Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Monitoring Roadside Pollution with Sensors on Bikes

Cyclists will monitor air pollution in Hamilton (CBC News, Mar. 13, 2014)

Also discussed here: Bicycle Air Monitoring Program - Pittsburg (GASP)

Today we review two citizen initiatives in Hamilton and Pittsburg to monitor air pollution levels along roads and bike paths used by cyclists in these cities. The program that began first in Pittsburg with the Group Against Air Pollution and Smog, collects and displays the Particulate Matter on maps of the urban core in real-time. The Bicycling Air Monitoring program in Hamilton just began on June 26 with over 60 cyclists volunteering to use the 20 GPS and air monitors which were funded with only $25 K from contributions from volunteers and a local city Councillor. These data fill gaps in the map of air pollution measured by much more expensive provincial air quality monitors (over $250K each) or by using a specialized mobile van dedicated to roadside monitoring.

pittsburg pollution 

Key Quotes:

Environment Hamilton officially launched its Bicycling Air Monitoring program (BAM!) Thursday at city hall, announcing plans to use volunteers from the local cycling community rig their bikes with air quality monitors and a GPS unit.”

“Environment Hamilton already has about 60 volunteers from Flamborough to Stoney Creek who are set to cut loose across the city using one of the 14 units to gather information. Two of the GPS units also have a video camera to provide a visual of what may be contributing to air quality, such as a construction or bumper-to-bumper traffic.”

“Environment Hamilton purchased the models after receiving close to $25,000 in funding…Councillor Chad Collins helped facilitate $10,000 through a fund provided to his ward for special projects, while Clean Air Hamilton pitched in the other $15,000”

"For me, for my constituents, air quality concerns are at the forefront of environmental issues in my ward. I have people who live adjacent to industry and I also have a number of residents along major transportation corridors."

“It's a quick visual way for a cyclist to assess which are the routes in the city that I want to choose if I'm worried about respiratory health and which are the ones that I should be avoiding”

Bicycles can travel on bike paths and trails and so on… [the data] will be useful for filling in gaps where we aren’t able to go.”

“[Pittsburg] the purpose of this program is to study the objective data gathered by citizens equipped with a laser particle counter and GPS system. The goal of this project is to convey its findings (large and small particulate counts over time and space) as an easily-interpretable map. Large particulates are known as PM10, and small particulates as PM2.5, with the former able to stay in the air for minutes to hours, while the latter can remain in the air for hours to weeks, and travel very long distances. Due to the constantly-changing nature of the air, the more data we collect over routes over time, the more accurate will be the representation of our city. This will promote understanding of any major problems, and suggest ways to enact change.”

Monday, July 28, 2014

How Liable Are Cities Potentially for Not Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Allowing Traffic and Vehicle Emissions to Increase?

English: A schematic of the global air polluti...
English: A schematic of the global air pollution. The map was made by User:KVDP using the GIMP. It was based on the global air pollution map by the ESA (see , ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Current environmental liability issues for municipalities (20 page Word doc, Graham Rempe, Dianne Saxe, Osgoode Professional Development, Jun.17, 2014) 

Also discussed here:Current environmental liability issues for municipalities (Meredith James, Envirolaw, Jun. 26, 2014) 

Today we review an interesting discussion paper that analyzes legal cases where failure to act or incorrect actions by municipalities resulted in contamination of the soil or groundwater with legal consequences for the municipalities involved. The accountability was particularly true when the health of humans or animals was threatened. One has to ask why municipalities do not have an obligation to manage traffic and vehicle emissions when these clearly are a major cause, if not the largest cause in some cases, of hastened climate change impacts or of pollution levels which have a direct impact on the health of their citizens. Especially when several far-sighted cities such as London UK, Stockholm and Singapore have demonstrated that application of congestion pricing and other measures within their mandates (as it is in Ontario) reduces traffic and improves air quality. Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act stipulates that “The only precondition is a reasonable belief that the ordered activities will prevent or reduce contamination of the natural environment”. 

What are cities waiting for- a law suit? If they are they do not need to wait very long at the rate that the climate is changing because of municipal inaction.

 Key Quotes: 

 “Few topics evoke more concern about “vast” liability than environmental mishaps. Municipalities and their legal advisors are well advised to carefully monitor developments in this area, where liability is writ large.” 

“s. 18 of Ontario's Environmental Protection Act ("EPA") applies to any person who "owns or owned or who has or had management or control of an undertaking or property". …provides for a number of measures, from monitoring and reporting, to planning and implementing remediation. The only precondition is a reasonable belief that the ordered activities will prevent or reduce contamination of the natural environment… These orders can be and are issued to municipalities” 

“The EPA provides that any prior conviction under a number of environmental statutes including the EPA, the Ontario Water Resources Act, the Pesticides Act, and others, is considered…municipalities can find themselves routinely exposed to mandatory minimum fines of $100,000 (and which may go as high as $10 million per offence).” 

“By following levels of air pollution and respiratory health over time, we could measure changes prior to and after implementation of these policies. Our study leverages these collected data in a way that it can contribute to the dialogue on whether pollution controls are effective in improving public health.” 

 “They analyzed a 17-year period after a variety of federal air pollution measures were instituted. Among others, national requirements lowered emissions from automotive engines, chemical plants and coal-fired power plants, and also targeted emissions that contributed to acid rain and depletion of the ozone layer of the atmosphere.” 

"the measures were designed to decrease carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and other compounds in the air that are considered major public health concerns, playing a role in an estimated 1.4 percent of deaths worldwide, and 2 percent of all cardio-pulmonary deaths worldwide.”

Friday, July 25, 2014

How Can Green and Cool (light-coloured) Roofs Mitigate Urban Heating?

The effectiveness of cool and green roofs as urban heat island mitigation strategies (17 page pdf, Dan Li, Elie Bou-Zeid and Michael Oppenheimer, Environmental Research Letters, May 2, 2014)

Today we review research on the urban heat island effect and how green roofs and high albedo “cool” roofs may be used to mitigate the amount of heating – which is becoming an even more important aspect, as global climate warming continues to increase the frequency and severity of heat waves in cities with the resultant growing impact on health. Results of the modeling show that over 90% of the roofs have to be green or cool in order to reduce the average air temperature by 0.5 C. Also, the soil moisture is critical for green roofs as dry soil has minimal effect on cooling. 

green roofs Key Quotes:

 global climate change is expected to exacerbate the heat conditions in urban environment …heat waves, which are projected to become more frequent and last longer under a warming climate, interact nonlinearly with UHIs (urban heat island) to produce extremely high heat stresses for urban residents”

 “A green roof increases the evapotranspiration in urban areas through soil and plants on rooftops (redirecting available energy to latent heat), while a cool roof increases the reflection of incoming solar radiation in urban areas by increasing the albedo of roof surfaces”  

 “the daytime surface temperature of a green roof is substantially lower than that of a conventional roof due to evapotranspiration. The nighttime surface temperature on the green roof is also lower but the differences between roofs are less drastic”

“the significant cooling effect of green roof during daytime can probably last throughout the night due to reduced heat storage in the urban canopy”

“The cool roof strategy has a lower impact on the nighttime surface urban heat island than on the daytime surface urban heat island….the cool roof fraction that is needed for reaching a maximum reduction in the surface urban heat island of 1 °C is also about 30%... Approximately 95% cool roof coverage is needed in order to reduce the near-surface urban heat island by 0.5 °C at the time when the near-surface air temperature reaches its maximum.“ “when the soil moisture initial condition is somewhat dry (i.e., initial soil moisture is 0.15 or 0.25 m3m–3), the performance of green roof deteriorates significantly. "

 “The performances of green roofs and cool roofs are primarily affected by soil moisture and albedo, respectively”

“To reduce the near-surface UHI by 0.5 °C, the green roof fraction has to be close to 90% and the cool roof (albedo=0.7) fraction has to be close to 95%”    

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How Well Does San Francisco’s Smart Parking System Perform?

Does San Francisco's Smart Parking System Reduce Cruising for a Space? (Eric Jaffe, The Atlantic City Lab, Jun. 25,2014)

Also discussed here: SFpark Project Evaluation Presentation (24 page pdf, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Jun. 19, 2014)

And here: SFpark Evaluation Shows Parking Easier, Cheaper in Pilot Areas (SFMTA Press Release, Jun. 19, 2014)

Today we review an evaluation of the project in San Francisco which introduced a modern parking pricing system in 2011 that raises (or lowers) parking charges according to demand and monitors in real-time when spaces are vacant or occupied. Results indicate that the project was successful in maximizing occupancy of parking spots and reducing the amount of needless circling by drivers looking for an empty spot(by 30%) - and as a result reduced the amount of fuel consumed and CO2 emitted (by 30%) - all while reducing the average hourly parking charge applied (from $2.69 to $2.58) and the number of citations issued (by 23%). One negative result was that over time the availability of parking spots at peak demand did not result as expected from the increased rates charged which leaves the management of rates and availability for further study. Coming next is application of smart metering to off-street parking lots and buildings.

 SF parking meter  

Key Quotes:  

SFpark changes meter rates based on parking demand to maintain an average occupancy between 60 and 80 percent: When parking on a street is too full (or too empty), the hourly price goes up (or down) to free up (or fill up) spaces.”

“On average over the year of the study, when meter rates rose $1 per hour, occupancy fell 10 percent (and when rates fell $1 per hour, occupancy rose 7 percent).”

  • Average on-street meter rates dropped by $0.11 per hour, or 4 percent;
  • Average garage rates dropped by $0.42 per hour, or 12 percent;
  • Target occupancy of 60-80 percent was met 31 percent more often;
  • Blocks were full (i.e., no available parking) 16 percent less often;
  • Average time spent searching for parking decreased by 5 minutes, or 43 percent;
  • Meter-related citations decreased by 23 percent; and
  • Vehicle miles travelled and greenhouse gas emissions from cars circling for parking decreased by 30 percent.”
“By making it easier to park and easier to pay, we have significantly reduced parking tickets and improved the experience for people who visit, live in, or work in some of San Francisco’s busiest commercial neighborhoods,”“San Francisco’s population and economy grew over the last three years and even as more and more people came to the city, we were able to reduce circling for parking and make the streets safer for everyone.”

“Strategies included:
  • Demand-responsive pricing;
  • Adding credit and debit card-enabled meters as well as pay by phone to make it easier to pay for parking;
  • Longer time limits at meters;
  • Real-time information about on- and off-street parking availability; and
  • Static wayfinding signs to garages.”
“The study raises a good question about whether occupancy or availability is a better measure of smart parking success. From a driver's perspective, availability is almost certainly more important. Far better to know that a spot will always be open, whatever the price, than to leave the house wondering.”

Monday, July 21, 2014

Calgary’s Response to Downtown Congestion: Price Parking by Demand

Calgary's demand-responsive on-street parking pricing (Paul Barter, Reinventing parking, Jun. 13, 2014)

Also discussed here: MBA: The Right Price for Parking (Elizabeth Press, including a 3 minute video,Street Films, Apr. 19, 2011)

And here: Demand-responsive parking prices: a key element of Adaptive Parking (Paul Barter, Reinventing Parking, Jan. 14, 2012)

And here: Parking in Calgary

Today we highlight a system that varies the charges for parking by demand (or parking pricing) , just introduced in downtown Calgary, Alberta. The approach uses the principles espoused by Prof Shoup and implemented in San Francisco in 2011 where the price for parking varies block by block according to the demand for parking as measured by sensors in the parking space pavement. In Calgary, prices for parking are applied not by block but by defined parking areas where prices increase by 25 cents/hr when the spaces are occupied more than 80% of the time and lowered when the occupancy rate is less than 50%. Experience from other cities indicates that revenue from such an approach can double or triple that from fixed rate parking meters, in addition to reduced congestion and improved air quality in the downtown core from fewer vehicles driving needlessly to find a vacant parking spot.

 Calgary am price adjustment map  

Key Quotes:

"the right price is the lowest price you can charge and still have one or two spaces available on each block."

“Depending on the demand for parking at a given location, the right price could be higher or lower than the static prices you see at traditional meters. You need a dynamic system that adjusts the price based on demand.”

“Rates will be adjusted by a maximum of $0.25 per year according to demand. Specifically:
  • In areas where occupancy is below 50%, prices will decrease by $0.25;
  • In areas where occupancy is above 80%, prices will increase by $0.25;
  • In areas where occupancy is between 50-80%, prices will stay the same.”

Friday, July 18, 2014

What are the Health Benefits of Closing Down a Freeway?

Air quality impacts of a scheduled 36-h closure of a major highway (Abstract, David C. Quiros, Qunfang Zhang, Wonsik Choi, Meilu He, Suzanne E. Paulson, Arthur M. Winer, Rui Wang, Yifang Zhua, Atmospheric Environment, Mar. 2013)

Also discussed here: Air Quality Results of a Freeway Closure (5 page pdf, Arthur Winer, Yifang Zhu, and Suzanne Paulson, ACCESS, Jun. 2014)

Today we review the quantitative improvement in air quality that results from temporary closure of a heavily used freeway in southern California. Before and after measurements of air pollutants indicate as much as a 83% reduction during the period it was closed. The authors strongly recommend that steps be taken to reduce roadside pollution from freeways in future by limiting the use of single occupancy vehicles and to convert electrically powered vehicles. Almost make one wonder who came up with the idea of freeways to start with and, more to the point, why run these “pollution sewers” through urban centres where people have to breathe the resulting pollution! Vancouver is the only major city in North America that I can think of that does NOT have a freeway running through its centre - they must have clever urban planners there!

  freeway closing 

Key Quotes:

“Opportunities to directly quantify the relationship between vehicle emissions and air quality by investigating effects of large scale, rapid reductions in traffic are rare. .. during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, peak traffic decreased by around 20 percent and ozone fell by nearly 30 percent”

“During the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing, the Chinese government enacted air pollution-reducing policies, including traffic restrictions, that resulted in significant reductions in near-roadway emissions”

“In August 2008, New York City closed Park Avenue to vehicular traffic on three consecutive Saturdaymornings to promote clean air. This resulted in 58 percent lower ultrafine particle concentrations in the near-roadway environment during the closures. ”

“In July 2011, Interstate 405, one of the busiest freeways in the United States, was closed for two days as part of a freeway improvement project….On the first day of the closure, there was a 90 percent reduction in traffic on the I-405 at Constitution Avenue compared with a normal Saturday. Similar to the Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Beijing Olympics, the extreme traffic congestion, or in this case “Carmageddon,” never happened.”

“The first day of the freeway closure, was the easiest day to get around Los Angeles in decades. Indeed, from a driving standpoint and from an air quality perspective, the term “Carmaheaven” turned out to be more appropriate.”

“Compared to the post-closure period, downwind areas experienced an 83 percent reduction in ultrafine particles, 55 percent less PM2.5, and 62 percent less black carbon during the closure period.Using the region’s air monitoring network, we observed that over the entire South Coast Air Basin, PM2.5 was reduced 18 to 36 percent, depending on proximity to the closure”

 Two approaches that would improve air quality in southern California:
• “transportation policies and alternatives to single-occupancy automobile traffic could be developed to drastically reduce vehicle miles traveled.
• there could be widespread adoption of super ultralow- and zero-emission vehicles.”

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Does Traffic Make Children Fat?

Traffic-related air pollution and obesity formation in children: a longitudinal, multilevel analysis (21 page pdf, Michael Jerrett, Rob McConnell, Jennifer Wolch, Roger Chang, Claudia Lam, Genevieve Dunton, Frank Gilliland, Fred Lurmann, Talat Islam and Kiros Berhane, Environmental Health, Jun. 9, 2014)

Today we review research into the links if any between traffic-related pollution and obesity in pre-teen children. Results indicate that children have a higher body mass index (BMI) who live in an area with higher traffic density and related pollution. Noting the direct health impacts of air pollution, this appears to be a combination of the known lower levels of physical exercise near heavy traffic, as well as such factors as drive-in fast food joints and their negative effect on healthy diets and obesity in children. Solutions include such basics as better land use planning to brings homes and jobs closer together, more use of public transit and less of private car commuting and limiting heavy traffic from the vicinity of schools and parks. fat boys and girls 

Key Quotes:

“Since the 1970s rates of overweight and obesity have more than doubled in the U.S. from about 15% of youth aged 2–19 years who were considered overweight or obese, to 32% in 2003–2006”

 “Recently, researchers examined longitudinally the role of traffic density around the homes of children. They found that higher levels of vehicular traffic were associated with higher attained body mass index (BMI measured as kg/m2) in children aged 10–18”

“Heightened traffic danger may discourage children from engaging in active transport by foot or bicycle for utilitarian purposes …and other things being equal, this would lower overall physical activity and could contribute to a positive energy balance.”

“Other research indicates that air pollution exposure, with traffic as a major source in many cities, may operate through inflammatory pathways to initiate metabolic processes contributing to diabetes formation”

“Comparing children in the highest 10% of traffic-related air pollution exposure to those in the lowest 10% of exposure yielded a 0.39 BMI unit increase in the attained BMI level at age 10…This translated into a 13.6% increase in the rate of average annual BMI growth.”

 “the results indicate that traffic-related pollution likely has a stronger effect than traffic density,”

"The effects of pollution are significant, and the temporal pattern is consistent with the hypothesis that the inflammatory effects of air pollution predispose children to obesity in a similar way to what has been observed in laboratory experiments”

“Traffic pollution may be controlled via emission restrictions; changes in land use that promote jobs-housing balance and use of public transit and hence reduce vehicle miles traveled; promotion of zero emissions vehicles, transit and car-sharing programs; or by limiting high pollution traffic, such as diesel trucks, from residential areas or places where children play outdoors, such as schools and parks. These measures may have beneficial effects in terms of reduced obesity formation in children.”

Monday, July 14, 2014

On What are Cities Focusing When Taking Action on Climate Change?

Planning for climate change and the urban future ( Luísa Zottis, the city fix, Jun. 10, 2014)

Also discussed here: Cidades planejam-se para mudanças climáticas (Luísa Zottis, the city fix Brasil, Jun. 10, 2014)

And here: Global survey: Climate change now a mainstream part of city planning - Survey reveals cities are planning for climate change, but still searching for links to economic growth. (Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office, May 29, 2014)

Today we review a survey of how cities globally are dealing with climate change. The good news is that almost 3/4s of those surveyed are taking action on both mitigation and adaptation- this drops to 58% in the USA. The bad news is that most cities in the US and Canada assign responsibility for this file to only one staff member, which says something about the intent and lack of resource commitment of the cities and their political leaders. Also although 85% of cities have completed an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, only 15% have taken steps to control or reduce those emissions. Another worrisome statistic is that while many cities focus on mitigation/emissions reduction, only a few (such as Australia) focus on adaptation perhaps because of the imminent an continuing severity of climate change impacts such as flooding and forest fires in that country.


Key Quotes:

Climate change isn’t an isolated issue…It has large implications for all other aspects of urban life. What we are seeing is cities starting to build it into the DNA of how they approach urban planning.”

“75 percent of cities worldwide now tackle climate-change issues as a mainstream part of their planning, and 73 percent of cities are attempting both climate mitigation and climate adaptation … But only 21 percent of cities report tangible connections between the response to climate change and achieving other local development goals.”

Urban planners in Alberta, as Aylett notes, have studied the cost savings associated with limiting metropolitan sprawl and concluded that denser development could save $11 billion in capital costs over the next 60 years, and $130 million in annual maintenance”

“Compared with the global average of 75 percent, U.S. cities lag in planning for both mitigation and adaptation, with just 58 percent of cities addressing both.”

“North American cities are most likely to have just one staff member focused on the topic”

“A lack of funding to hire sufficient staff to work on climate change is a significant challenge for 67 percent of cities.”

“85% of cities have a local inventory of GHG emissions. Still, only 15% of cities invest in controlling emissions resulting from the consumption of goods and services in the city, even if they have data showing that they need to act”

“In the United States, mitigation policies account for 41% of the climate change planning agenda, whereas Australian cities are pursuing largely adaptation-oriented goals”