Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Parking Availability and Urban Viability

Automobile use and land consumption: Empirical evidence from 12 cities(Abstract, Christopher McCahill and Norman Garrick, Urban Design International, Autumn 2012)

Also discussed here: Cars and Robust Cities Are Fundamentally Incompatible(Chris McCahill and Norman Garrick, The Atlantic Cities, Feb 12, 2013)

And here: How too much parking hurt cities(Norman Garrick and Chris McCahill, Better Cities and Towns, Feb. 12, 2013)

Today we review a study that compares a number of mid-sized cities and the impact that the amount of parking space available has on the economic and by inference, the environment, by its effect on the number of people who chose to commute by car. The study also looked at the effect of cities that increase or reduce the parking available. The results indicate that the percent of people who drive increased by 10% if the parking increased by 2,500 sq. meters per 1000 people. Downtown space – as much as 20-30 % of the urban area- that could have been used for people to live and walk to work is used for parking cars. Cities with abundant parking space encourage more people to drive than use public transit- the option of choice for low income population. Cities than have reduced the amount of parking have seen significant economic improvements for downtown businesses as well as less traffic and less pollution. If demand pricing (for parking rates as we have seen in San Francisco or for peak road use as we have seen in Stockholm) is added along with reduced parking space, it would seem to further encourage the shift from driving to transit and walking.

 parking in urban areas  

Key Quotes:

“on average each increase of 10 percentage points in the portion of commuters traveling by automobile is associated with an increase of more than 2500 m2 of parking per 1000 people and a decrease of 1700 people/km2”

“cities with higher rates of driving have fewer people – a difference of more than 4,000 people per square mile for each 10 percent change in automobile use….this has to do with the amount of land used to move and store all those cars”

 “the amount of land used for parking is a key indicator of how seriously automobile infrastructure has impacted an urban environment”

 “In cities with higher rates of automobile use ..about twice as much land is committed to parking for each resident and employee…Driving increased for people commuting in and out of the city by more than 30 percent. But even for shorter trips within each city, driving increased by as much as 45 percent”

“The combined effects of improved convenience for drivers, a degraded walking environment, service cuts to public transit and the physical separation of residential and commercial areas were forcing city-dwellers into cars. “
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Monday, March 25, 2013

How Can Canadian Cities Reduce their Emissions of Greenhouse Gases?

Toronto Skyline
Toronto Skyline (Photo credit: Bobolink)

 A low carbon infrastructure plan for Toronto, Canada(11 Page pdf, Lorraine Sugar and Christopher Kennedy, Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering, Feb. 6, 2013) 

Also discussed here: Cities can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent(NRC Research Press, Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering, Feb. 6, 2013) 

Today we review an application of a municipal energy and greenhouse gas reduction guide to Canada’s largest city, Toronto. Reductions of 30% are projected over the next 20 years and 70% in the long term with a focus on lower carbon fuel demands from the building (example solar water heaters) and transportation sectors (example higher parking rates to shift commuters from cars to transit). Many of the suggestions would allow other Canadian cities to meet the same aggressive targets.  

Key Quotes: 

"With current policies, especially cleaning of the electricity grid, Toronto's per-capita GHG emissions could be reduced by 30 per cent over the next 20 years. To go further, however, reducing emissions in the order of 70 per cent, would require significant retrofitting of the building stock, utilization of renewable heating and cooling systems, and the complete proliferation of electric, or other low carbon, automobiles." 

"Three broad categories of strategies for reducing emissions at the building scale are considered:
“Current provincial government initiatives aim to increase the market share of electric vehicles to 5% by 2020….Assuming an exponential increase in years following, the percentage of private automobile VKTs travelled by electric vehicles was taken to be 20% in 2031…… GHG emissions savings associated with the 20% adoption of electric vehicles in 2031 is 439 kt CO2e,.”

“While official plans to increase parking prices are not known, a conservative estimate of 10% was made. According to the Parking Price Estimation Guideline, this would result in a mode share decrease of 0.70% for private automobiles and a mode share increase of 0.10% for public transit.”

 “Outfitting low-rise residential homes built before 2012 with solar water heating and ground source heat pumps would also decrease fossil fuel based energy consumption. The Solar Water Heating Estimation Guideline assigns 45% savings to water heating energy needs with the addition of solar heaters in Toronto.”

“Adapting results from a study of Washington DC (Harrington et al. 2008) to Toronto in 2031, the mode share changes resulting from a VMT tax and a freeway toll would save 133.6 and 19.2 kt CO2e of GHG emissions respectively.”

“The aggressive actions applied to Toronto in this case study could be successfully applied in other municipalities in Canada and other countries”
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Friday, March 22, 2013

Is it Time for Congestion Pricing in Canada’s Capital?

Ottawa Canada June 2010 — Nepean Point Views  2
Ottawa Canada June 2010 — Nepean Point Views 2 (Photo credit: dugspr — Home for Good)
 EAC Congestion Pricing Discussion Paper(17 page pdf, Environmental Advisory Committee, City of Ottawa, May 10, 2010)

Today we review a discussion paper coauthored by the Chair of the City of Ottawa’s former Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC), Patrick Quealey, and Bill Pugsley, the EAC lead on Air Quality-Health issues. The health cost burden borne by the public from vehicle emissions, combined with the economic cost of delays due to congestion, especially in the urban core, demands an examination of options to reduce these costs. Over the last decade, other cities such as London, Stockholm and Singapore have addressed both economic and environmental impacts by implementing a congestion charge with highly successful results.

The City of Ottawa, as the nation’s capital, has a complex governance structure when it comes to roads with three different levels of government involved, making a cross-city tolling system difficult even if this might be most effective. But this does not rule out application to roads under the City’s mandate, such as the urban core. The paper’s aim was to spark a discussion of options to consider. In 2012, City Council decided to disband many of its Advisory Committees including the EAC, but the congestion issue and its health and economic impacts have not gone away. Indeed the growing need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the major role played by transportation, as a contributor, puts the focus back on this topic.

Key Quotes: 

 "The property tax cannot handle it. Tolls have got to be looked at” – Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion on road user fees. Interview of Thursday April 8th, 2010


  • Cost of congestion for Ottawa ranges from $88 million to $246 million per year 
  •  Poor air quality resulting from congestion and vehicle emissions is linked to the increasing levels of cardio-respiratory diseases. 
  • Ontario Medical Association estimates that the number of premature deaths in Ottawa due to air pollution is 503 (2008 figures) with the greatest health risks within 100m of heavy traffic. 
  • The cost of road building and maintenance in Ottawa at over $300 million per year and increasing, one of the largest items of the municipal budget, contributes significant pressures to the property tax burden. 
  • Every 10% increase in lane mile capacity results in a 9% increase in traffic volume and vehicle emissions, compounding the problem and cost. 
  • Recent experience in mid to large cities with Congestion Pricing has shown it effective at: reducing congestion; improving traffic flow thereby maximizing economic productivity; reducing air pollution and associated health impacts; providing additional revenues for public transportation and infrastructure. 


  • City Councillors and Staff are requested to provide initial thoughts/views on the concept of Congestion Pricing for Ottawa Councillors and Staff are requested to study this concept and work with EAC and other stakeholders to provide options for what options may be viable for Ottawa and include such a study in the staff workplans for next budget year 
  • Local MPPs are requested to provide initial thoughts on the option of creating a Congestion Pricing scheme to provincial highways (417, 416 and 174) within the boundaries of the City of Ottawa for the purpose of providing additional funding to both public transit and infrastructure modernization in the City of Ottawa. 
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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Getting Ready for Climate Change Impacts in the USA

The administrative regions of the United State...
The administrative regions of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Climate Change Adaptation Plan(55 page pdf, Cross-EPA Work Group on Climate Change Adaptation Planning, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Jun. 29, 2012) 

Also discussed here: Unable to stop climate change, EPA prepares for it( Philip Bump, Grist, Feb. 8, 2013) 

Today we review a draft plan prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency to deal with the known and likely impacts associated with climate change in the USA. The document is comprehensive, touching on such diverse areas as air pollution-health issues, the impact of more extremes of temperature and rainfall on flooding in communities, the impact on waste disposal and the challenges all this means to the regulation and enforcement side of EPA’s mandate. As one commentator opined “Too bad we didn’t do more a few decades ago to keep all of this from happening.”  

Key Quotes: 

“We live in a world in which the climate is changing…with climate changing more rapidly than society has experienced in the past, the past is no longer a good predictor of the future.” 

“Through climate adaptation planning, EPA will continue to protect human health and the environment, but in a way that accounts for the effects of climate change. “ 

“In the United States, temperatures are projected to warm substantially over the 21st century under all projections of future climate change. These changes pose risks for a wide range of human and environmental systems, including public health, the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink, freshwater resources, the coastal environment, wildlife and ecosystems, infrastructure, economic activity, cultural resources and social well-being.” 

“Potential vulnerabilities remain difficult to assess in some areas because of limited scientific understanding of the potential impacts of climate change on some of EPA’s programs: 
• The effect of climate change on energy efficiency programs given changes in energy demand and supply. 
• The effects of climate change on multi-pollutant interactions in ecosystems …..”

“climate change could increase tropospheric ozone levels over broad areas of the country. Climate change also has the potential to lengthen the ozone season, and may increase individuals’ vulnerability to air pollution”
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Monday, March 18, 2013

Bicycle Boulevards for Cleaner Air

Cyclist route choice, traffic-related air pollution, and lung function: a scripted exposure study(24 page pdf, Sarah Jarjour, Michael Jerrett, Dane Westerdahl, Audrey Nazelle, Cooper Hanning, Laura Daly, Jonah Lipsitt, John Balmes , Environmental Health, Feb. 7, 2013)

Today we review research on the exposure of cyclists to pollution while commuting on urban streets in Berkeley, California. Comparisons were made between conditions on special cyclist routes along low traffic corridors – bicycle boulevards- with those on major roadways. Results indicate significantly lower exposure while on roads with low traffic and outside of rush hours. bike emissions  

Key Quotes:

“In the United States, cycling accounts for less than 1% of trips”

“While measured concentrations of PM2.5, elemental carbon, and ultrafine particulate matter are similar or higher inside vehicles than on bicycles, cyclists’ minute ventilation has been recorded at two to four times that of car passengers”

 “the Berkeley Bicycle Plan, which established a network of seven bicycle boulevards: low-volume residential streets with signs, pavement markings, and traffic calming devices designed to promote safe and convenient bicycle commuting and walking.. the Berkeley Bicycle Plan deemed streets with low traffic volumes, defined as less than 3,000-4,000 vehicles per day, as appropriate for bicycle boulevards.”

 “We found significantly elevated concentrations of ultrafine particulate matter and carbon monoxide, and borderline significant differences for black carbon on the high-traffic route relative to the low-traffic route..we also found that spikes in pollutant concentrations occurred mainly at intersections and busy streets or truck routes.”

“avoiding rush-hour periods significantly reduces cyclists’ pollution exposure”

“Lower pollutant exposures associated with low-traffic routes and bicycle boulevards may support future changes to the built environment (city, building, and street design) that allow for healthier and safer routes for active transportation.”
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