Friday, September 30, 2011

What is the Optimum Population for a City?

Hong Kong from Western District overlooking Ko...Image via WikipediaAre 20th Century Models Relevant to 21st Century Urbanization? ( Phil McDermott , New Geography, Sep. 23, 2011)

Today’s review article examines the trend toward urbanism world-wide and, in particular, the growth or large mega cities over 5m population. Smaller cities of around 1 m seem to be multiplying faster and offer advantages from an urban planning perspective that are not true for either larger or smaller cities. The conclusion not given but deduced is that the optimum size of a city may be around 1 m.

Key Quotes:

sprawl is a sign of “divided cities”, translating into an increase in the cost of transport, public infrastructure and of residential and commercial development. Moreover, sprawling metropolitan areas require more energy, metal, concrete and asphalt than do compact cities because homes, offices and utilities are set farther apart”

issues of governance.. authorities pay little attention to slums, land, services and transport. Authorities lack the ability to predict urban growth and, as a result, fail to provide land for the urbanizing poor”

“western” cities don’t really feature in 21st century urbanism..In 1950 western cities accounted for 43% of the world’s urban population. This was down to 23% in 1990 and 18% in 2010. UN projections have the figure down to 15% in 2030”

“Cities of under 1 million residents dominate gains, strongly favouring developing countries”

“a tendency for urbanisation to take place in small, dispersed settlements rather than mega-cities”

“Small cities, sub-centres in large cities, and districts of modest scale may be better suited to adaptable and innovative planning and management than large scale, extensive cities with their more centralised, remote, and inevitably bureaucratic political and administrative systems."
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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Estimating Revenue from New Toll Roads

Toll Avoidance and Transportation Funding (9 page pdf, Clark Williams-Derry, Sightline Institute, September 2011)

Also discussed here: Changing Vehicle Travel Price Sensitivities - The Rebounding Rebound Effect (24 page pdf, Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, Sep. 1, 2011)

Today we return to a review of a paper on experiences with tolling in many different places in the U.S.A. and, in this case, the tendency of this advocating tolls to overestimate revenue by 20-30%. Although this does not mean that tolls are a bad idea, it does underline the greater uncertainties that dictate traffic volume on roads with tolls.

Key Quotes:

toll road revenues typically fall short of official projections–especially when drivers can choose toll-free alternative routes to reach the same destinations”

“Across all case studies, toll road forecasts overestimated Year 1 traffic by 20%-30%.” This “optimism bias” persisted for years after toll roads were first opened to the public”

“For the projects studied, actual traffic ranged from 85 percent below forecasted levels, to more than 50 percent above forecasts ….toll road traffic estimates suffer from a 20-30 percent optimism bias”

“convenient access to toll-free alternative routes can induce substantial toll avoidance, causing traffic volumes on toll roads to fall short of forecasts”

“None of the literature reviewed suggests that tolling is inherently a bad idea. On the contrary, tolling can be an important source of revenue, and a powerful tool for managing limited road space and relieving congestion”
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Exposure to Pollution and Heart Attack Risk

myocardial infarction - Myokardinfarkt - schemeThe effects of hourly differences in air pollution on the risk of myocardial infarction: case crossover analysis of the MINAP database (Abstract, Krishnan Bhaskaran, Shakoor Hajat, Ben Armstrong, Andy Haines, Emily Herrett, Paul Wilkinson, Liam Smeeth, BMJ, Sep.20, 2011)

Also discussed here: High Pollution Levels Linked to Increase in Heart Attack Risk (ScienceDaily, Sep. 20, 2011)

And here: Cardiovascular effects of exposure to air pollution (Editorial, Simon Hales & Richard Edwards, BMJ, Sep. 20,2011)

Today’s review article looks at how long after exposure to high levels of pollution is there a heightened risk of a heart attack. Results indicate a period of 6 hours but this may be the result of the pollution causing a heart attack to occur earlier for a patient with an existing risk of heart attack.

Key Quotes:

“In single pollutant models, PM10 and NO2 levels were associated with a very short term increase in risk of myocardial infarction 1–6 hours later”

“High levels of pollution could increase the risk of having a heart attack for up to six hours after specific pollutants in the atmosphere….pollutant particles (PM10), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and ozone”

“transiently increased risk of myocardial infarction 1–6 hours after exposure, but later reductions in risk suggest that air pollution may be associated with bringing events forward in time (“short-term displacement”) rather than increasing overall risk”

“"given other evidence that exposure to air pollution increases overall mortality and morbidity, the case for stringent controls on pollutant levels remains strong."”
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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

EPA Statement on Health Impacts from Roadside NO2 Emissions

Environmental journalism supports the protecti...Image via WikipediaUS Environmental Protection Agency- Six Common Pollutants, Nitrogen Dioxide, Health

The EPA’s summary of health impacts from exposure to nitrogen oxides (which also produce ozone with health impacts) is worth noting, especially the scale of the problem- affecting 16% of the entire U.S. population who live within 300 ft of transportation emissions from traffic- and the fact that these concentrations are underestimated by conventional air quality network monitors.

Key Quotes:

“Current scientific evidence links short-term NO2 exposures, ranging from 30 minutes to 24 hours, with adverse respiratory effects including airway inflammation in healthy people and increased respiratory symptoms in people with asthma”

“Near-roadway (within about 50 meters) concentrations of NO2 have been measured to be approximately 30 to 100% higher than concentrations away from roadways

“NO2 concentrations in vehicles and near roadways are appreciably higher than those measured at monitors in the current network”

“Approximately 16% of U.S housing units are located within 300 ft of a major highway, railroad, or airport”

“NO2 exposure concentrations near roadways are of particular concern for susceptible individuals, including people with asthma asthmatics, children, and the elderly”
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Monday, September 26, 2011

Why do People Drive to Work?

Description: F Train, Manhattan-bound, 17 May ...Image via WikipediaHow and why do people commute by car? A mixed-methods investigation ( Abstract, A Goodman, J Panter, C Guell, D Ogilvie, J Epidemiol Community Health, Sep. 14, 2011)

Today’s review is interesting because it looks at why people chose to drive a car to work. The results indicate that the decision is strongly influenced by the availability of free parking at the work place. Without that, the choice turns to walking and cycling as the alternative or as an additional part of the commute by car. Free parking then becomes a driving factor (sorry) for the health of employees who commute by car and thus becomes an added cost for the company providing the parking.

Key Quotes:

“To investigate how and why people commute by car…Reducing car use and promoting physically active travel would be expected to decrease air pollution, traffic crashes and diseases associated with sedentary lifestyles”

“Regular car commuting was independently associated with female gender, longer commuting distance, having a driving licence, more household cars and availability of workplace parking”

“Car access was also valued by many non-regular car commuters in letting them overcome short-term challenges such as illness”

“car commuting also introduced constraints, for example pushing drivers with flexible working hours to travel earlier (40% of drivers started work by 8:30 vs 20% of walkers and cyclists)”

“Car commuters were much more likely to incorporate some walking or cycling into their journey if their workplace restricted parking or charged for it, suggesting potential health benefits”
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Friday, September 23, 2011

How Annoying is Noise from Wind Turbines?

A size comparison of wind turbinesImage via WikipediaHealth Effects and Wind Turbines: A Review of the Literature (23 page pdf, Loren D Knopper & Christopher A Ollson, Environmental Health, Sep. 14, 2011)

Today we examine the results of an extensive literature review about the possible health effects from wind turbine noise, a relevant topic for many who live in cities adjacent to developing wind farms, especially in the province of Ontario in Canada where incentives are in place to encourage wind energy. The results of the review indicate no physical health effect although wind turbines annoy some people merely because of their visibility. The degree of acceptance of this annoyance becomes a factor in the decision for politicians to allow wind turbines and not a challenge for physicians.

Key Quotes:

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of infirmity or disease” (World Health Organization)

“many regulatory minimum setback distances have been established world-wide to reduce or avoid potential complaints from or potential effects for people living in proximity to wind turbines.. [in Ontario]a minimum setback distance of 550 m must exist between the centre of the base of the wind turbine and the nearest noise receptor (e.g., a building or campground)”

“no peer reviewed articles demonstrate a direct causal link between people living in proximity to modern wind turbines, the noise they emit and resulting physiological health effects”

“it appears that it is the change in the environment that is associated with reported health effects and not a turbine-specific variable like audible noise or infrasound”

“Peer reviewed and scientifically defensible studies suggest that annoyance and health effects are more strongly related to subjective factors like visual impact and attitude to wind turbines rather than to noise itself (both audible and inaudible [i.e., infrasound])”

Key Points:
  • ”People tend to notice sound from wind turbines almost linearly with increasing sound pressure level.
  • A proportion of people that notice sound from wind turbines find it annoying
  • Annoyance is not only related to wind turbine noise but also to subjective factors like attitude to visual impact, attitude to wind turbines and sensitivity to noise
  • Turbines are designed not to pose a risk of photo-induced epilepsy
  • The human ear responds to infrasound”
“Ultimately it is up to governments to decide the level of acceptable annoyance in a population that justifies the use of wind power as an alternative energy source”
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Thursday, September 22, 2011

How Stressful is Commuting by Public Transit?

Despite Toronto, Montreal gridlock, commuters reluctant to use transit (The Globe and Mail, Aug. 24, 2011)

Also discussed here: Compare Toronto's 80-minute commute with other major cities (The Globe and Mail, Mar. 25, 2011)

Today’s review article has a number of interesting statistics relating to Canadian commuters that help to explain why 4 out of 5 of them choose driving by car over public transit. The answer seems to be the additional stress perceived with transit and the convenience offered by cars. Changing that perception is the challenge for public transit promoters.

Key Quotes:

“[in Canada] 82 per cent of commuters travelled to work by car in 2010, while 12 per cent took public transit and six per cent walked or cycled”

“Of the 10.6 million workers who commuted by car, about 9 million reported that they had never used public transit for their commute.. About 7.4 million of these people thought public transit would be somewhat or very inconvenient”

Commuters who used public transit took considerably longer to get to work than those who lived an equivalent distance from their place of work and went by car..In the six largest cities, the average commuting time was 44 minutes for public transit users and 27 minutes by car.”

Public transit users were more likely than car commuters to be dissatisfied with their commuting times.. primarily because it takes them longer on average to get to work”

““the connection between commuting times and stress was clear..More than a third of those who took 45 minutes or more to travel to work said most days were quite or extremely stressful, compared with just 23 per cent of those travelling for less than 15 minutes”
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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Traffic Air Pollution and Type 2 Diabetes

Long-term Exposure to Traffic-related Air Pollution and Type 2 Diabetes Prevalence in a Cross-sectional Screening-study in the Netherlands (25 page pdf, Marieke B.A. Dijkema, Sanne F. Mallant, Ulrike Gehring, Katja van den Hurk, Marjan Alssema, Rob T. van Strien, Paul H. Fischer, Giel Nijpels, Coen D.A. Stehouwer, Gerard Hoek, Jacqueline M. Dekker and Bert Brunekreef, Environmental Health, Sep. 5, 2011)

The article under review today looks at the statistical links between exposure and proximity to traffic related pollution and the occurrence of diabetes, a disease that has many causes. The results did not indicate a strong link with traffic volume or length of exposure and only a weak association with distance to major roads within 250 m.

Key Quotes:

“This study examined the relation between long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution and type 2 diabetes prevalence among 50- to 75-year-old subjects living in Westfriesland, the Netherlands”

“No freeways are present in the study area. Two highways, known as provincial roads in the Netherlands, with a traffic flow of approximately 15,000 to 25,000 vehicles/24hrs”

“smooth plots of exposure versus type 2 diabetes risk supported some association with traffic in a 250m buffer.. Modeled NO2-concentration, distance to the nearest main road and traffic flow at the nearest main road were not associated with diabetes. Associations seemed to be stronger for women compared to men”

“Distance to the nearest main road is a metric being increasingly used in policy practice, modeled NO2-concentration, however, is probably a more precise metric of exposure to traffic related air pollution”

This study did not find consistent associations between type 2 diabetes prevalence and exposure to traffic related air pollution, though there were some indications for a relation with traffic in a 250m buffer”
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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Introducing Congestion Charging in China

What should a Beijing congestion charge system look like? (Road Pricing, Sep. 8, 2011)

Also discussed here: Beijing 'plans congestion charge' to ease traffic woes (BBC News-Asia-Pacific, Sep. 8, 2011)

Today, the focus is on plans to introduce congestion pricing to the capital of the country which now has the world’s largest market for cars and trucks, China. The review article describes the options available given recent advances in technology and experience gained from systems in cities, such as London, Stockholm and Singapore.

Key Quotes:

Congestion fees are to be introduced on some roads in the Chinese capital Beijing in a bid to tackle chronic traffic problems.. The capital has 4.8m registered vehicles, and residents say the traffic jams are sometimes so bad the roads resemble car parks.. China overtook the US as the world's biggest car and van market in 2009, with 13.6 million vehicles sold within the country”

“Simply charging individual routes will result in diversion, and simply charging one big zone will have only limited impact”

“the matter of number plate recognition and maintaining a high quality number plate database (and enforcement system to recover fines), can be minimized if all vehicles are required to have a DSRC device that is sophisticated enough to be used for tolling”

“the best targeting could be done with a GPS based system measuring distance”

“tag and beacon/DSRC type system.. Beijing, within the 5th ring road, can be split between major arterials to form zones.. Trips on the boundary roads could remain untolled, far better to allow efficient trips around the zones, but to penalise for travelling further”

“what to do with the money…use it to pay for road maintenance and upgrades, improved pedestrian and cycling facilities, or offset other taxes or restrictions”
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Monday, September 19, 2011

The Pain of Commuting

IBM 2011 Global Commuter Pain Survey (9 page pdf, IBM, Sep. 8, 2011)

Also discussed here: IBM Global Commuter Pain Survey: Traffic Congestion Down, Pain Way Up (PRNewswire, Sep. 8, 2011)

And here: Stressed commuters turning to public transit, tech (Martin LaMonica, cnet News, Sep. 8, 2011)
In many cities, vehicle emissions is a major contributer to urban air pollution and the choices commuters make in their choice of transportation mode has a major impact on the resulting air quality. Today we review the 4th annual world survey of commuting “pain” by IBM and this reveals differences in the pain as a result of the mode chosen for commuting and the degree of technology used to speed up traffic.

Key Quotes:

“attempts to gauge drivers’ perception of how traffic affects them based on factors such as stress, anger, health, and performance at work or school”

Mexico City showed up as the ‘most painful’ city for commuting, while Montreal, London, and Chicago came out the ‘best’”

“Our best hope lies in making the most of the roads we have- primarily through the use of technology to improve their performance and efficiency. Stockholm, the city that by a number of measures came out the best in this survey, has instituted a congestion charging system. Just a month after the system began operating, morning commute time was down by an average of 50%.”

“Cities are using myriad sensors - embedded in roadways or in taxis and buses – to gather more information about traffic and, through capabilities like analytics, a combination of advanced mathematics and massive computing power, are growing their capacity to predict and avoid congestion”

“Across cities, driving is the predominant way to get to work or school (55% drive a car, 5% a motorbike, and 5% carpool on a worldwide average), with public transportation ranking a distant second (13% use the bus, 7% a train)”

“For all of the cities, the average one-way length of the commute is 12.8 miles, taking about 33 minutes – meaning they are travelling a little over 23 miles per hour”
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Friday, September 16, 2011

Optimizing Utilization of Municipal Waste

Design of an Optimal Waste Utilization System: A Case Study in St. Petersburg, Russia (24 page pdf, Mikhail Rodionov and Toshihiko Nakata, Sustainability, Sep. 8, 2011)

A pollution-free city is one where the air and water are clean and solid pollution is eliminated. Today’s review article looks at a system in St Petersburg, Russia where waste production was outstripping landfill capacity and where a system is proposed to both reduce the waste volume and convert the emitted methane gas to energy.

Key Quotes:

“Generation of municipal solid wastes (MSWs) is closely linked to the population growth process, the urbanization rate, change of lifestyle, and an increase in household income “

“The performance of the proposed MSW utilization system in the target area has been evaluated in light of energy, economic, and environmental (3Es) aspects, such as system net cost, annual energy generated from the waste, and the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of the system. “

“Russia is the world’s top emitter of CH4 from the waste sector, followed by USA and China, representing 37.4 million tons of CO2-eq. or 5% of total global CH4 emissions in 2006 .. the area occupied by landfills in Russia is equivalent to eight cities of the size of Moscow, or more than 0.8 million hectares”

“utilizing MSW in waste-to-energy (WTE) processes helps to mitigate GHG emissions generated from waste treatment by reducing CH4 emissions. It also reduces the impact of GHGs as they replace fossil fuels in energy production activities”

“St. Petersburg is responsible for 20% of the pollution in the Baltic Sea, where the MSW generated in the city is one of the main sources of this pollution ..the amount of MSW increased by 20% from 1994 to 2008..Annually, over 1 million tons of MSW is generated in St. Petersburg, from which over 70% is directly disposed in five disposal landfill sites located around the city”

“transportation costs consume the largest portions of the total cost of the proposed MSW utilization system.. if the waste transportation distance increases by 10 km, the final disposal rate grows sharply by more than double”

“The best way to achieve maximum GHG reductions (more than 50%) from the system is to apply the WTR scenario based on the assumption that the maximum amount of waste is recycled, with a high recycling rate at more than 80%.”

“Heat generated from waste treatment processes was the most optimal energy carrier”
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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Exposure to Air Pollution and Heart Attacks

Atrial fibrillationImage via WikipediaSupraventricular Arrhythmia Following Exposure to Concentrated Ambient Air Pollution Particles (14 page pdf, Andrew J. Ghio, Maryann Bassett, Tracey Montilla, Eugene H. Chung, Wayne E. Cascio, Martha Sue Carraway, Environmental Health Perspectives, Sep. 6, 2011)

The focus today is on the reaction of a middle aged woman’s heart to air pollution particles and an analysis of the likely factors to explain that reaction. The results support a causal link between the particles and the impact on her heart.

The volunteer’s electrocardiogram (12 lead and rhythm strip) before (A) and immediately following (B) exposure to concentrated ambient particles. The electrocardiogram before the exposure (A) reveals a regular sinus rhythm with defined P waves (arrows) while that following the exposure (B) is irregular with “flutter” waves (arrows).

Key Quotes:

“a 58 year old woman.. in a controlled exposure to concentrated ambient particles (CAPs). Twenty minutes into the exposure, telemetry revealed new onset of atrial fibrillation. The exposure was discontinued and she reverted to normal sinus rhythm approximately two hours later”

“While coincident atrial fibrillation cannot be excluded, the onset of her arrhythmia was associated with her exposure to ambient air pollution particles. The correlation between the resolution of the arrhythmia and the termination of the CAPs exposure further supports a causal relationship between the two”

“The specific association between increased arrhythmia induction and air pollution may reflect oxidant generation and inflammation following exposure, consistent with mechanisms involved in the initiation and maintenance of some other forms of atrial fibrillation”

“In an animal model, diesel exhaust increased the sensitivity of the heart to triggered arrhythmias via an activation of airway sensory receptors (e.g. TRPA1) (Hazari et al. 2011). It has been suggested that this leads to autonomic imbalance and a predisposition for arrhythmia development”

“this is the only case report of an individual suffering an episode of atrial fibrillation following exposure to an air pollutant. The resolution of the arrhythmia with termination of the particle exposure further supports a causal relationship between the two”
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Impacts of Climate Change on Indoor Air Quality and Health

Cover page cuverture Turning the Tide On Clima...Image via WikipediaClimate Change, the Indoor Environment, and Health (in brief) (4 page pdf, source document is 348 pages, Committee on the Effect of Climate Change on Indoor Air Quality and Public Health; Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, June 2011)

Also discussed here: Climate Change Impacts Indoor Environment (1 page pdf, Carol Potera, Environ Health Perspect 119:a382-a382, Sep. 1, 2011)

The report reviewed today is a summary of a major report on the kinds of health issues that will likely arise indoors, as a result of climate change and actions taken to adapt to it. The main recommendation is to encourage research into building codes and standards which anticipate climate changes.

Key Quotes:

“Most people spend the majority of their time indoors, so it makes sense that people will experience climate change from a housing perspective,”

“major types of climate-induced indoor environmental problems:
  • Indoor air quality. - changes in the outdoor concentrations of a pollutant due to alterations in atmospheric chem­istry or atmospheric circulation will affect indoor concentrations.
  • Dampness, moisture, and flooding - Extreme weather conditions associated with climate change may lead to more frequent breakdowns in 2 building envelopes—the physical barrier between outdoor and indoor spaces followed by infiltra­tion of water into indoor spaces.
  • Infectious agents and pests - Climate change may affect the evolution and emergence of infectious diseases, for example, by affecting the geographic range of disease vectors
  • Thermal stress. - An increased frequency of extreme weather events may result in more fre­quent power outages that expose persons to poten­tially dangerous conditions indoors.
  • Building ventilation, weatherization, and energy use. - Climate change may make venti­lation problems prompting ..measures that limit the exchange of indoor air with outdoor air.”
  • ”Initiating or expanding programs to iden­tify populations at risk for health problems resulting from alterations in indoor environmental quality induced by climate change..
  • Developing or refining protocols and test­ing standards for evaluating emissions from materials, furnishings, and appliances
  • Facilitating research to identify circum­stances in which climate change mitiga­tion and adaptation measures may cause or exacerbate adverse exposures.
  • Facilitating the revision and adoption of building codes that are regionally appropri­ate with respect to climate-change projec­tions
  • Developing model standards for ventila­tion in residential buildings
  • Implementing a public health surveillance system”
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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Costs of Using Roads

Traffic congestion, Sao Paulo, BrazilImage via WikipediaThe price of transport - Overview of the social costs of transport (187 page pdf, J.P.L. (Joost) Vermeulen, B.H. (Bart) Boon, H.P. (Huib) van Essen, L.C. (Eelco) den Boer, J.M.W. (Jos) Dings, F.R. (Frank) Bruinsma, M.J. (Mark) Koetse , CE Transform, Delft, commissioned by Dutch Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, Dec. 2004)

Today we review a study done in 2004 in the Netherlands of the overall costs of transportation whether it be cars, trucks, buses or rail and how these costs are allocated or recovered by taxes or charges. The conclusion is that the passenger car is by far the largest cost unless one looks at the best case scenario of new cars in uncongested rural areas. This report provides an excellent basis for implementing congestion pricing in countries with similar road problems and may have played a part in the proposed country-wide system being considered in Holland today.

Key Quotes:

“Besides the costs of infrastructure maintenance and operation, there is a wider array of external costs which - for reasons stemming from welfare-theoretical and/or ‘fairness’ principles - deserve to be passed on in the pricing of transport and mobility”

“the total cost variant ..the ‘fairness’ principle..every mode of transport should be confronted with the sum total of social costs to which it gives rise:..both variable and fixed costs are allocated to users”

“the efficiency variant..employs pricing policy as a means to optimise social welfare, by charging all variable costs to users”

Costs included:
  • “infrastructure building
  • infrastructure maintenance and operation (M/O) and infrastructure renewal
  • land take, distinguishing direct and indirect land take costs and parking costs.
  • traffic accidents.
  • climate emissions (CO2).
  • other air pollutant emissions (NOX, PM10, HC, SO2).
  • noise nuisance.
  • road traffic congestion
“In 2002 the total social costs of domestic transportation in the Netherlands, excluding aviation, ocean shipping, recreational shipping, high-speed rail, cycling and walking, amounted to approx. € 22.5 billion. Over half this figure(about 55%) is due to passenger transport by road..”

“In the case of passenger cars, besides congestion costs the main variable costs are those associated with accidents and air pollution.. the conclusion that petrol passenger cars ‘pay their way’ in terms of social costs is not generally valid, applying only to certain categories of vehicle in an uncongested situation”
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Monday, September 12, 2011

Treat Roads as Utilities?

Heavy traffic enters San Francisco every weekd...Commercializing Highways (2 page pdf, Robert W. Poole, Jr, Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) Review, Dec. 2000)

The paper reviewed today is more than a decade old but has many quotes that lay the basis for road pricing, starting with the concept of highways managed as arms length utilities instead of top-down politically managed, as many roads and highways are still run today.

Key Quotes:

“Automobiles provide 95 per cent of all individual surface trips, and trucks transport an ever-larger majority of all freight”

“$72 billion in fuel and time being wasted each year in the 68 largest US metropolitan areas due to traffic congestion”

“Transport economist Gabriel Roth calls the twentieth-century highway paradigm ‘Soviet-style’. By that he means a system:
  • that is centrally planned, in a top down fashion;
  • whose resources are allocated by political rather than economic criteria; and
  • which almost completely avoids the use of pricing”
“Several dozen countries have adopted the build-operate-transfer (BOT) model of competitively awarding long-term concessions to private consortia to finance, design, build and operate major new highways (as toll roads) over the past decade.. Last year, several countries (Canada, Italy and Portugal) went even further, actually selling off existing state toll-road owner-operators”

“Several French toll roads now charge higher prices during weekend hours when Parisians are returning to the city—and those congested peaks have been flattened and decongested”

“The new paradigm taps into pools of capital—revenue bonds and shareholder equity— that have been little used for highways. But the requirement that each project pass muster with investors serves to weed out highways built for political rather than economic reasons”

“Tolls can and should be a permanent, ongoing funding source—just like electric utility and telecom bills”

“Few people object to direct pricing in air and rail travel, electricity and telecoms service, and letter and parcel service. Once roads are understood as network utilities, pricing will come to be seen as the normal way of doing business”

“A market-driven system, where users cover all the costs, will lead to a new allocation between auto use and transit, tailored to the specifics of each metropolitan area”

“Once roads are understood as network utilities, pricing will come to be seen as the normal way of doing business”
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Friday, September 9, 2011

Why Not Report Urban Air Pollution Publicly?

WikiLeaks reveals China's failure to measure dangerous pollution- pollutant levels were not measured and made public because findings would have been 'too sensitive' for the authorities (Jonathan Watts, Guardian, Aug. 26, 2011)

Also discussed here: cable 06GUANGZHOU27482, WAITING TO INHALE: THE STATE OF AIR POLLUTION IN (Wikileaks, Aug. 23, 2011)

Today’s focus is on a report provided by Wikileaks from the US foreign service in 2006 about the reluctance of Chinese officials to report or release urban air pollution data. There is some irony here of course in the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases criticizing #2. As well, there seems to be a tendency of those responsible for air quality, particularly in the USA and Canada, of refusing to monitor or report on roadside roadside emissions in traffic-clogged cities, seen as one of the main factors for urban air pollution and its health impacts (as demonstrated in hundreds of reviews on this blog). There are exceptions, of course: New York City Community Air Survey and

Managing Hot Spots in Urban Municipalities in England (UK Local Air Quality Management Agreements directed by DEFRA)

Key Quotes:

Hong Kong officials have publicly acknowledged the importance of monitoring PM2.5 in the index, but they concede that including a pollutant whose current levels are so far above acceptable standards – a situation that is not likely to improve any time soon -- would be politically difficult”

“ PM2.5 levels in Guangdong are typically 5-10 times higher than the suggested WHO guideline levels, and 2-3 times higher than even the first-tier interim WHO targets”

“PM2.5 is not on the government index of air pollutants yet it is deemed to be of highest concern for public health because the particles are so fine they can enter into the lungs, contribute to acute respiratory symptoms, heart disease, childhood illnesses and premature deaths”

"Academics and research scientists in Guangdong, who are increasingly concerned about the region's serious air pollution, but feel pressured to tone down their comments lest they face cuts in research funding ... Scientists acknowledge that lack of transparency for existing air pollution data is a major problem both for research and policy making."

“Since the cable was written in November 2006, however, environmentalists have commended the progress that China has made in measuring, disclosing and reducing air pollution, but many of these concerns remain today”
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Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Health Benefits of Cycling

Lender bikes in StockholmImage via WikipediaThe health risks and benefits of cycling in urban environments compared with car use: health impact assessment study ( 8 page pdf, David Rojas-Rueda, Audrey de Nazelle, Marko Tainio, Mark J Nieuwenhuijsen, British Medical Journal (BMJ), Aug. 4, 2011)

Today’s focus is on a biking initiative in Barcelona which attracted 11% of the population and the impact the shift to bikes from cars had on health as well as the reductions in carbon dioxide. Results indicate a modest benefit (4% less used cars). The analysis of pro and con factors that affect cyclist’s health is worth reviewing- such as the high correlation with the duration of the bike trip and the number of days spent cycling.

Key Quotes:

Bicycle sharing schemes have become increasingly popular in countries throughout Europe, Asia, and America to encourage cycling as an alternative means of transport in urban areas.. The general impetus for these policies is more often the reduction of traffic congestion than the promotion of health”

“We focused on the three domains of exposure to air pollution, physical activity, and road traffic incidents. We also estimated the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions”

“The estimated relative risk for all cause mortality associated with physical activity among the residents of Barcelona who travelled by bicycle .. compared with by car was 0.80..An estimated 12.46 deaths were avoided each year”

“The annual reduction in carbon dioxide emissions resulting from implementation of the Bicing initiative in Barcelona was estimated to be 9062 metric tones.. represented 0.9% of emissions from all types of motor vehicles in Barcelona in 2009”

“Based on the small 4% reduction in car journeys in Barcelona according to our calculations on shift in travel mode, it is unlikely that savings on emissions would be sufficient to have a meaningful effect on population exposures and their health implications”

“Bicing so far has increased the number of cycling trips by 30%. Eleven per cent of the population in Barcelona subscribes to Bicing, although based on our estimates only 1.7% of the population are regular users”
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