Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What is the Impact of Air Pollution on IQ and Lifetime Earnings?

Prenatal exposure to airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and IQ: Estimated benefit of pollution reduction (Abstract, Frederica Perera, Katherine Weiland, Matthew Neidell and Shuang Wang, Journal of Public Health Policy, May8, 2014)

Also discussed here: Improving air quality in NYC would boost children's future earnings by increasing IQ (ScienceDaily, May 8 2014)

Today we review research into the link between a pollutant associated with the burning of fossil fuels in an urban environment (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAH) and the impact on a child’s IQ, and further, how a lower or higher IQ affects lifetime earnings by that child. The impact of air pollution on aging and seniors has been studied as has the impact on pregnant women and the health of their babies but this is the first we have seen to make the link to IQ and lifetime earnings. Results indicate that a 25% decrease in PAH translates to an increase of $215 earnings for the population of New York City.

NYC pollution  

Key Quotes:

“The developing fetus and young child are especially vulnerable to neurotoxicants, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) released to ambient air by combustion of fossil fuel and other organic material”

"Our analysis suggests that a modest reduction in urban air pollution would provide substantial economic benefits and help children realize their full potential…The researchers made their calculation using a hypothesized modest reduction of .25 nanograms per cubic meter air (ng/m3) of ambient concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH), a family of chemicals created by burning fossil fuels that is ubiquitous in urban air"

“Gains in IQ related to the hypothetical 25% reduction in PAH translated to increased lifetime earnings of $215 million.”
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Monday, May 26, 2014

Monitoring Personal Pollution Exposure and Location with a GPS

Using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and temperature data to generate time-activity classifications for estimating personal exposure in air monitoring studies: an automated method(21 page pdf, Elizabeth Nethery Gary Mallach, Daniel Rainham. Mark S Goldberg, Amanda J Wheeler, Environmental Health, May 8, 2014)

 exposure by gps

Today we review research that looks at the advantages offered by a GPS and a PM2.5 particulate sensor to monitor 70 children and the pollution sources and durations they are exposed to over 10 days. The pollution sources vary between indoors and outdoors, using transit or driving, as well as in proximity to roadside emissions in the large metropolitan area that Montreal is. This approach improves upon the data that can be collected from a personal pollution exposure sensor that only produces the total pollution exposure over a given time period by breaking down the exposure by location. The use of a GPS also precludes the need to keep a diary as well as offering more convenience and accuracy, and possibly an effective way of monitoring larger populations for longer periods- if smart phones with a sensor were used for example..  

Key Quotes:

 “A pollutant mixture that varies within small spatial distances is urban air pollution. For example, specific traffic-related air pollutants are often higher on busy city streets in comparison to suburban ones [1]. Understanding personal exposure to air pollution is complicated by an individuals’ activities and where they are physically located, and the resultant interactions with different levels of air pollution”

 “we describe an automated classification of GPS data into location-based categories that makes use of temperature data to assist in discriminating indoor from outdoor locations.”

 “Mean times spent in different locations as categorized by a GPS-based method were comparable to those from a time-activity diary, but there were differences in estimates of exposure to PM2.5 from the two methods. An automated GPS-based time-activity method will reduce participant burden, potentially providing more accurate and unbiased assessments of location.”
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Friday, May 23, 2014

Making Streets Complete for More Mobility

Rethinking Streets - An Evidence-Based Guide to 25 Complete Street Transformations(148 page pdf, Marc Schlossberg, John Rowell, Dave Amos, Kelly Sanford, Sustainable Cities Initiative Oregon, 2013)

Today we review a book that examines street design in 25 varied communities across the USA and how these communities have adapted their streets to a more mobile end result. Each has different needs and as a result different design but all are focused on making the streets more effective, as well as more enjoyable for driving,  walking, transit and cycling.
 street xsection

  Key Quotes:

“No public space works harder than the street. Streets provide vital links to homes and business, and serve as public spaces.“

 “This book documents the redesign of 25 streets across the United States and some of the effects the redesign had on traffic, safety, and economic measures. Each of the streets treats the balance between transportation modes and the balance between thoroughfare and place differently, and the results differ accordingly.”

“Buffered bike lanes are a hybrid design that widens the strip of paint between a bike lane and motorized vehicle lanes. This extra buffer, often 2-3 feet, provides extra space and comfort to a wider range of people on bikes. Like bike lanes, buffered lanes and cycle tracks are generally located on busier streets that have destinations where people want to go.”

 “Streetscape elements like street trees and parked cars increase the “friction” a driver feels. This friction slows down traffic, making the street more pleasant as a place.”

“street designs that include moving curbs often require a greater investment of time and resources.”

“Onstreet parking typically is located next to the curb, although in some cases bike lanes are located between curb and parking to give cyclists protection from moving vehicles.”

“Expanding the right of way can be a complicated, lengthy and expensive process. In order to expand the right of way, the City typically must purchase the land along the roadway from individual citizens and businesses.”

Auto travel lanes can range from 9-12’ in commercial areas. Current standards recommend minimum 6’ bike lanes.” “Installing streetscape elements can improve the sense of place of a street and create pleasant pedestrian environments.”
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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How Can City Politicians Gain Public Support for Congestion Charging?

How local governments can take congestion pricing from concept to reality(Heshuang Zeng, The CityFix(EMBARQ), Apr. 22, 2014)

Today we review an article that looks at successes achieved in implementing congestion charging and what steps were taken to ensure that. It seems to have a lot to do with planning in advance and provide transparency to the public in how revenue from the fees collected would be distributed in a fair manner and justifying the initial implementation costs using cost benefit analyses, as well as having the all out support of the Mayor from the beginning(which takes some courage). Cities such as Stockholm, London, Bogota, New York City (one day) and Beijing demonstrate many of these elements of success.


Key Quotes:

Singapore was the first city to introduce congestion pricing in 1975, but it was not until London implemented the policy in 2005 that it began to receive global attention. In recent months, discussions around introducing the measure have also reemerged in New York City, Beijing, and Bogotá”

“some cities have rephrased the term “congestion pricing” to other more positive terms, like New York City, which calls their initiative the “Fair Tolling Plan” and makes it clear that its goal is to produce greater social equity.”

“city leaders can advance congestion pricing in a way that community members can understand and appreciate.”:
  • ”Communication and outreach is key for success…some cities have rephrased the term “congestion pricing” to other more positive terms, like New York City, which calls their initiative the “Fair Tolling Plan”…
  • People are willing to pay – for a purpose…When city leaders proposed congestion pricing in PlaNYC, they also suggested setting up a regional transportation funding authority (SMART) to manage the revenues from the policy…
  • Justifying the cost…Local governments need to justify the policy to funding providers through cost benefit analysis and look secure funding from national and state level bodies, as well…
  • Big costs have big pay-offs…With additional guidance and resources, cities like Beijing and Bogotá, which have longed explored the measure, can finally turn discussion into reality and use congestion pricing to improve quality of life for urban residents.”
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Friday, May 16, 2014

How Can the UK (and other developed western countries) Reduce GHG Emissions by 80%?

Guidance - 2050 Pathways: Exploring how the UK can meet the 2050 emission reduction target using the web-based 2050 Calculator(Department of Energy & Climate Change , UK)

Also discussed here: The 2050 Pathways Calculator And here: MY 2050 Simulation(interactive graphic slide show)

And here: 2050 Calculator: one page guides(42 page pdf, David MacKay, Chief Scientific Advisor, DECC)

And here: Win-Win Transportation Emission Reduction Strategies(18 page pdf, Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, May 27, 2012)

Today we review a report from the UK and an energy scenario calculator. The tool, available in Excel spreadsheet format, as well as online, converts assumptions about future energy demand and supply into useful estimates of greenhouse gas emission reductions and graphs of energy demand and supply. The assumption choices are wide: the impact of adopting a small or large increase in wind, tidal or nuclear power generation, the impact of changes in housing heating and cooling, changes in transportation, aviation and shipping, etc. One additional scenario one may have looked for is the impact of pricing demand for energy in transportation such as congestion charges or dynamic pricing of parking rates, as recommend by Todd Litman in his publication noted above.

 nuclear scenarios to 2050  
Key Quotes:

“The 2050 Pathways work presents a framework through which to consider some of the choices and trade-offs we will have to make over the next 40 years. It is system-wide, covering all parts of the economy and all greenhouse gas emissions released in the UK.”

“On the supply side you can choose how the UK produces its energy. For example, you can choose to build up to 40,000 offshore wind turbines or up to 50 3GW nuclear power stations, you can allocate up to 20% of the UK’s land to growing bio crops and you can reduce our use of landfill sites.”

“In 2007, UK nuclear power stations produced 164 TWh/y of high-grade heat that was converted to 63 TWh/y of electricity. 57 TWh/y of this was delivered to the grid, and 6 TWh/y was used on-site to run the power stations… Level 4 assumes a 13-fold increase in capacity over 2010 levels to 146 GW by 2050, roughly equivalent to 50 3-GW power stations. These stations produce just over 1000 TWh/y of electrical output, which is 40% of the total output of all the nuclear power stations operating in the world in 2009”

“In 2007, commercial premises used 75 TWh/y of energy for heating, 14 TWh/y for hot water, and 27 TWh/y for cooling… Level 4 assumes that in 2050, total heating and cooling demand is lower than in 2007. Heating demand falls to 59 TWh/y, hot water demand grows to 15 TWh/y, and cooling demand falls to 14 TWh/y. This means each building is demanding 40% less heat, 30% less hot water and 50% less air-conditioning in 2050.”
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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Where is the Most and Least Urban Sprawl in the USA?

Measuring Sprawl 2014(51 page pdf, Smart Growth America, April 2014)

Also discussed here: Updated Urban Sprawl Data for the United States (National Cancer Institute, Geographic Information Systems and Science for cancer prevention and control)

Today we review a report on the extent that sprawl exists and the rate that it is increasing or decreasing in over 200 cities and almost 1000 counties in the USA, using a quantitative sprawl index. Results indicate that the most compact, least sprawled cities are New York City (203) and San Francisco (194). In contrast, the most sprawl is found in Atlanta (41) and Morganton NC (25). Analysis of the social and health impacts of sprawl reveal that a doubling of the index equates to 3 more years of life and an increase of only 10 points is linked to lower housing and transportation costs by 3-4%, improved air quality and 15% less fatal vehicle crashes.

 sprawled cities  

Key Quotes:

“In peer-reviewed research, sprawl has been linked to physical inactivity, obesity, traffic fatalities, poor air quality, residential energy use, emergency response times, teenage driving, lack of social capital and private-vehicle commute distances and times.”

“Individuals in compact, connected metro areas have greater economic mobility. Individuals in these areas spend less on the combined cost of housing and transportation, and have greater options for the type of transportation to take. In addition, individuals in compact, connected metro areas tend to live longer, safer, healthier lives than their peers in metro areas with sprawl. Obesity is less prevalent in compact counties, and fatal car crashes are less common”

“Most compact, connected metro areas Rank Metro area Index score
  1. New York/White Plains/Wayne, NY-NJ 203.4
  2. San Francisco/San Mateo/Redwood City, CA 194.3
  3. Atlantic City/Hammonton, NJ 150.4
  4. Santa Barbara/Santa Maria/Goleta, CA 146.6
  5. Champaign/Urbana, IL 145.2
  6. .
. . Most sprawling metro areas, nationally Rank Metro area Index score
  • 217 Nashville-Davidson/Murfreesboro/Franklin, TN 51.7
  • 218 Prescott, AZ 49.0
  • 219 Clarksville, TN-KY 41.5
  • 220 Atlanta/Sandy Springs/Marietta, GA 41.0
  • 221 Hickory/Lenoir/Morganton, NC 24.9”
“Compactness has a strong direct relationship to upward economic mobility.”

“The combined cost of housing and transportation declines as an index score increases.”

“people in compact, connected counties tend to live longer. For every doubling in an index score, life expectancy increases by about four percent. For the average American with a life expectancy of 78 years, this translates into a three-year difference in life expectancy between people in a less compact versus a more compact county.”
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