Monday, April 29, 2013

Where to Find Money for Public Transit?

Big Move Implementation Economics:Revenue Tool Profiles(230 page pdf, AECOM.KPMG, prepared for Metrolinx, Apr. 2, 2013) 

And here: Toll roads work but don’t use them to subsidize public transit(National Post, Andrew Coyne, Apr. 3, 2013) 

Today we review a report which assessed a wide range of possible revenue options to cover the $50 B cost of improved public transit over the next 25 years for the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTAH), the largest population centre in Canada. While a downtown cordon congestion charge was not recommended because of a lack of alternative mobility modes, an innovative vehicle mileage charge (VKT) using GPS technology was suggested that could generate almost $2B/yr in the next decade, as well as highway tolls that could generate up to $1.5 B/yr and reduce the demand for road use and the resulting pollution. The report includes a useful analysis of revenue potentials from existing congestion pricing experiences in London, Stockholm, and Manchester. Journalist and road pricing advocate, 

Andrew Coyne, cautions against road pricing to subsidize public transit. Road pricing can reduce congestion and the resulting more smoothly running traffic benefits both those who use the roads and those who use transit. THAT becomes the attraction to encourage drivers to use transit, not cheaper fares as passengers seek quicker commute times (and convenience and comfort) above other points. As for the drivers, without some check on road use via appropriate pricing, any speed-up of traffic would be temporary and congestion would redevelop. Further, subsidized public transit contributes to sprawl which road pricing discourages. A final selection of options will be part of a strategy to be proposed by Metrolinx, the transit authority, for government approval in June 2013 following extensive public consultation. 
Toronto Skyline
Toronto Skyline (Photo credit: Bobolink)
 Key Quotes: 

“recommendations for raising $2 billion annually for the next 25 years — the amount estimated in Metrolinx’s 25-year, $50-billion Big Move regional transportation plan” “some innovative schemes that might be piloted locally. One — an odometer tracking or GPS-based technology system — would see Toronto area motorists charged for each kilometre they travel in the region.” 

“The point of a toll, like any price, is to charge people the full cost of their use of resources. The point of a subsidy is to hide the true costs from them: in this case, to induce more people to use transit than would do if they had to pay the full price” 

“subsidizing transit contributes to another problem more typically blamed on private cars: sprawl”  

Some specific options:  

“Development charges …A boost of $2,000 to $3,000 per new residential unit would generate $25 million to $50 million per year..  

Employer payroll tax .. based on the employer’s proximity to transit lines. .. could raise between $810 million and $920 million by 2021…  

Gas tax : A 0.5-cent/litre fuel tax could raise $300 million to $400 million a year by 2021..  

High-occupancy toll lanes..could generate between $160 million and $250 million...  

Highway tolls..could raise up to $1.5 billion a year at a cost of 10 cents/km.. 

 Land value capture : Developers could end up paying more for land in the vicinity of specific transit improvements..  

Parking space levy .. a charge of $1 per space per day, it could generate $1.4 billion to $1.6 billion...  

Property tax : Based on the assumption of $7.7 billion in property taxes raised in 2010, a 5.2 per cent increase could raise up to $650 million in 2021…  

Sales tax : A 1 per cent sales tax applied to all consumer goods in the region could generate up to $1.6 billion...  

Transit fare increase..A 10-cent increase on 618 million annual transit trips in the Toronto region could generate up to $45 million...  

Vehicle kilometres travelled ..a charge of .03 cents/km might generate up to $1.9 billion by 2021, taking into account the inevitable reduction in trips as drivers adjust their habits. Implementing such a system would be costly but could dramatically affect driver behaviour as well as raising funds.”
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Friday, April 26, 2013

Who has the Right to a Healthy Environment and Who Doesn't?

Right to a healthy environment?(Dianne Saxe, Envirolaw, Apr. 5, 2013)

Also discussed here : The Constitutional Right to a Healthy Environment(David R. Boyd, Environment Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, Aug. 2012)

The answer to the title of today’s post is in 177countries of the world, but not in United States, Canada, China, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, among 16 “laggards”, according to the report reviewed today. Why not? Those few countries that do not have substantive protection apparently are influenced by a series of concerns including the fear of the court taking precedence over legislators, a fear of a “flood of litigation” or “too vague to be useful”. Makes you wonder, especially if you are a Canadian, especially at a time when full government action is needed (and absent) to take on the challenge of climate change and air pollution.

 right to healthy environment  

Key Quotes:

[Stockholm Declaration, 1972] “Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being, and he bears a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations.”

“the right to a healthy environment is not found in pioneering human rights documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), or the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (1966)”

“177 of the world's 193 UN member nations recognize this right [to a healthy environment] through their constitution, environmental legislation, court decisions, or ratification of an international agreement..The only remaining holdouts are the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, China, Oman, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Brunei Darussalam, Lebanon, Laos, Myanmar, North Korea, Malaysia, and Cambodia.”

“some subnational governments recognize the right to a healthy environment, including six American states, five Canadian provinces or territories, and a growing number of cities”

[BUT] “constitutional environmental rights are: Too vague to be useful, Redundant because of existing human rights and environmental laws, A threat to democracy because they shift power from elected legislators to judges, Not enforceable, Likely to cause a flood of litigation, Likely to be ineffective”

[France constitution 2001] “Charter for the Environment that incorporated recognition of the right to live in a healthy environment, the obligation to protect the environment, the precautionary principle, and other key ecological principles”

[Portugal consititution, 1976] “Everyone has the right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment and the duty to defend it.”

 “Constitutional recognition of the right to a healthy environment requires that all proposed laws and regulations be screened to ensure that they are consistent with the government's duty to respect, protect, and fulfill the right.” « seeking a federal injunction requiring the national government to take all necessary steps to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 6% each year, beginning in 2013."
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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How Does Urban Population Growth Affect Health in China and Elsewhere?

Urbanisation and health in China (10 page pdf, Peng Gong, Song Liang, Elizabeth J Carlton, Qingwu Jiang, Jianyong Wu, Lei Wang, Justin V Remais, The Lancet, Mar. 3, 2012)

Today we review the state of the environment and health in the most quickly growing (and largest) cities in the world that have come about because of a massive shift from rural to urban areas where migrants make up 40% of the population. A major health threat comes from the parallel increase in industry and increase in the use of vehicles which affect outdoor air quality and is the cause of 400,000 premature deaths each year which becomes even more critical in a society that is aging faster (and is older) than the global average (by 2050, median age expected to be 50 vs 38 years). The paper under review calls for more stringent regulation of industrial and vehicle emissions. china urban growth china cities gdp  

Key Quotes:

China has seen the largest human migration in history… a rise in urban population from 191 million in 1980, to 622 million in 2009.. more than 1500 people per km2”

Urban environmental quality, including air and water pollution, contributes to disease both in urban and in rural areas, and traffic-related accidents pose a major public health threat as the country becomes increasingly motorized”

“Despite the speed and scale of Chinese urbanisation, the process has been distinguished by the absence of widespread proliferation of urban slums seen commonly in expanding urban areas in other developing country settings”

Urbanisation can also promote neuropsychiatric disorders, which are a leading cause of disease burden in China—an estimated 17% of the adult population has one or more mental disorders.Urban environments present psychological stressors such as noise and social isolation, and Chinese migrant populations could be especially vulnerable to their effects”

“access to piped drinking water increased from 48% of the urban population in 1990, to nearly 94% in 2007.. urban areas encroaching on rural communities will put pressure on nearby rural water supplies, which are less developed. To secure safe, reliable water supplies in line with future urban growth is one of the most pressing challenges for China's planners”

Outdoor air pollution is associated with more than 400 000 premature deaths per year in China.. Vehicle emissions—including ozone and respirable particles—are major contributors to photochemical smog and spread from highly urbanised to nearby rural areas”

“traffic-related accidents and injuries remain the country's leading cause of injury-related deaths.Cyclists and pedestrians are especially at risk, and make up 60% of traffic-related deaths.”

“By 2050, China's median age is projected to be 49·8 years, higher than the projected median ages of the global population(37·8), India (38·6), USA (44·1), Brazil (45), and the European Union (47), and slightly less than that of Japan (52·5).”
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Monday, April 22, 2013

Heating and Cooling Buildings after the Climate has Changed

Air conditioning versus heating: climate control is more energy demanding in Minneapolis than in Miami(5 page pdf, Michael Sivak, Environ. Res. Letters, Mar. 27, 2013)

Also discussed here : Cold Cities Less Sustainable Than Warm Cities, Research Suggests(Science News, Mar. 26, 2013)

And here: Hot cities more sustainable than cold ones, study says(Science on NBC news, John Roach, Mar. 27, 2013)

The issue reviewed today concerns the differing challenges of heating and cooling buildings in warmer and colder climates and what this might imply with rising temperatures as a result of climate change. Results indicate that it takes more energy to heat a room than to cool it, due to the technologically superior efficiency of air conditioners vs furnaces. This, in turn, points to a positive trend in sustainable energy terms for cities in cold climates, such as Ottawa (the second coldest capital city in the world to Ulan Bator, capital of Mongolia), as long as the relative warming and cooling efficiencies remain the same. That noted, the research did not consider the energy efficiency of geothermal heating which offers emission free heating along with a small energy cost for electricity to power the circulation of the heated air. cold climate  

Key Quotes:

 “climate control in the coldest large metropolitan area in the country -- Minneapolis -- is about three-and-a-half times more energy demanding than in the warmest large metropolitan area – Miami.. Minneapolis has 4376 heating degree days a year compared to 2423 cooling degree days in Miami.”

 “calculated this difference in energy demand using three parameters: the number of heating or cooling degree days in each area; the efficiencies of heating and cooling appliances; and the efficiencies of power-generating plants”

 "It has been taken for a fact that living in the warm regions of the US is less sustainable than living in the cold regions, based partly on the perceived energy needs for climate control; however, the present findings suggest a re-examination of the relative sustainability of living in warm versus cold climates."

*the efficiencies of heating and cooling appliances (a typical air conditioner is about four times more energy efficient than a typical furnace or boiler primarily because it takes more energy to heat up a room than it does to cool it); the efficiencies of power plants, which generate nearly all the electricity used in cooling and 7 percent for heating”

 “The study doesn't examine what happens as the planet warms, and thus fewer heating days are needed in places such as Minnesota, Buffalo, N.Y., and Portland, Ore., and more cooling days are required in Miami, Phoenix and Las Vegas, but the finding may be a silver lining of global warming”

"you run up against basic physical constraints in a hot place that you don't in a cold place…in a cold place you can build an passive solar house that uses very little energy to heat it, but similar options are lacking for people living in hot climates. And as the climate warms, in the "sun belt there'll be significantly increased cooling demands for the summer,"
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Friday, April 19, 2013

Roadside Emissions and Asthma in Europe

(Abstract, Laura Perez, Christophe Declercq, Carmen Iñiguez, Inmaculada Aguilera, Chiara Badaloni, Ferran Ballester, Catherine Bouland, Olivier Chanel, FB Cirarda, Francesco Forastiere, Bertil Forsberg, Daniela Haluza, Britta Hedlund, Koldo Cambra, Marina Lacasaña, Hanns Moshammer, Peter Otorepec, Miguel Rodríguez-Barranco, Sylvia Medina, Nino Künzli, European Respiratory Journal, Mar. 21, 2013)

Also discussed here: Road Traffic Pollution as Serious as Passive Smoke in the Development of Childhood Asthma(Science Daily, Mar. 21, 2013)  

Asthma before-after
Today we review research from Europe aimed at identifying the contribution that roadside emissions make to the incidence of asthma. Results indicate that 15% of all cases of asthma are attributable to exposure to the air pollution near busy roads and notes the need for policy to reduce this “large and preventable share of chronic disease” to as low as 2% of all asthma cases.    

Key Quotes:   “Recent epidemiological research suggests that near road traffic-related pollution may cause chronic disease, as well as exacerbate related pathologies, implying that the entire “chronic disease progression” should be attributed to air pollution, no matter what the proximate cause was”   “The researchers used a method known as population-attributable fractions to assess the impact of near-road traffic pollution. This calculates the proportional reduction in disease or death that would occur if exposure to a risk factor were reduced to a lower level.”   “Exposure to roads with high vehicle traffic, a proxy for near road traffic-related pollution, accounted for 14% of all asthma cases. When a causal relationship between near road traffic-related pollution and asthma is assumed, 15% of all episodes of asthma symptoms were attributable to air pollution.”   "Air pollution has previously been seen to trigger symptoms but this is the first time we have estimated the percentage of cases that might not have occurred if Europeans had not been exposed to road traffic pollution. In light of all the existing epidemiological studies showing that road-traffic contributes to the onset of the disease in children, we must consider these results to improve policy making and urban planning."   “Pollutants along busy roads are responsible for a large and preventable share of chronic disease and related acute exacerbation in European urban areas”  
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