gerard Hoek, Environ Health Perspect 118, Aug.1, 2010)

A new look at and discussion about cycling and its positive benefits, such as fitness and Life Expectancy (LE), and negative factors, such as injury from accidents and impacts from air pollution, is the focus of today’s review.

Key Quotes:

“the balance between physical activity and air pollution and accident risks of cycling.. the benefits outweigh the risks by an order of magnitude”

“cyclists are perceived to have a higher exposure to air pollution and a higher accident risk. Do the new data tilt the balance between the risks and benefits of cycling?”

“Exposure to short, high bursts of traffic exhaust may be different from an exposure to the same dose over a longer period”

“Air pollution mortality is often associated with the elderly and individuals with cardiovascular problems, but most cyclists are neither old nor very likely to suffer from bad health.”

“If the higher LE observed in present day cyclists can be transferred to people now taking up cycling, the benefits will probably be higher than the risks”

“may have overestimated the air pollution risks related to cycling because, in general, subjects who cycle are healthier than those who respond in long-term epide­miological studies.
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Friday, March 25, 2011

Diesel Emissions and Lung Damage

Road RAGE? The Role of Diesel Particulate Matter in Lung Inflammation (Betts KS, Environ Health Perspect 119, March 1, 2011)

The research reviewed today examines the components of diesel particulates found in environments close to truck and bus traffic that are particularly harmful to health through biological interactions in the lungs.

Key Quotes:

“Diesel particulate matter(DPM) .. is known to be inflammatory and is linked to a plethora of health effects including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and pulmonary fibrosis

“gene reporter experiments showed DPM exposure caused significant translocation of nuclear factor κB (NF-κB), a potent proinflammatory mediator, into the nucleus of R3/1 cells, where it can promote the expression of more than 200 genes”

“The work suggests that even “aged” DPM that has been suspended in the atmosphere for more than a decade is capable of biological activity, which has important public health implications given the abundance of this pollutant in the atmosphere”
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Nitrogen Cycle

Reducing One's 'Nitrogen Footprint': New Web-Based Tool Helps People Make Sustainable Living Choices (Science Daily, Feb. 22, 2011)

Also discussed here: Personal N Footprint calculator

And here: N-Print

And here:

The natural equilibrium established between food creation and consumption is moderated by various forms of nitrogen in the land, air and water. Nitrogen also makes up the main emission from transportation and along with Particulate Matter is a major impact on health. By studying the nitrogen cycle as the review article today does, society can achieve this equilibrium in a sustainable way. The newly developed “N-Print” calculator provides a way for individuals to estimate their “Nitrogen Footprint” and find ways to reduce it, if need be.

Key Quotes:

“Of the N used to produce food, about 80% is lost before consumption, and the remainder is lost after consumption as human waste”

“nitrogen moves through the Earth’s atmosphere, forests, grasslands and waters causing a cascade of environmental changes that negatively impact both people and ecosystems. These changes include smog, acid rain, forest dieback, coastal ‘dead zones’, biodiversity loss, stratospheric ozone depletion and an enhanced greenhouse effect”

“the widespread use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer to boost crop production has resulted in excess nitrogen coming off farms -- essentially adding unwanted, unneeded fertilizer to our natural systems, with disastrous results. The combustion of fossil fuels adds even more nitrogen to our environment”

“Scientists are calling nitrogen pollution a major environmental problem that includes significant damage to air and water quality in places such as the Chesapeake Bay, where the federal government has dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars to reducing nitrogen runoff from farms and industry”

"Solving the nitrogen dilemma is a major challenge of our time.. By calculating our individual impact, and taking small steps to reduce it, we can all play a part”

“Nitrous oxide, created mostly from grain and meat production, is also a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.”
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Climate Change, Ragweed and Allergies

Recent warming by latitude associated with increased length of ragweed pollen season in central North America (Abstract, Lewis Ziskaa,, Kim Knowlton, Christine Rogers, Dan Dalan, Nicole Tierney, Mary Ann Elder, Warren Filley, Jeanne Shropshire, Linda B. Ford, Curtis Hedberg, Pamela Fleetwood, Kim T. Hovanky, Tony Kavanaugh, George Fulford, Rose F. Vrtis, Jonathan A. Patz, Jay Portnoy, Frances Coates, Leonard Bielory, and David Frenz, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA(PNAS), Feb. 22, 2011)

Also discussed here: Links Between Longer Ragweed Season and Climate Change Confirmed (Science Daily, Feb. 25, 2011)

And here: Ragweek Research Is Nothing To Sneeze At (Science Daily, Sep. 25, 2007)

And here: Nothing To Sneeze At: Real-Time Pollen Forecasts (Science Daily, Jan. 2, 2009)

Climate change brings with it longer and warmer summers as well as shorter and milder winters. Today’s article looks at the effect that a longer growing season for vegetation has on ragweed, one of the most common allergies known and the main cause of asthma in northern USA and Canada.

Key Quotes
“Ragweed pollen in some parts of the northern United States and Canada now lingers almost a month longer than it did in 1995.. from 1995 to 2009, the number of frost-free days at higher-latitude study sites had increased, and so had the length of the ragweed pollen season. During that period, the pollen season lasted from 13 to 27 days longer than in 1995.”

“15 million people with ragweed allergies in the United States and Canada alone.”

“a longer ragweed pollen season was strongly correlated with a delay in the onset of the first fall frost.”

“one small plant is capable of releasing 1 billion grains of pollen per season,”

"Concentrations of fewer than 10 pollen grains per cubic meter can cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to ragweed.. During our field research, we found concentrations of 10,000 grains per cubic meter in the air above the plants. My clothes were stained yellow with pollen."

"One of the biggest challenges in studying climate change is finding out how the plant kingdom is adapting to increases in air temperature and other meteorological phenomena,"

"Studies like this also show us that these ecological shifts don't stop at crop production. They can also have a significant impact on public health."

“Researchers in Germany are reporting an advance toward development of technology that could make life easier for millions of people allergic to plant pollen. It could underpin the first automated, real-time systems for identifying specific kinds of allergy-inducing plant pollen circulating in the air.”
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Traffic-Related Pollution Health Impacts over Short -Term

Medium-Term Exposure to Traffic-Related Air Pollution and Markers of Inflammation and Endothelial Function (28 page pdf, Stacey E. Alexeeff, Brent A. Coull, Alexandros Gryparis, Helen Suh, David Sparrow, Pantel S. Vokonas, Joel Schwartz, Environmental Health Perspectives, Feb. 24, 2011)

Today’s review article examines the impact of traffic on older people over periods from days to weeks and concludes there is a significant cardiovascular risk – particularly important for countries whose populations of elderly will be doubling over the next 20 years, along with a trend toward more traffic in urban areas.

Key Quotes:

“There is strong epidemiologic evidence that short-term air pollution exposure (i.e. < 24 hours to 3 weeks) is related to mortality and other cardiovascular events”

“Exposure to traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) contributes to increased cardiovascular risk”

“Our results suggest that medium-term exposure to traffic-related air-pollution may induce an increased inflammatory/endothelial response, especially among diabetics and those not using statins”

“Our analyses suggest that diabetics are more susceptible to adverse effects of traffic-related air pollution than non-diabetics, but we found no evidence of effect modification by obesity”

“the elderly represent a particularly susceptible population, and the growth in the number and proportion of older adults in the United States is unprecedented: By 2030, the proportion of the U.S. population aged 65 and older will double to about 71 million older adults, or one in every five Americans”
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Monday, March 21, 2011

Traffic as a Trigger for Heart Attacks

Overview of main health effects on humans from...

Public health importance of triggers of myocardial infarction: a comparative risk assessment (Dr Tim S Nawrot PhD, Laura Perez PhD, Prof Nino Künzli MD, Elke Munters MD, Prof Benoit Nemery MD, The Lancet, Feb. 24, 2011)

Also discussed here: Heart attack risk: air pollution worse than cocaine? (Daily Dose, Feb. 24, 2011)

The conclusion to note from today’s review article is “air pollution is an important trigger of myocardial infarction”- a fact underlined when one is in or near the emissions from heavy traffic. In fact, when one takes into account the exposure to traffic every day, this rises to the top of the list in terms of health risk, especially for elderly persons, as noted in the article. What more is needed for public health authorities to take steps to reduce traffic and exposure to traffic in downtown areas?

Key Quotes:

“traffic and air pollution account for nearly 12 percent of heart attacks worldwide. In comparison, cocaine use accounts for less than 1 percent”

"The important message here is that while an individual's risk from air pollution is moderate or small, each of us is exposed, making the amount of risk intolerable for the entire community,"

“Taking into account the OR and the prevalences of exposure, the highest PAF [population attributable fractions] was estimated for traffic exposure (7·4%), followed by physical exertion (6·2%), alcohol (5·0%), coffee (5·0%), a difference of 30 μg/m3 in PM10 (4·8%), negative emotions (3·9%), anger (3·1%), heavy meal (2·7%), positive emotions (2·4%), sexual activity (2·2%), cocaine use (0·9%), marijuana smoking (0·8%) and respiratory infections (0·6%)”

“Air pollutants may contribute to heart attack risk by promoting inflammation and increasing blood clotting,..These are both processes involved in the formation of unstable artery plaque, often involved in heart attacks”

"Studies have shown that people experience changes in heart rate on days when air quality is low,"

“Those particularly susceptible to the heart-damaging effects of pollution include the elderly, who have weaker hearts, and people who are obese, because they have higher levels of inflammation as well as more strain on their hearts”
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Friday, March 18, 2011

Polluted Air and Poor Health in UK Cities

Air pollution[/caption]

Former banker's pollution fight a breath of fresh air (Hélène Mulholland, Guardian, Feb. 22, 2011)

Also discussed here: Campaign for Clean Air in London

And here: Environmental Audit Committee - Fifth Report - Air Quality (UK House of Commons, Mar. 16, 2010)

And here: The Mortality Effects of Long-Term Exposure to Particulate Air Pollution in the United Kingdom (108 page pdf, Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants, Jun.18, 2009)

And here: Long-Term Exposure to Air Pollution: Effect on Mortality (196 page pdf, Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants, Jun.18, 2009)

And here: UK Action on Air Pollution (Polluton Free Cities, Mar. 26, 2010)

Today’s article describes efforts by a former banker, Simon Birkett, who took up efforts to pressure his government to take further action on clean air. He did this after reading critical and authoritative reports that the impact of air pollution on health in urban areas was underestimated or worse (as in many Canadian cities) ignored. The result is a lack of monitoring and assessment on the one hand, or corrective regulation and behaviour changing fees, such as congestion pricing, are slow to come. That said, the UK is easily a decade ahead of the US and Canada (in my humble opinion) in taking on the challenges of urban air quality as it affects health because of its early adoption of

Air Quality Management Areas and Low Emission Zones (LEZ). We need to listen to Birkett who recently published a very useful action list Take 10 steps for Clean Air in London (3 page pdf, Campaign For Clean Air In London, Feb. 23, 2011).
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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Abnormal Cold Periods and Pollution Build -Up

Urban NO2 and NO pollution in relation to the North Atlantic Oscillation NAO (Abstract, M. Grundström, H.W. Linderholm, J. Klingberg and H. Pleijel, Atmospheric Environment, February 2011)

Also discussed here: Cold Winters Mean More Pollution, Swedish Study Suggests (Science Daily, Feb. 22, 2011)

Just as El Nino and La Nina have 6-10 year cycles and result in widespread global anomalies such as thaws, floods and droughts, the somewhat and more scientifically based North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) is associated with cold outbreaks in Europe and elsewhere. The article under review today goes further by examining the link between cold periods and the emission of nitrogen oxides (main source is vehicle exhaust) and the implications for poorer air quality as a result. Such build-ups of pollutants also would impact human health as many earlier posts on this web site attest. Careful monitoring of the NAO could be a key to assessing the health impacts in urban centres subjected to cold periods.

Key Quotes:

“The NAO swings between positive and negative phases depending on the differences in air pressure between Iceland and the Azores.”

“When the NAO is in a negative phase -- as has been the case during the last two winters -- the city has cold winters because the low pressure sits over southern Europe, while cold air from the polar region or Siberia sits over northern Europe.”

“the study shows that the air quality standard has been exceeded more and more frequently during periods of a negative NAO even though emissions have fallen in the city centre since 2000"

"These extremely cold winters in Gothenburg, with high cold air, bring a clear deterioration in air quality,"

"With typical Gothenburg weather -- low air pressure with precipitation and strong winds -- the air pollution is dispersed more quickly on account of better air mixing."

“The researchers refer, for example, to the fact that the number of exceedances of the hourly limit for nitrogen dioxide (90 µg/m3) increased. This can be linked to the fact that the NAO has tended increasingly to be in a negative phase during the winter months over the last two years”
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Plans for Roadside Air Quality in Hong Kong

A 26 segment × 3 exposure (78 frames in total)...

Budget Speech - Pilot Green Transport Fund (Hong Kong Budget 2010-11)

Also discussed here: Budget Speech by the Financial Secretary (Hong Kong (HKSAR) - Fostering Economic Diversification, Feb. 23, 2011)

And here: Pilot Green Transport Fund - Proposed Implementation Framework (10 page pdf, Advisory Committee on the Environment, Nov 8, 2010)

Although much remains to be done to reduce traffic congestion in the former British colony, much credit should be given to the current administration for targeting roadside emissions in its budget for 2011.

Key Quotes:

“91. To encourage the transport sector to test out green and low-carbon transport technology, I propose to set up a $300 million Pilot Green Transport Fund for application by the industry, initially by the public transport operators. I hope that this Fund will encourage the industry to introduce more innovative green technologies, such as the use of buses, public light buses, taxis, and ferries that employ green technologies, and help nurture the budding of green technology in Hong Kong.

92. The use of low-emission and energy saving transport will not only help improve roadside air quality, but also reduce carbon emissions and promote a low-carbon economy. I hope that the transport industry will actively try out innovative green technologies, contributing to better air quality and the health of people living in Hong Kong.”

“122. On improving roadside air quality, the new Pilot Green Transport Fund, set up to encourage the transport sector to test out green and low-carbon transport modes and technology, will be open for application by end-March.We are also preparing for a number of trial schemes in collaboration with the franchised bus companies, including the trying out of hybrid buses on busy corridors and retrofitting of Euro II and III buses with catalytic reduction devices to meet the Euro IV emission standard.”
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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Making Transportation Sustainable in Cities

Our Cities Ourselves- the future of transportation in urban life (52 page pdf, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy/ITDP, Jun. 26, 2010)

Also discussed here: Our Cities Ourselves: 10 Principles for Transport in Urban Life (Institute of Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), July 10, 2010)

The report being reviewed today provides a pathway toward sustainable transportation over the next two decades, using examples from various cities around the world to demonstrate in words and pictures what is needed- Copenhagen, Mexico City, Hangzhou(China), Brighton (UK), London (Southbank), Massena (Paris), Seoul, South Korea, Melbourne (Australia), Malmo (Sweden)

Key Quotes:

“If I bike to work instead of taking the car for the next 20 years, I will save $100,000 more for my retirement, live 7 years longer, and cut 94 tons of CO2”

“2-to-1 public opposition to congestion charges turned to 2-to-1 support after voters saw how a 20% drop in traffic led to a 30-50% reduction in traffic delays. Stockholm, Sweden

“Freight contributes 40- 50% of air and noise pollution, while, on average, accounting only for 10-15% of all vehicle-miles traveled.. Regional movement of goods could be shifted from trucks to rail or water-based delivery systems, while city logistics might include cargo cycles”

“An average delivery van weighs more than one metric ton, and delivers less than 100 kg of goods within a total distance of only 15 km. Cargocycles weigh only 100 kg, have a load capacity of 180 kg, and an autonomy of 30 km, making them much more efficient”

“By encouraging infill development, the economic savings to society would equate to over $300 million per 1000 housing units or $110,000,000,000 over the next 50 years for a city with 4-5 million inhabitants”

“With renovation of old buildings, energy use from heating can be reduced by 77%. The energy used from renovating an old building is far less than from constructing a new building”

“Humans are linear, frontal, horizontal mammals that walk at a maximum of 3 mph and have an eye level of approximately 5 feet. Human mobility and human senses should be the biological basis for how streets are designed”
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Monday, March 14, 2011

Modelling Rush Hour Emissions for Ottawa’s Major Roadways

Carleton University as seen from the Rideau RiverDevelopment of a Methodology for Estimating Vehicle Emissions (416 page pdf thesis, Jennifer Armstrong, Carleton University, AMICUS service of Library and Archives Canada, Aug. 2000)

Also discussed here: Development of a Methodology for Estimating Vehicle Emissions (41 PowerPoint slideshow, Jennifer Armstrong, Aug. 2000)

And here: Modelling urban transportation emissions: role of GIS (Jennifer M. Armstrong and Ata M. Khan, Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, Volume 28, Issue 4, July 2004)

And here: EMME/2 Helps Transportation Planners:ArcInfo-Based Highway Project Modeling (GIS Tools, ArcNews, Vol. 17, No. 4, Winter 1995)

The report reviewed today is a ground-breaking thesis by a graduate student at Carleton University’s engineering school which won awards from the Ontario Ministry of Environment and the Professional Engineers of Ontario in 2001. The research brought together the vehicle emission data for the national capital area which included Origin-Destination municipal survey data, travel demand modelling, emission modelling and GIS mapping to produce maps of pollutants at peak travel times across the cities of Ottawa and Hull (now Gatineau). It shows quantitatively the importance of vehicle emissions particularly in the congested downtown and near the 6 –8 lane Queensway that bisects the city of Ottawa.

Key Quotes:

“Regional EMME/2 [travel demand] model can predict: number of vehicles per road segment, average operating speed, trip length distribution”

“The EMME/2 Emission Calculator:
  • Computes CO, NOX, and HC emissions using MOBILE5 [emission model]- Input vehicle mix data, trip length distribution,temperature data, operating mode fractions
  • Computes greenhouse gas emissions using fuel consumption equations specified by the user - Input vehicle mix data, fuel consumptionrelationships, and GHG factors; For each vehicle class, compute fuel consumption and GHG emissions
“Benefits of research:
  • Development of tools to compute vehicle emissions
  • Estimation of vehicle emissions in NCR
  • Sensitivity analysis of input parameters
  • Illustration of a potential application of GIS in transportation planning
  • Analysis of intra-zonal trips, commercial vehicle traffic, operating mode fractions”
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Friday, March 11, 2011

How Much Energy Does a Car Consume, Well to Wheel?

Energy Chain Analysis of Passenger Car Transport (28 page pdf, Morten Simonsen and Hans Jakob Walnum, Energies, Feb. 17, 2011)

Today’s review article looks at the entire energy chain direct and indirect used to build, run and support the automobile. A major conclusion is that no fuel alternative offers more energy efficiency in exchange for fewer emissions, including the biofuels, natural gas, hydrogen and ordinary car gas. Quite remarkable is the very high energy consumption of ethanol on the one hand and the very low energy consumption with electrical power.

Key Quotes:

“global energy consumption will increase by 2.1 percent annually, a growth rate that is higher than for any other sector. The high energy consumption means that transportation accounts for nearly 30 percent of CO2 emission in OECD countries and is also one of the main sources of regional and local air pollution.. With this background, it is generally agreed internationally that we currently have an unsustainable transport system“

“Except for the case of electric cars, .. no single car scores favourably on both energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions

sustainable mobility cannot be achieved by simply switching from one fuel to another; sustainable mobility is not feasible without a reduction in overall mobility level”

“gross direct energy (Well to Tank) chain:
  1. Extraction/production of the energy source;
  2. Transportation of the energy source;
  3. Production of the energy carrier (fuel, electricity);
  4. Distribution of the energy carrier;
  5. The net direct energy consumption, this is the energy applied for passenger car propulsion”
indirect energy consumption ..covers the life cycles of the vehicle and the infrastructure. For passenger cars, this includes the energy required to build and operate the roads as well as energy required to manufacture and maintain the car itself.. We have calculated an energy use of 14,000 GJ (959 tonne CO2-equivalents) for construction of 1 km of road over its entire lifetime”

“Except for electric cars, there is no single fuel that scores consistently lower on all indicators than any other fuel. This indicates that lower energy consumption and emissions reductions from passenger car transport cannot be achieved by simply switching from one fuel to another”

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Congestion Pricing in Sydney, Australia

Image via WikipediaVariable tolls by time-of the-day were impleme...

Should motorists pay for the congestion they cause? (Sydney Morning Herald, Feb. 19, 2011)

Also discussed here: Sydney Morning Herald On Congestion Pricing (Jarrett Walker, Human Transit, Feb. 19, 2011)

Today’s review article is a summary of a debate about congestion pricing conducted by one of Sydney Australia’s newspapers. It has a number of arguments and statistics that are useful and applicable in other cities considering ways of reducing congestion.

Key Quotes:

Road congestion is the inevitable result of too many people wanting to reach jobs and services that are too far away”

“In car-dependent cities such as Sydney, more than 12 per cent of the community's collective wealth is spent on transport, compared with 5 to 8 per cent of community wealth in cities with strong public transport”

“Congestion pricing systems free up enough road space so that motorists and freight can move reliably through the city. They do this by setting a price for driving through a congested area. The price varies with actual demand”

“if a congestion tax is designed to change our behaviour, then it will be effective only once we give motorists a viable alternative.”

“There is a presumption that we all have rights to enter the traffic and delay all other motorists, yet not contribute to the true cost associated with delay and lost time - the curse of congestion. It is estimated that more than $9 billion a year is wasted in lost travel time or avoidable congestion costs, increasing to about $20 billion by 2020.”

“"free" roads are not really free - the choice is between paying with time and frustration, or with money.”

“Congestion pricing, if and when it happens in Sydney, needs to start by replacing other fees associated with driving, especially those that affect rural areas where there's no alternative to driving and never will be”

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Global City Indicators

The Current Status of City Indicators - Discussion Paper (72 page pdf, World Bank, Dec. 8, 2006)

Also discussed here: Global City Indicators Facility (University of Toronto)

And here: How Cities Compare (John Lorinc, Leading Edge, University of Toronto, Winter 2011)

The World Bank discussion paper reviewed today describes the development of an indicator data base in 2008 for cities of the world which can be used to monitor progress on such as the Millennium Goals. The data base behind this program is contained at the Global City Indicators Program at the University of Toronto in Canada. The need for this is underscored by the lessons learned along the way- that “Cities are interested in learning from other cities”, “Ranking systems provide only limited and short-term value” and “A global program with standard indicators could help take the politics out of indicator selection”.

Key Quotes:

“The Global City Indicators Program provides an established set of city indicators with a globally standardized methodology that allows for global comparability of city performance and knowledge sharing”

“The Program is structured around 22 “themes” that measure a range of city services and quality of life factors:
  • QUALITY OF LIFE: Civic Engagement, Culture, Economy, Environment,Shelter, Social Equity, Subjective, Well-Being,Technology And Innovation
  • CITY SERVICES: Education,Energy, Recreation, Fire Emergency, Response, Governance, Health, Social Services, Solid Waste, Transportation, Urban Planning, Waste Water, Water”
“By 2020, 4.1 billion people (55 percent of the world’s population) will live in urban areas.. Almost 95 percent of the world’s population increase will occur in developing countries. By 2015, 61 of the largest urban areas in the world will be in Asia, 14 in North America, and 12 in Latin America and Africa”

“The goal of the World Bank’s City Indicators project is to: Develop an integrated approach for measuring and monitoring city performance globally”

“Experts who work with numbers, evaluating and analyzing them on a daily basis frequently express the collection of data and its interpretation as a progression in a pyramid or triangle“

“A number of indicator programs were established to monitor progress toward worldwide initiatives and goals such as the Millennium Development Goals, Habitat Agenda, and Local Agenda 21. These three initiatives established goals and targets for the world’s cities and countries to meet within specified timeframes”

“The Millennium Development Goals are a set of time-bound and measurable goals and targets for combating poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women”

“different-sized cities often specialize – in pharmaceuticals or post-secondary education, for example – or act as a transportation hub or financial centre. At the same time, growing urbanization in developing nations is exacerbating problems of poverty, congestion and pollution.”

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Health Outcomes of Reducing the Local Air Pollution Burden

Feasibility of Assessing Public Health Impacts of Air Pollution Reduction Programs on a Local Scale: New Haven Case Study (31 page pdf, Lobdell DT, Isakov V, Baxter L, Touma JS, Smuts MB, Özkaynak H, Environ Health Perspect, 18 Feb.18, 2011)

Today’s review article examines the feasibility of applying air quality modelling to the task of estimating health benefits resulting from improvements in air quality at the local level as a result of various strategies and programs. The conclusions point to the usefulness of this approach which was tested by scenarios running out 20 years into the future. This appears to a very useful tool as well for evaluating policy choices for improving urban air quality.

Key Quotes:

“it is important to determine a priori which pollutant-outcome relationships are most likely to result in observable impacts on health in a particular population given projected changes in air pollutant concentrations and estimated risks associated with exposures of concern”

“We chose New Haven for this assessment because it was designated as one of two Connecticut counties in non-attainment of the PM2.5 standard in 1997 (EPA 2010), and because a variety of air pollution reduction activities have subsequently been implemented at multiple jurisdiction levels by various federal, state, local and voluntary actions“

“Of the 26 different air pollution – health outcome linkages assessed, only five, all NOx related, are potentially feasible..all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease hospitalization, respiratory disease hospitalization discharge, current prevalence of asthma in children, and current prevalence of asthma in adults”

“The majority of NOx reductions can be attributed to mobile source emissions reduction programs.. Thus, it is important to accurately characterize near-road impacts. Local reductions in PM2.5 are modest relative to high background PM concentrations”

“this model can address what happens if emissions from some specific stationary or mobile sources are reduced by certain amount and what the associated impacts of these local controls vs. regional controls may be. This model application helps determine which control options are most effective in reducing ambient concentrations”

“this project provided critical findings on how regulatory agencies may better examine the complex interactions of cumulative impacts on air quality and health effects from multiple actions in other urban communities”