Monday, January 30, 2012

Health Impacts of Electric Railway Noise

Railway noise barrier / Lärmschutzwand. Locati...Image via Wikipedia
Transportation Noise and Blood Pressure in a Population-Based Sample of Adults (6 page pdf, Julia Dratva, Harish C. Phuleria, Maria Foraster, Jean-Michel Gaspoz, Dirk Keidel, Nino Künzli, L.-J. Sally Liu, Marco Pons, Elisabeth Zemp, Margaret W. Gerbase, Christian Schindler, Environ Health Perspect, Jan. 2012)

Today, the focus is on a study of the impacts of railway noise on residents of a city in Switzerland. Differences with noise and air pollution from vehicle traffic are noted as well as the distinguishing characteristic of railway noise being more variable in volume and in being intermittent. While no association with hypertension was found, clear links with blood pressure were found in patients with diabetes. There would seem to be a need to consider similar health effects from electric rail systems (LRTs) being constructed for public urban transit in highly populated areas of many medium to large cities in the USA and Canada.

Key Quotes:

“We aimed to investigate the effects of railway and traffic noise exposure on blood pres­sure; a secondary aim was to address potentially susceptible subpopulations”

“in densely populated countries with a dense railway network, such as Switzerland, railway noise should also be addressed…. an area of 35 km2 in daytime and 56 km2 in night­time is exposed to noise levels above accepted thresholds; 100% of this area is located in urban and highly populated areas… In Switzerland, trains are electrically powered”

“The SONBASE noise model assumes that only households within a 1,000-m radius of railway tracks experience railway noise”

“No significant asso­ciation was seen between transportation noise and prevalence of hypertension”

” stratified analyses yielded a significant positive association with blood pressure in par­ticipants with doctor-diagnosed diabetes”

Traffic noise from heavily frequented streets corresponds to a continuous exposure without much variation in noise exposure lev­els, whereas railway noise is characterized by a discontinuous pattern of intermittent very high maximum sound pressure levels and steep slopes of rise.. The intermittent pattern of noise exposure is thought to be more disruptive”

“Effects from traffic noise were not seen in the study population as a whole, but positive associations were esti­mated in subjects with self-reported diabetes and CVD”
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Friday, January 27, 2012

Decarbonizing Europe

English: Worldwide Renewable energy, existing ...Image via WikipediaEnergy Roadmap 2050 (20 page pdf, Communication From the Commission to the European Parliament, The Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and The Committee of the Regions, European Commission, Dec. 2011)

Also discussed here: Towards a competitive low-carbon energy sector (European Commission, Dec. 19, 2011

And here: EU’s “Energy Roadmap 2050” Published (Zachary Shahan, Clean Technica Dec. 27, 2011

While many countries have very modest plans to decarbonize in the short term (e.g. Canada and the US with a 17% reduction target by 2020), few countries have serious plans beyond this. The EU recently released a plan, or rather a series of scenarios, to achieve the required reduction of carbon fuels and a stable global climate by 2050 – if that is not too late for the atmosphere to recover, a question being debated between the carbon energy proponents on the one hand and serious climate researchers on the other who would see the target moved to much earlier. Whatever reductions occur, there will be significant improvements also in air pollution and the health benefits that come from that which is the prime focus of this blog, so that we follow the development of decarbonization plans such as this with much interest. Some of the implications of this roadmap are noted including the need to engage the public and the role of nuclear energy, energy efficiency, and managing energy demand.

Key Quotes:

“Committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050, the EU is exploring the challenges of decarbonisation”

“With electricity prices set to rise until 2030, investment is needed now in “intelligent” electricity grids and improved technologies to produce, transmit and store energy more effectively”

“In this Energy Roadmap 2050 the Commission explores the challenges posed by delivering the EU's decarbonisation objective while at the same time ensuring security of energy supply and competitiveness”

“Vulnerable consumers are best protected from energy poverty through a full implementation by Member States of the existing EU energy legislation and use of innovative energy efficiency solutions”

Decarbonisation scenarios
  • High Energy Efficiency. …leads to a decrease in energy demand of 41% by 2050 as compared to the peaks in 2005-2006.
  • Diversified supply technologies…Decarbonisation is driven by carbon pricing assuming public acceptance of both nuclear and Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS).
  • High Renewable energy sources (RES)…leading to a very high share of RES in gross final energy consumption (75% in 2050) and a share of RES in electricity consumption reaching 97%.
  • Delayed CCS…decarbonisation driven by carbon prices rather than technology push.
  • Low nuclear. .. that no new nuclear is being built …resulting in a higher penetration of CCS (around 32% in power generation).
“Ten structural changes for energy system transformation:
  • Decarbonisation is possible – and can be less costly than current policies in the long-run
  • Higher capital expenditure and lower fuel costs
  • Electricity plays an increasing role
  • Electricity prices rise until 2030 and then decline
  • Household expenditure will increase
  • Energy savings throughout the system are crucial
  • Renewables rise substantially
  • Carbon capture and storage has to play a pivotal role in system transformation
  • Nuclear energy provides an important contribution
  • Decentralisation and centralised systems increasingly interact
“Transforming the energy system:
  • Energy saving and managing demand: a responsibility for all
  • Switching to renewable energy sources
  • Gas plays a key role in the transition
  • Transforming other fossil fuels
  • Nuclear energy as an important contributor
  • Smart technology, storage and alternative fuels
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Free Parking and Planning Sustainable Cities

Between the Lines (Dave Gardetta, Los Angeles Magazine, Dec. 1, 2011)

The focus today, as it has been in past reviews, is the craziness involved in cities which give away free parking or set parking rates at the same low rate regardless of the demand- with a prominent example from Los Angeles compared with the more enlightened planners and traffic engineers in San Francisco which has migrated to dynamic parking prices and high tech aids to manage their traffic and parking.

The problem is not just in California, however, as you see the same thing in huge mandated parking lots and set parking fees in the downtown areas of Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto (and probably others too) - which adds to the congested misery of these air polluted, car-addicted cities.

Key Quotes:

“That prized garage space or curbside spot you’ve been yearning for may be costing you—and the city—in ways you never realized. A journey into the world of parking, where meter maids are under siege, everybody’s on the take, and the tickets keep on coming”

Parking spaces can be amazingly expensive to fabricate. In aboveground structures they cost as much as $40,000 apiece. Belowground, all that excavating and shoring may run a developer $140,000 per space”

“The garage—designed to serve the public good—instantly made the Metro immaterial to concertgoers, placed several thousand cars on the road every week, and pumped a few hundred tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year”

““After a concert in San Francisco, the streets are full of people walking to their cars, eating in restaurants, stopping into bars and bookstores. In L.A.? The bar next door at Patina is a ghost town.”

“What if the free and abundant parking drivers crave is about the worst thing for the life of cities?”

“I truly believe that when men and women think about parking, their mental capacity reverts to the reptilian cortex of the brain…How to get food, ritual display, territorial dominance—all these things are part of parking, and we’ve assigned it to the most primitive part of the brain that makes snap fight-or-flight decisions. Our mental capacities just bottom out when we talk about parking.”
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Monday, January 23, 2012

Health Impacts from Traffic-Related Air Pollution and Biomass Fuels

English: A schematic of the global air polluti...

Respiratory health effects of air pollution: Update on biomass smoke and traffic pollution ( 9 page pdf, Robert J. Laumbach and Howard M. Kipen, Clinical reviews in allergy and immunology, The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Jan, 2012)

Also discussed here: Review Hardens Links Between Air Pollution, Health Problems (Christine Hsu, Medical Daily, Dec. 26, 2011)

Today’s review article is very useful overview and updated literature review of two types of pollution that are both increasing in importance and have not been as well researched as ambient air pollution as a major health impact: the burning of carbon fuels inside homes (BMFs) in developing countries and exposure to traffic related air pollution (TRAPs) near roadways. The authors conclude by listing what is known and what is not, some of which is noted below.

Key Quotes:

“recent research has heightened the focus on 2 broad sources of air pollution: biomass fuels (BMFs) and motor vehicles. Understanding of the health effects of BMFs and traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) has lagged behind that of ambient air pollution”

“Although tobacco smoke is clearly the dominant cause of COPD worldwide, BMF smoke is now recognized as a major cause of COPD, especially among women in less-developed countries (LDCs)… The WHO has estimated that BMF smoke exposure is responsible for about 1.5 million premature deaths per year..About 2.4 billion persons live in households in which BMFs are the primary fuel for cooking, heating, or both”

“Concentrations of TRAP have steep gradients near roadways, with heightened exposure to persons living, attending school, or working near major roads in urban areas and return of TRAP to background levels within several hundred meters away from roadways…TRAP exposures are concentrated in areas of greater traffic density, which, at least in the United States, tend to be inner-city communities of lower socioeconomic status with a higher burden of environmental contamination/effects”

“non freeway pollutants demonstrated a stronger effect than those from freeways, possibly reflecting an effect of frequent acceleration and deceleration on TRAP characteristics”

“What do we know?
  • It is more difficult to estimate individual exposures to BMFs and TRAP than to ambient air pollution.
  • TRAP has been shown to increase the risk of COPD in well-controlled studies.
  • TRAPis associated with the development of asthma in adults.
  • Short-term air pollution interventions have been shown to decrease respiratory morbidity.
What is still unknown?
  • How much asthma risk is actually attributable to TRAP
  • A widely approved and acceptable method to reduce pollution from burning BMFs
  • Effects of TRAP on respiratory outcomes beyond asthma
  • How TRAP causes asthma: allergic, irritant, and/or other
  • Whether neonatal exposures to TRAP actually represent a critical window to cause childhood asthma”
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Friday, January 20, 2012

Turning Parking Lots and Urban Highways into Parks

In Madrid’s Heart, Park Blooms Where a Freeway Once Blighted (Michael Kimmelman, New York Times, Dec. 26, 2011)

Also discussed here : Parks in, Cars not out? Is that going to be our future? (World Streets, Dec. 27, 2011)

And here: Madrid Rio (8 slides)

Today the focus is on an article which reviews the large number of cities worldwide which have replaced their highways with parks, rivers and areas to be enjoyed by their citizens, instead of adding to the blight of inner city slums intersected by polluting roads. The highlight is on Madrid Rio in Spain’s capital which appears to have transformed the entire city, as can be seen in the slideshow linked below.

Key Quotes:

“All around the world, highways are being torn down and waterfronts reclaimed; decades of thinking about cars and cities reversed; new public spaces created.”

San Francisco, the 1989 earthquake overcame years of entrenched thinking: the Embarcadero Freeway was taken down, which reconnected the city with its now glorious waterfront.

“Seoul, the removal of a stretch of highway along the now-revived Gaecheon stream has made room for a five-mile-long recreation area called Cheonggyecheon

Milwaukee, the destruction of the Park East freeway spur has liberated acres of downtown for parks and neighborhood development

the nearly-30-year, bank-busting Big Dig fiasco made Boston a better place by tunneling a downtown highway, though it was obviously nobody’s idea of a stellar urban redevelopment project.

New York, .. tearing down the Sheridan Expressway… to replace it with homes, commercial spaces, playgrounds, swimming pools and soccer fields arrayed along the Bronx River.

Madrid.. Its creation, in four years, atop a complex network of tunnels dug to bury an intrusive highway, .. Twenty-seven miles of new tunnels were dug; countless tons of granite installed to make paths and fountains; some 8,000 pine trees planted.

Chicago, to push through something big and great that is entirely for the public, like Millennium Park, 24.5 downtown acres of cultural attractions risen largely from rail yards and parking lots.
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Privitized, Dynamically Priced Parking- a good deal for cash strapped cities?

Chicago Cashing In on Privatized Parking; Could LA be Next? (Steven Dornfeld, City Watch, Dec. 19, 2011)

Also discussed here: CPM-Chicago Parking Meters

A key example of the value of applying the pricing concept to parking rates is described in the article reviewed today about Chicago where the investment in the new technology needed for smart meters and dynamic rates was covered by leasing the parking system to the private sector. The result is increased revenue to the city, less congestion and vehicle emissions downtown as fewer vehicles have to search for a parking space and a public that is slow to accept it- the director of parking amusingly said "Thank God we don't have capital punishment" in Illinois”. This reminds us of the slow careful approach used in Stockholm to gain public acceptance of congestion pricing there.

Key Quotes:

“The initiative has enabled the city to extract large up-front payments from parking concessionaires, modernize its parking system and launch a form of "congestion pricing" aimed at reducing the parking crunch in downtown Chicago

“city launched the effort in 2006, soliciting proposals to modernize four downtown parking garages and awarding a 99-year lease for $563 million..Two years later, he said, the city did the same thing with 34,500 on-street parking meters and 18 metered lots with another 1,240 spaces. It ultimately awarded a 99-year lease for $1.56 billion”

“all of the city's "dumb" parking meters were replaced with more than 4,600 "smart," solar-powered pay boxes at a cost of more than $40 million. The pay boxes can handle the fees for up to 15 parking spaces and the rates can be changed via wireless technology”

“a rate schedule was established that will raise rates by 2013 to amounts ranging from $6.50 per hour in the Chicago loop to $2 per hour in more remote neighborhoods. Prior to 2009, the rates at most meters were 25 cents per hour”

“Chicago uses wireless technology to reduce rates at some parking meters during non-peak hours. However, thus far, city officials thus far have resisted the idea of employing a system of "dynamic pricing" to change rates depending on demand”
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Monday, January 16, 2012

Jane Jacobs and the Sustainable City

Jane Jacobs, 2004. Part of a picture of Jacobs...Image via WikipediaDefining principles: Remembering Mrs. Jacobs, The Power of Jane Jacobs’ “Web Way of Thinking”
(Michael Mehaffy, World Streets, Dec.23. 2011)

Also discussed here: Jane Jacobs

Although born as an American and having made significant contributions to the New York City landscape, Jane Jacobs is often fondly viewed by Canadians as one of their own and one of the main influences on how Toronto developed as one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world. Today, we feature a review and a list of Jane’s “lessons” for urban planners, thanks to Eric Britton at the World Streets blog and an article reprinted there by Michael Mehaffy. These tips provide the basis for a sustainable city in all respects.

Key Quotes:

Jane Jacobs’ Top Ten Lessons:
  • The city needs to maintain a continuous walkable fabric that promotes “thorough going city mobility and fluidity of use.”
  • The antithesis of this approach is to create isolated “projects” or project neighborhoods – large, disruptive superblocks of monocultures, featuring artfully designed, unchangeable buildings, surrounded by amorphous no-man’s landscapes
  • The best way to fight gentrification is not to demolish old buildings and build high rises, but to go into other depressed areas and regenerate them
  • The city must not be treated as a work of art, or a sculpture gallery
  • Zoning is not inherently bad, but should be liberal with regard to use, and prescriptive with regard to the way buildings address the street.
  • Density is a valuable urban ingredient in context, but is not an end in itself.
  • Sidewalk contacts are the small change from which a city’s wealth of public life may grow
  • Diversity does not by itself guarantee avoidance of economic stratification
  • We need to recognize that economic systems are feedback mechanisms for the values we seek, and we must treat economics as such – recognizing that there is as much danger in “money floods” as in “money droughts.”
  • The capacity to solve our problems rests with the informal web of creative and regulatory relationships we have – our culture – and not with specialized “experts.”
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Friday, January 13, 2012

Speed Kills, But So Do Speed Bumps

Traffic calming measures (road narrowing and s...Image via WikipediaUrban Traffic Calming and Health: A Literature Review ( 152 page pdf, Olivier Bellefleur & François Gagnon, National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy, Institut national de santé publique du Québec, Nov. 2011)

Today, the focus is on a report that reviews the literature on health aspects of traffic calming. Among several surprising points is that traffic calming is usually aimed at and has benefits related to reduced speed as a prime factor for injuries or fatalities from collisions. But many traffic calming techniques, such as speed humps, cause a variation in speed- a temporary slowing followed by rapid acceleration and THIS results in a doubling of vehicle emissions and lower air quality near the road. The message is to take both pollution impacts and speed impacts into consideration when implementing traffic calming.

Key Quotes:

“The effects of traffic-calming measures and strategies on the four health determinants considered in this review (number and severity of collisions, air quality, environmental noise, and active transportation) are usually conceived of as being linked – directly or indirectly – to the two main mechanisms of action associated with such measures, namely, the reduction of driving speeds and of traffic volumes at intervention sites”

“two main mechanisms of action to classify traffic-calming measures into two broad categories: those used to reduce driving speeds and those used to reduce traffic volumes”

“In urban environments, traffic is responsible for a significant portion of emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxides (CO), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – including hydrocarbons (HC), and particulate matter (PM)…in Toronto, motor vehicles are responsible for 85% of CO, 69% of NOx and 16% of PM2.5”

“traffic-calming strategies can influence air pollutant emissions and ambient air quality by means of three main mechanisms:

Reduction of vehicle speeds- slowing down of traffic due to traffic calming strategies should be accompanied by an increase in emissions.. a decrease in driving speeds and more frequent speed variations following the interventions explain the increases observed

Reduction of speed variations- Frequently varying speed while driving thus tends to produce more air pollutant emissions than driving at a constant speed

Reduction of traffic volume- approximately 90% of air pollutants are emitted during the first 200 seconds that a car is in motion when travelling less than 6 km in a city”
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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Health Impacts from Road Dust and Coarse Particulates

Deutsch: Spikes (Reifen), selbst erstellt 100/...Image via WikipediaEstimated Short-Term Effects of Coarse Particles on Daily Mortality in Stockholm, Sweden (27 page pdf, Kadri Meister, Christer Johansson, Bertil Forsberg, Environ Health Perspect, Dec. 19. 2011)

The focus today is on the short term health impacts from coarser particles that come from traffic and roads other than through emissions- an aspect not as well studied as the impacts from fine particles. For a number of reasons, both these types of particle and the health impacts from them are highest in the winter and spring.

Key Quotes:

“In this study we estimate the effects of short-term exposure of coarse particles on daily mortality in Stockholm.. coarse particle levels are expected to be more spatially heterogeneous than fine particle levels”

“serious health effects associated with particles with an aerodynamic diameter ≤ 10 μm (PM10) and ≤ 2.5 μm (fine fraction; PM2.5) are documented in many studies”

“At roadside locations the majority of traffic exhaust particles are 10-30 nm in diameter, which is too small to result in a large aerosol mass, even when number concentrations are high”

“[in Berlin] about 45% of local traffic contributions to roadside PM10 concentrations were due to suspended soil material, while the remaining traffic contribution was due to vehicle exhaust and tire abrasion”

“In northern Europe, coarse particle concentrations are generally elevated during winter and spring due to the use of studded tires, road salt, and traction sand.. the daily mean concentrations of PM2.5-10 are highest during late winter and spring”
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Monday, January 9, 2012

Does the Economy Affect Air Pollution and Health for Seniors?

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times: Understanding Pro-cyclical Mortality Use a mirror (45 page pdf, Ann Huff Stevens, Douglas L. Miller, Marianne E. Page, Mateusz Filipski, National Bureau of Economy, Dec. 2011)

Also discussed here: Why Boom Times Kill (Robin Hanson, Overcoming Bias, Dec. 19, 2011)

We know that the elderly are more vulnerable to health impacts from air pollution than other age groups but a further complication is the impact on how well these people are cared for during cycles in the economy. Today’s review is on an analysis of the link between unemployment rates and the care for the elderly in nursing homes and shows that lower unemployment generally results in fewer nursing assistants being available- at least in the USA where the study was based. In addition, because more elderly in nursing homes are women, the impact is greater for them. The broader point is that taking steps to improve air pollution during boon times would have specific health benefits for women.

Key Quotes:

why the probability of dying increases when economic times are good.
  • leisure time declines when the economy improves, making it more costly to undertake health-producing activities that are time-intensive.
  • Hazardous working conditions, job related stress and the physical exertion of employment, for example, may all have negative effects on health, and are expected to increase when the economy is expanding.
  • when more people are working, roadways are more congested, and this leads to an increase in the probability of being involved in a fatal auto accident..Similarly, pollution may vary over the business cycle and contribute to mortality fluctuations.
  • labor market changes leading to changes in the quantity or quality of purchased inputs to health (such as health care workers), could also affect mortality rates”
“women tend to be married to older men, and because men have a shorter life expectancy than women, older women are relatively more likely to have a market-based caregiver than are older men, and they are more likely to reside in nursing homes at the end of their lives”

“most of the additional deaths that occur during times of economic growth are among the elderly, particularly elderly women, who have limited labor force attachment. Focusing on mortality among the elderly, we show that cyclicality is especially strong for deaths occurring in nursing homes, and is stronger in states where a higher fraction of the elderly reside in nursing homes”

“a one percentage point cut in the unemployment rate leads to three percent fewer nursing assistants, which increases the national death rate by a half percent (which cuts about three weeks of life per person)”

“a one-percentage point increase in a state’s unemployment rate leads to a 0.54% reduction in that state’s mortality rate…Approximately 80 percent of the averted respiratory deaths are among those over age 60. … Virtually all of the additional cardiovascular deaths are among those over age 65”

“Nursing homes experience especially severe shortages of nursing aides when the economy is strong. … Between 70 to 90% of home health care agencies and nursing homes indicate shortages of direct care workers”
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Friday, January 6, 2012

Air pollution and congestion charges in London, England

Until 18 February 2007 the congestion charge a...Image via WikipediaPay as you go: managing traffic impacts in a world-class city (55 page pdf, John Whitelegg, Eco-Logica Ltd, Lancaster, Dec. 2, 2011)

Also discussed here: Whitelegg proposes radical overhaul and extension of congestion charge in London (World Streets, Dec. 19, 2011)

The report reviewed today looks back at almost a decade of experience with London’s congestion charge system and analyses the reasons for its success as well as its weaknesses. Several interesting points are made including the way that free parking at work offsets the advantages of road pricing, the process of persuasion needed to gain public support and the degree to which trucks and heavy vehicles are the source of road damage and should therefore bear higher congestion fees for road use.

Key Quotes:

“a London-wide road pricing scheme is essential and without it congestion will worsen, air pollution will worsen, the legal consequences of failing to meet air quality standards will grow in severity and fall on the GLA, the health of Londoners will suffer, CO2 reduction targets will be missed”

“Advantages that can be claimed for this include:
  • It reduces traffic levels and this reduction makes a welcome contribution to reducing air pollution, noise and greenhouse gases
  • ..over 4000 deaths in London each year are in part attributable to poor air quality
  • It sends a powerful message to all 7.6 million Londoners that something is being done to bring about an improvement in quality of life and that year-on year increases in traffic are simply not acceptable ..
  • It generates a stream of revenue that is available for investment in public transport, walking and cycling and this supports sustainable transport objectives”
“81% of car commuters into central London park free at work and “market-priced parking should therefore produce even greater reductions in traffic congestion” (than congestion charging)”

“It is supported by:
  • economists who are concerned with economic efficiency, proper working of the market and productivity
  • environmentalists who see traffic noise, air pollution, greenhouse gases from the transport sector and threats to walking and cycling as serious problems that need sorting out
  • those who focus on equity and social justice and want to see policies introduced that benefit women, children, the elderly and those on low incomes.
“The current congestion charge in London has generated total revenue of £2.182 billion and £1.287 billion of this has been spent on operating the system. A new London-wide ERP system has the potential to generate an income of £1-2 billion pa”

“Lorries account for 90% of the damage done to roads…“lorries in general and each class of lorry, should pay in taxation at least the road track costs which they impose…the public costs of accidents should be included in the calculation of road track costs.”

“The widening of a charging area to the whole of London largely eliminates the possibility of re-routeing effects and increases in distances travelled on orbital routes/alternative routes”
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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Lessons Learned from Stockholm’s Congestion Charges

The Stockholm congestion charges – lessons after 5 years (18 page pdf, Börjesson, M; Eliasson, J; Beser Hugosson, M; Brundell-Freij, K., Centre for Transport Studies, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Dec. 2011)

Also discussed here: How Sweden cut traffic congestion (Brad Plumer, Washington Post Wonkblog, Dec.15, 2011)

An excellent analysis of the social, economic and political aspects of the Stockholm congestion charges is the focus of today’s review. The report explains why the public which was against the charges initially come to support it, after they saw it worked- and traffic was permanently reduced by just under 20%. Also, the revenue generated was directed to improved public transit, already supported in Stockholm to a higher degree than in the USA or Canada with the exception of New York City, making it easier for commuters to make the switch from cars to transit. This factor, also seen in Sweden, no doubt led to the local New Yorker’s support for the proposed congestion charge scheme which was stopped in the end, not at the municipal but at the state level. Probably the most important lesson learned is the understanding and acceptance of pricing the value of a public good or service after following the approach taken by the Swedes, whether it is transportation and congestion, or by extension of the concept, to other municipal services such as waste, water or electric power.

(average number of passages across the cordon per weekday (6 am to 7 pm) for each month from January 2005 through September 2010)

Key Quotes:

“The Stockholm congestion charging system consists of a simple toll cordon around the inner city, thereby reducing traffic through the bottlenecks located at the arterials leading into the inner city”

“About 20 percent of the drop in Stockholm came about because Swedes shifted to public transit. Meanwhile, commercial traffic into the city — deliveries and freight — dropped by about 15 percent as companies adjusted to the new charges by switching routes or combining trips”

“The trial: Immediate reaction, slightly diminishing over time.. 24 % of commuting trips across the cordon disappeared; nearly all of these switched to transit – only 1 % switched route to avoid the cordon”

“The in-between period: Traffic increased, but some effects of charging remained.. between the end of the trial and the reintroduction of the charges, traffic volumes remained 5-10 %6 lower than in 2005”

“Permanent charges: Immediate effects, successive volume increase due to external factors…In the end of 2008, the relative difference compared to the 2005 level was -17 %”

The share of exempt vehicles has remained constant, but applied to more cost-sensitive traffic in 2009 than in 2006. Passages with taxis, which were exempt from congestion charge during the trial, were no longer exempt in 2009”

“people in many cases do not like prices as an allocation mechanism...But once familiar with the concept that road space is in principle a scarce good that can be priced – much like parking space or telecommunication capacity – this reluctance may tend to decrease”

“The standard analysis of congestion charges underestimates the number of “winners” and the total benefit of congestion charging. This is because the standard “textbook” analysis neglects three things: dynamics, network effects and user heterogeneity”

“Perceived “system” effects also affect acceptability. In other words, it is not just perceived individual costs and benefits that determine acceptability. Hence, the “branding” of the charges matters – how they are marketed, explained and perceived”
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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What You Liked Best in 2011

Overview of main health effects on humans from...Image via WikipediaOverview of main health effects on humans from...Image via Wikipedia

Here is the list of the most visited posts over the last year:

1. The Cleanest (and Dirtiest) Cities in the World

2. Health Effects of Noise

3. Traffic-Related Air Pollution Literature Review

4. Masdar City - zero carbon, zero waste

5. Global Health Impact of Air, Land and Water Pollution

6. Impact of Traffic Air Pollution on Health in Toronto 

7. Low and Zero Energy Buildings (ZEB)

8. Health Effects of Air Pollution from Motor Vehicles 

9. Roundabouts, Cleaner Air and Safer Intersections

10. Health and Urban Poverty

The most popular one posted in 2011 was #7 on zero energy buildings. The perennially most popular post since the blog began in 2009 is #4 on zero -waste Masdar City.

As we begin 2012, the posted reviews will be reduced to three a week, usually on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, in order to maintain a high content quality.
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