Monday, December 30, 2013

How Can Cities Improve Their Use of Public Space for Parking Cars?

Traffic to/from the parking spaces on this sid...
Parking Reform Made Easy(6 Page pdf, Richard Willson, ACCESS #43, University of California Institute of Transportation Studies, Fall 2013) 

The amount of paved urban space dedicated to parking and driving private vehicles approaches 50% in many cities, crowding out elements of healthy cities such as green space, car-free pedestrian areas and cycling paths and contributing directly or indirectly to greenhouse gas emissions 80% of which come from cities. 

Today we review a proposal to approach the way that cities regulate parking that moves away from traditional systems that encourage car travel, lower density urban cores and higher traffic congestion through wasteful land use to one that raises the priority for buses, cycling and pedestrian use. 

The solution is to approach the challenge with a focus on making better use of parking spaces, adjusting that use incrementally by incorporating local needs and policy goals into Transportation Master Plans and Official Plans (planning mechanisms used by Canadian municipalities) – specifically by moving away from mandated minimum 300 sq. ft. parking spaces to a system that does not supply parking spaces until they are justified economically.

Key Quotes: 

“Parking requirements in zoning ordinances create one of the most wasteful elements of transportation and land use systems: unoccupied parking spaces. Each space requires over 300 square feet of valuable land or building area, yet many sit empty.” 

“Deregulation shifts the approach from automatically requiring parking to not supplying it until it is economically justified.” 

"Making informed decisions begins with measured parking utilization rates and .. a series of adjustments that consider local context and policy goals:
  • Measure the existing parking utilization.
  • Consider future parking utilization…
  • Begin moving from utilization rates to prospective parking requirements…
  • Adjust the prospective parking requirement to account for particular characteristics of the project or land use category, as well as area land use and transportation conditions…
  • Account for market conditions and policies regarding parking pricing..
  • Consider plans for facilities and programs to increase transit and shuttle services, bicycling, and walking.
  • Assess the impact of local practices and policies that affect how efficiently spaces are used.
  • Recognize that community parking resources, either on-street or in other off-street facilities, may justify a reduction in the parking requirement for new development...
  • Conduct a shared-parking analysis, which applies when parking requirements are being developed for mixed-use zoning categories or blended requirements..
  • Evaluate the prospective parking requirement, as adjusted through Step 9, and consider whether it supports community goals and plans…
  • Address regulations about the minimum size of parking spaces to allow an efficient yield of spaces per square foot of parking area…
  • Consider regulations allowing tandem parking (one car behind another), valet parking, and automated parking.”
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Friday, December 27, 2013

How Does Polluted Air Affect Your Eyes?

Residents of most polluted US cities -- New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami -- have increased risk of dry eye syndrome(Press Release, American Academy of Ophthalmology, Nov. 16, 2013)

Also discussed here: Residents of Most Polluted US Cities Have Increased Risk of Dry Eye Syndrome(Science Daily, Nov. 16, 2013)

And here: Dry Eye Syndrome Linked To Big City Air Pollution (Matthew Mientka, Medical Daily, Nov 17, 2013)

And here: Environmental Factors and Dry Eye Syndrome: A Study Utilizing the National U.S. Veterans Affairs Administrative Database (PO052)(Anat Galor, paper presented at 117th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Nov. 16-19, 2013)

Today we review a paper that examined the link between air pollution and a deficiency in tear production, dry eye syndrome, that affects up to 21% of the population in cities with high levels of air pollution such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and New York. The resulting impact produces stinging eyes and the production of more tears that make it difficult to read or view computer screens.


Key Quotes:

Dry eye syndrome, a deficiency in tear production, is a prevalent condition that effects up to four million people age 50 and older in the United States”

"Those living in areas with high levels of air pollution had the highest magnitude of increased risk for dry eye syndrome, at an incidence rate ratio of 1.4. Most metropolitan areas, including New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami showed relatively high prevalence of dry eye syndrome (17 to 21 percent) and high levels of air pollution.”

“a deficiency in tear production, affects as many as 4 million Americans ages 50 and older, with symptoms affecting physical and mental functioning, including the interruption of activities important to modern functioning: reading printed materials as well as on-screen material”

“Symptoms of the potentially painful and disruptive condition range from stinging or burning to excessive tearing and discomfort wearing contact lenses. Responding to the irritation, the eye often tears excessively to compensate for lost moisture, inhibiting the ability to read, or use a computer for extended periods of time”

“Aside from Chicago and New York City, major cities such as Miami and Los Angeles also recorded high levels of air pollution as well as higher than average prevalences of the condition. In big cities, as many as 17-21 percent of the populations in major cities may suffer the condition.”
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Monday, December 23, 2013

How Does Exposure to Air Pollution Affect Deaths from Pneumonia?

English: Main symptoms of infectious pneumonia...
English: Main symptoms of infectious pneumonia. Sources are found in main article: Wikipedia:Pneumonia#Signs_and_symptoms. To discuss image, please see Template_talk:Häggström diagrams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Has the short-term effect of black smoke exposure on pneumonia mortality been underestimated because hospitalisation is ignored: findings from a case-crossover study(19 page pdf, Matthew Gittins, Roseanne McNamee, Melanie Carder, Iain Beverland, Raymond M Agius, Environmental Health, Nov.7, 2013) 

 Today we review research into the location and exposure of those with pneumonia prior to being hospitalized and dying prematurely as a result of particulate pollution. Results indicate that location is an important factor and this adds another aspect that should be included in air pollution - mortality studies in general.  

Key Quotes: 

“We tested the primary hypothesis that estimated association would be greater in subjects who spent the exposure period in the ‘community’ (i.e. not in hospital) compared to those who spent some or all of the period in hospital.” 

Pneumonia occurs usually as a result of bacterial or viral infection. Often progressing rapidly within 24 hours, it presents symptoms such as coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath, and fever” 

“significant associations between BS and pneumonia mortality may have been overlooked in previous studies that have not taken into account location during exposure.” 

“Change in exposure effects on differing underlying causes of pneumonia may be a possible explanation for higher relative risk in CDP deaths.” 

Mortality displacement, also known as harvesting, is the accelerated progression of a frail sub-population to death followed by a delay in its replenishment…. Pneumonia mortality may be more susceptible to ‘harvesting’ as pneumonia is prevalent in the elderly [9,49] and is often the final cause in the chain of causes leading to death, implying a high incidence in the frail sub-population compared to the general population.” 

“evidence suggests that a subject’s location is an important factor in relation to their likelihood of pneumonia mortality due to particulate pollution exposure.”
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Friday, December 20, 2013

What Do Crematoriums Contribute to Urban Air Pollution?

Toxic Emissions from Crematories: A Review(7 page pdf, Montse Mari, José L. Domingo, Environment International, Oct. 12, 2009)

Also discussed here: Incineration - EMEP/EEA Emission Inventory Guidebook(13 page pdf, Marc Deslauriers, David R. Niemi and Mike Woodfield, 2009)

Today we review the literature on emissions from incineration of human bodies which is the way almost all bodies are disposed of in Japan and China and have increased to around 37% in the USA and Europe today and increasing about 10% per decade. Very few analyses of emissions from crematoriums are available but there are concerns about the amount of mercury from tooth fillings that end up in the air. The paper concludes that unless mercury emissions from crematories are properly controlled, these facilities -which number over 1,000 in Europe alone - could become an important source of air pollution.
Key Quotes:

“there are more than 1000 crematories in Europe (United Kingdom: 250, France: 125, Spain: 132, Sweden: 68, etc) being the percentage of cremations approximately 37%.. In 2006, the total number of cremations in Europe was more than 1,500,000.. the countries with the highest number of crematories are China and Japan, with 1549 and 1500, respectively.. In the USA, the cremation ratio also increased significantly from 15.2% in 1987 to 25.0% in 2000, and was expected to reach 37.0% in 2010”

“The major emissions from crematories are nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, particulate matter, mercury, hydrogen fluoride (HF), hydrogen chloride (HCl), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), other heavy metals, and some POPs. The emission rates depend on the design of the crematory, combustion temperature, gas retention time, duct design, duct temperature and any control devices.”

“as the concentrations of mercury may be considerable in human bodies due to the use of dental amalgamfillings, special attention should be paid to this toxic metal.”

“Although human cremation is an increasing practice, the number of studies regarding the potential risks derived from crematory emissions is very scarce in relation to the most dangerous compounds (PCDD/Fs and mercury), being even non-existent for other compounds such as NOx, CO, SO2, PAHs, etc.”

“mercury contamination by cremation comprised 0.61–1.53% of the total mercury contamination produced by all waste incineration methods in that country.[Switzerland])"

“There is a very high uncertainty in the emission factors from cremation, which is affected by:
  • the high variability in the operating temperatures;
  • the residence time in the secondary combustion chamber;
  • the fuels used (fuel oils in Sweden, natural gas in North America).”
“In recent decades, serious efforts have been made in most developed countries in order to reduce the levels of environmental mercury. In this sense, if mercury emissions from crematories are not properly controlled, these facilities could mean a relatively important source of atmospheric pollution.”
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Will Outdoor Skating Rinks Survive Anthropogenic Global Warming?

Observed decreases in the Canadian outdoor skating season due to recent winter warming (8 page pdf, Nikolay N Damyanov, H Damon Matthews and Lawrence A Mysak, Environmental Research Letter, Mar. 5, 2012)

Also discussed here: Outdoor skating rinks threatened by climate change(Canadian Press, Mar. 5, 2012)

Today we review a scientific paper that examined the length of the outdoor skating season (OSS) in Canada as a result of climate warming during the winter over the last 50 years which has been more than 2 deg C greater than expected from anthropogenic warming alone. The result is that the OSS has become shorter in all regions except, ironically, in hockey’s home in Nova Scotia. With future warming, because of climate change , there is even the prospect of outdoor hockey rinks disappearing altogether, a sobering thought for many Canadian sport enthusiasts (and Russians who likely would see the same trend).

skating rinks
Key Quotes:

“The ability to skate and play hockey outdoors is a critical component of Canadian identity and culture”

“Since 1950, winter temperatures in Canada have increased by more than 2.5 deg C, more than three times the globally averaged warming attributed to anthropogenic global warming.. In addition to the trend towards overall milder Canadian winters, studies indicate that the frequency, duration and intensity of winter cold spells have decreased in most of Canada since the 1950s”

“[start of the Outdoor Skating Season] three consecutive days where temperatures do not exceed -5  deg C as being representative of the minimum requirements for initiation of an outdoor skating rink.”

“[end of the Outdoor Skating Season] total number of days with a maximum temperature below -5 deg C after the OSS start date, and before the beginning of March”

“a warmer winter caused by climate change is restricting outdoor ice rinks from operating …Regions that are being hit the hardest are the Prairies, southeastern British Columbia and southern Ontario and Quebec…looked at how many days in January and February were cold enough to skate on backyard or community rinks built on the ground or snow.”

“In the absence of efforts to maintain artificially cooled outdoor rinks, this result implies a foreseeable end to outdoor skating in this region within the next few decades. While other Canadian regions have not seen such dramatic decreases, we nevertheless expect outdoor skating throughout Canada to be significantly negatively affected in the coming decades by continued anthropogenic global warming.”
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