Thursday, May 28, 2015

Why is Vancouver the Greenest City in the world and How is it Planning to Be Better?

Eleven Reasons to Support Vancouver’s Transportation Tax (11 page pdf, Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, Mar. 19, 2015)

Also discussed here: The case for the mayors’ transit plan -- 10 reasons to vote Yes - For one thing, the tax increase of about $200 per household would finance savings of $1,000 (Don Cayo, Vancouver Sun, Mar.31, 2015)

  transit ridership    

Key Quotes:  

automobile travel is peaking in B.C., while increasingly popular walking and cycling options now represent 10 to 15 per cent of all trips.”

Some benefits from walking, cycling and taking transit:
  • Saves households money - The proposed tax increase would cost average households about $200 annually but provides over $1,000….Vancouver region has the lowest portion of household expenditures devoted to transportation among Canadian cities
  • Increases safety - The Lower Mainland’s traffic fatality rate (3.9 deaths per 100,000 residents) is among the lowest of all North American cities.
  • Congestion reductions -High quality, grade-separated transit service reduces traffic congestion
  • Reduces parking problems and costs -Parking costs range from $5,000 per space for surface parking up to $50,000 for structured or underground parking.
  • Improves mobility for non-drivers - In a typical community, 20-40% of residents cannot or should not drive. High quality public transit helps non-drivers access school and jobs, increasing their productivity,
  • Reduces chauffeuring burdens- Many drivers spend several hours per week chauffeuring non-drivers for trips that they could make independently if better transportation options were available.
  • Improves public health.
  • Supports Economic Development
  • Energy conservation and pollution emission reductions - Residents of transit-oriented communities consume 20-60% less energy, and reduce their pollution emissions by similar amounts
  • Supports strategic development objectives (reduces sprawl)
  • Prepares Vancouver for your future.
Public transit service often seems costly, in part, because of the way we account for transportation facilities and services. Public transit budgets include all costs: right-of-way (rail tracks), terminals (stations), vehicles, fuel and drivers. In contrast, automobile travel requires roads, parking spaces at each destination, vehicles, fuel and drivers, the costs of which are seldom totaled. As a result, public transit costs per passenger-mile often seem higher than the costs of building and maintaining roads, but this ignores the costs to consumers of owning and operating their vehicles, and the costs to consumers, businesses and governments of providing abundant parking”

“using standard transportation system performance indicators, including automobile mode share (low and declining), per capita transit ridership (high and growing), and per capita traffic fatalities (among the lowest among North American cities) and portion of household budgets devoted to transportation (the lowest of all major Canadian cities), Vancouver performs very well compared with peer cities”

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Particulate Pollution, Narrow Arteries and Strokes

English: The internal carotid and vertebral ar...
English: The internal carotid and vertebral arteries. Right side. Some of the branches labeled. Español: Arterias carótida interna y vertebral. Lado derecho. Algunas de las ramas están señaladas. Polski: Przebieg tętnicy szyjnej zewnętrznej z kolejnymi odgałęzieniami. Русский: Артерии шеи. Вид справа. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Particulate Air Pollution and Carotid Artery Stenosis (Letters, Jonathan D. Newman, George D. Thurston, Kevin Cromar, Yu Guo, Caron B. Rockman, Edward A. Fisher, Jeffrey S. Berger, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Mar. 24, 2015)

Also discussed here: Pollution levels linked to stroke-related narrowing of arteries (ScienceDaily. Mar. 16, 2015)

Today we review research into the risk of strokes arising from particulate matter narrowing arteries leading to the heart. Results indicated a significant link between those living in areas with high levels of PM2.5 and this arterial narrowing which may be due to interaction between the particulates and the cholesterol in the blood leading to inflammation and a greater likelihood of blood clots forming.

 Key Quotes:

 “people living in zip codes with the highest average levels of fine-particulate-matter pollution were significantly more likely to show signs of narrowing (stenosis) in their internal carotid arteries, compared to those living in zip codes with the lowest pollution levels”

 "PM 2.5 pollutants.. are particulates with diameters less than 2.5 millionths of a meter. They are mostly by-products of combustion engines and burning wood”

"We spend a lot of time thinking about traditional risk factors for stroke such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and smoking -- but our data underscore the possibility that everyday air pollution may also pose a significant stroke risk,"

 "Most of the studies in this area have focused on the heart and the coronary arteries; no one has really looked at other parts of the vascular system, in particular the carotid arteries,"

 “Strokes often result when accumulated plaque breaks off from a narrowed section of an internal carotid artery and blocks smaller vessels in the brain.”

“air pollution contributes to vascular disease. …may do so in part by causing adverse chemical changes to cholesterol in the blood, by promoting inflammation, and by making blood platelets more likely to form clots.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

How Much Does Idling at Red Lights Contribute to Urban Air Pollution?

Characterisation of nanoparticle emissions and exposure at traffic intersections through fast–response mobile and sequential measurements (17 page pdf, Anju Goela, Prashant Kumar, Atmospheric Environment, Feb. 3, 2015)

Also discussed here: Stopping at red lights exposes drivers to high levels of air pollution (ScienceDaily, Feb.12, 2015)

And here: Red Lights Are Air Pollution Hotspots (Jenna Iacurci, Nature World News, Feb. 21, 2015)

Today we review research into the role that traffic lights play in adding to the exposure of drivers, pedestrians and the nearby environment to toxic vehicle emissions. Results indicate that the 2% of time on the road spent idling at traffic lights contributes 25% to the exposure to particulate matter from emissions. The tendency for cars to be close together while waiting at red lights adds to the concentration of the pollution emitted and the development of urban “hot spots”. Adding to the pollution is frequent acceleration and braking that takes place along a road with signalized lights. Not directly mentioned are the benefits of using modern roundabouts to avoid these periods of pollution while idling.

 traffic intersection hot spots

Key Quotes:

“Our time spent travelling in cars has remain fairly constant during the past decade despite the efforts to reduce it and with more cars than ever joining the roads, we are being exposed to increasing levels of air pollution as we undertake our daily commutes."

“ Quantification of disproportionate contribution made by signalised traffic intersections (TIs) to overall daily commuting exposure is important but barely known.”

“Congested TIs were found to become hot–spots when vehicle accelerate from idling conditions” “drivers spend just 2% of their journey time passing through traffic intersections managed by lights, this short duration contributes to about 25% of total exposure to these harmful particles."

“With drivers decelerating and stopping at lights, then revving up to move quickly when lights go green, peak particle concentration was found to be 29 times higher than that during free flowing traffic conditions”

“As well as concentration, researchers found that as cars tend to be close together at lights, the likelihood of exposure to vehicle emissions is also significantly increased”

"Air pollution was recently placed in the top ten health risks faced by human beings globally, with the World Health Organization linking air pollution to seven million premature deaths every year”

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How Well is Congestion Pricing Accepted?

How Does Congestion Pricing Affect Household Behavior? (Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, Mat. 4, 2015)

Also discussed here: Effects of Full-Facility Variable Tolling on Traveler Behavior: Evidence from a Panel Study of the SR-520 Corridor in Seattle (115 page pdf, Report for Federal Highway Administration, Mar. 2014)

And here: Effects of an HOV-2 to HOT-3 Conversion on Traveler Behavior: Evidence from a Panel Study of the I-85 Corridor in Atlanta (187 pg pdf, Report for Federal Highway Administration, Apr.11. 2014)

Today we review before and after reports from two large American cities (Seattle, Atlanta) following introduction of congestion pricing on a bridge (Seattle) and on a HOV lane (Atlanta). Results indicate a decline of trips by 15-18%, a greater use of tolled segments by drivers with high incomes, a greater acceptance (40%) for tolling after introduction compared to before (25%) and a large drop in concern about the impact of tolling on low income users (from 74% to 57%). The key to successful implementation appears to be clear prior communication to the public on the need for congestion pricing. tolling bridge  
Key Quotes:

“The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in turn tapped Volpe to conduct before-and-after household travel surveys in two of those cities, Atlanta and Seattle, to capture a dynamic picture of how congestion pricing shapes household travel choices.”

  • How do households respond when congestion pricing is applied on their roadways? Do they pay the toll? 
  • Do they seek alternative routes or travel modes to bypass the higher prices? 
  • does congestion pricing affect the number of miles that households drive? 
  • Are lower-income households disproportionately affected by tolling? Do lower-income households pay a disproportionate share of tolling?” 

“In Seattle:
  • Recorded trip segments fell 43 percent on the 520 bridge.
  •  Travel reductions tended to fall into discretionary categories, such as shopping and dining. 
  • Nearly 25 percent of regular 520 bridge travelers switched to.. a parallel, free roadway four miles south .. primarily motivated by avoiding the toll. 
  • Respondents reduced their overall vehicle-miles traveled by 15 percent” 
“In Atlanta:
  • Trips on the I-85 corridor fell 18 percent, 
  • More than 80 percent of drivers using the express lane were solo travelers; 9 percent were drivers with three or more people.
  •  More than 40 percent of express lane users reported being satisfied or very satisfied with their trips on I-85 after tolling had commenced, compared to about 25% prior to tolling. 
  • was a significant decrease in the belief that highway tolls are unfair to people with limited incomes, from 74 percent to 57 percent.” 

“pricing has a significant impact on route choice and affects the timing of trips, that attitudes on pricing change with direct experience, and that pricing has differential impacts on corridor users.”

“the more that agencies provide the public with ongoing, clear communication that explains the need for congestion pricing, the more their congestion pricing programs will be well-received.”

Thursday, May 14, 2015

What are the Health Implications for Children in Schools Near Traffic?

Association between Traffic-Related Air Pollution in Schools and Cognitive Development in Primary School Children: A Prospective Cohort Study (24 age pdf, Jordi Sunyer, Mikel Esnaola, Mar Alvarez-Pedrerol, Joan Forns, Ioar Rivas, Mònica López-Vicente, Elisabet Suades-González, Maria Foraster, Raquel Garcia-Esteban, Xavier Basaga, Mar Viana, Marta Cirach, Teresa Moreno, Andrés Alastuey, Núria Sebastian-Galles, Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, Xavier Querol, PLoS Med, Mar. 3, 2015)

Also discussed here: Monitoring Roadside Air Pollution and Urban Health Impacts (Pollution Free Cities, Feb. 15, 2013)

 Today we review research into the impact on brain development of children at schools exposed to high and low pollution levels produced by traffic emissions in Barcelona, Spain. Results indicate that students in low pollution areas have almost twice the increase in working memory (11.5%) per year compared to children in high pollution areas (7.4%). This is a warning to urban planners concerning the locations of schools: locate them at least 500 m from heavy traffic or take responsibility for the health impacts to the young children who attend these schools. Unfortunately many cities have schools located on major roads with traffic (in Ottawa, for example, more than 50% of day-cares (and 20% of schools) are located within 50 m of heavy traffic).

 air pollution schools  

Key Quotes:

“Air pollution is a suspected developmental neurotoxicant. Many schools are located in close proximity to busy roads, and traffic air pollution peaks when children are at school. We aimed to assess whether exposure of children in primary school to traffic-related air pollutants is associated with impaired cognitive development.”

Human brain development is a complex and lengthy process. During pregnancy, the basic structures of the brain are formed, and the neural circuits that will eventually control movement, speech, memory, and other cognitive (thinking) functions, as well as the function of many organs, begin to be established…Much of the development of the cerebral cortex happens during the first two years of life. For example, babies usually learn to crawl at about nine months. Other aspects of brain function take longer to develop. Thus, the cognitive functions that are essential for learning undergo considerable development between the ages of 6 and 10 years, and further brain changes occur during adolescence.

“there was an 11.5% 12-month increase in working memory at the lowly polluted schools but only a 7.4% 12-month increase in working memory at the highly polluted schools. Other analyses indicated that children attending schools with higher levels of traffic-related air pollutants in either the courtyard or in the classroom experienced a substantially smaller increase over the 12-month study in all three cognitive measurements than those attending schools with lower levels of pollutants.”

“ the developing brain may be vulnerable to traffic-related air pollution well into middle childhood, a conclusion that has implications for the design of air pollution regulations and for the location of new schools.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What are the Societal Costs of Air Pollution?

The social cost of atmospheric release ( 14 page pdf, Drew T. Shindell, Climatic Change, Feb. 25, 2015)

Also discussed here: New models yield clearer picture of emissions' true costs (Phys Org, Mar. 4, 2015)

Today we look at research into the social costs of emissions both carbon emissions that provoke climate change and associated health and environmental impacts and non carbon emissions which directly cause health impacts. Results indicate that the typical gasoline-powered car causes $1,700 of environmental damages each year in comparison with a small electric car (Nissan Leaf) which causes less than half as much ($840) when the electricity comes from coal, or $290 from natural gas or negligible if from renewable energy courses. This equates to an environmental cost of $3.80 per gallon of fuel. These cost estimates suggest in turn a reasonable price to put on those who drive these vehicles which would not only encourage a shift to less damaging forms of transportation as it suggests a revenue source to pay for the damage they do to the social and environmental environment.

social cost of pollution  

Key Quotes:

“The social cost of a gallon of diesel is about $4.80 more than the pump price; the price of natural gas more than doubles; and coal-fired electricity more than quadruples.”

"We think we know what the prices of fossil fuels are, but their impacts on climate and human health are much larger than previously realized…We're making decisions based on misleading costs."

"Looking at electricity, for example, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates generation costs per kilowatt hour of power to be about 10 cents for coal, 7 cents for natural gas, 13 cents for solar and 8 for wind… Not surprisingly, the U.S. has seen a surge in the use of natural gas, the apparent cheapest option. However, when you add in environmental and health damages, costs rise to 17 cents per kilowatt hour for natural gas and a whopping 42 cents for coal."

“Within the transportation sector, the environmental damages per unit of fuel consumption are $3.80 (−1.80/+2.10) per gallon of gasoline using a 3 % discount rate, far larger than the current federal tax of $0.184 per gallon and more than 7x greater than the typical combined local, state and federal gasoline tax…Damages are substantially larger for diesel fuel, $4.80 (−3.10/+3.50) per gallon, owing to the greater BC emissions from diesel engines “

“For vehicles, emissions from a typical midsize US gasoline powered vehicle (26 miles gallon−1, 12,000 miles yr−1) lead to environmental damages valued at $1700 yr−1 using the SCAR with 3 % discounting…..In comparison, analogous damages associated with the generation of electricity to power a midsize electric vehicle (EV; 2013 Nissan Leaf, 0.29 kWh mile−1 ( are $840 yr−1 for electricity from coal, $290 yr−1 for electricity from natural gas and miniscule for nuclear or renewable”

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Where are Europe’s Air Pollution Hotspots and How are they being Cleaned Up?

Modelling street level PM10 concentrations across Europe: source apportionment and possible futures (15 page pdf, Kiesewetter, G., Borken-Kleefeld, J., Schöpp, W., Heyes, C., Thunis, P., Bessagnet, B., Terrenoire, E., Fagerli, H., Nyiri, A., and Amann, M., Atmos. Chem. Phys., Feb. 13, 2015)

Also discussed here: Clearing up Europe’s air pollution hotspots (News, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Feb 19, 2015)

Today we review modeling sources of ambient air pollution across Europe down to the street canyon scale (using the GAINS, model developed by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis) as measured by 1850 monitoring stations (including 300 traffic stations) and then applying various policy scenarios. Results indicate the while most areas show improvement over the next two decades, some continue to remain below EU air quality limits, specifically, southern Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, northern Italy, and Bulgaria. Adherence to these limits require more than vehicle emission controls such as introduction of low emission zones, improved road materials and road dust removal and eliminating studded tires and controlling emissions from home heating fuels such as wood burning. europe hot spots  

Key Quotes:

“Europe cannot achieve the WHO air quality guidelines without strictly controlling emissions from coal and wood burning for home heating, road traffic, and other sources such as industrial-scale factory farming, according to new IIASA research.”

“Under current legislation, air pollution hotspots will remain in Eastern Europe, Southern Poland and major European cities such as Warsaw, Paris, and Milan”

 “Exposure to particulate matter was linked to as many as 400,000 premature deaths in 2011 in Europe…an estimated 80% of Europe’s population is still exposed to PM levels above WHO air quality guidelines, and a significant proportion of the region still exceeds the air quality limit values set by EU law

 “We are now able to explicitly identify the different sources contributing to ambient pollution levels. Some cities clearly have a local problem that may be tackled by local measures”

 “Approaching the WHO guideline value will require emission reductions from various sources, two of which were often overlooked in the past. Especially in Eastern Europe, emissions from solid fuels used for home heating are dominating”

 “a substantial proportion of the European population would still be exposed to PM10 concentrations exceeding EU standards in 2030, in particular in southern Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, northern Italy, and Bulgaria”

 “Strict control of vehicle emissions alone will not be sufficient to achieve the limit values..Additional local measures targeting road traffic may be required… which may include the reduction of traffic volumes through local traffic management such as low emission zones or incentives for public transport use, the reduction of road dust abrasion through restrictions on studded tyre use in Scandinavian countries…, use of enhanced road surface material or advanced road cleaning/dust binding practices”

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

How Are Two Waterlocked Cities (Hong Kong and Ottawa) Coping with Traffic Congestion?

Report on Study of Road Traffic Congestion in Hong Kong (124 page pdf, Transport Advisory Committee, Dec. 2014)

Also discussed here: Hong Kong report proposes electronic road pricing (Road pricing, Feb. 19, 2015)

And here: Segregated Bike Lane Pilot Project (City of Ottawa)

And here: Feasibility Study for a Downtown Ottawa Truck Tunnel (City of Ottawa)

And here: Premier Wynne, MP Galipeau and Mayor Watson tour progress of Confederation Line tunnel (City of Ottawa, Aug. 11, 2014)

And here: How Congested with Traffic are Canadian Cities? (Pollution Free Cities, Jul. 7, 2014)

And here: Is It Time for Congestion Pricing in Canada’s Capital? (Pollution Free Cities, Mar. 22, 2013)

Today we review a comprehensive report by authorities in Hong Kong on measures that could be taken in the short and long term to ease traffic congestion which is having major impacts on economic activity by slowing mobility and as well as to the air quality of this large city where the number of vehicles has increased by 30% over the last decade to almost 700,000 while average vehicle speed has slowed by 11% to 22 kph in the urban area. One of the first steps taken by the working group was a poll of public views on the causes for the congestion – the top three according to a majority of those polled were: too many vehicles on roads, too much road work and illegal parking. The measures recommended included ones to strengthen public transit (by offering more options for pedestrians), ones to discourage traffic interruptions by illegal parking and by tourist buses, trucks or vans operating at rush hour (by giving more enforcement powers to police) and ones to reduce the number of cars on the roads by a electronic road charging system. The Hong Kong authorities also are constructing a tunneled bypass highway as an option to the roads being considered for tolling.

Many of the causes identified for congestion and the options being considered are, to this reviewer, very similar to conditions in Canada’s national capital. Although different in many ways, Hong Kong and Ottawa have similarities, especially in terms of high traffic volumes and pollution hot spots and the fact that both urban cores are surrounded by water and so are not able to expand to accommodate more and more traffic. Vancouver, British Columbia is another city almost entirely surrounded by water which has managed to overcome some of the congestion problems that hamper Ottawa and Hong Kong- not allowing a freeway through its centre and providing mobility options being some of its major accomplishments to lead the list of world cities with the highest environmental quality and quality of life. Singapore is another example of a waterlocked city that attacked its traffic congestion with electronic road tolling and was one of the first in the world to do that successfully (as is being recommended for Hong Kong).

Ottawa, like Hong Kong, has more than 600,000 registered vehicles on the road converging each day into the smallest Central Business District of any large city in the country and major road works (a downtown town tunnel to remove heavily polluting diesel trucks from city streets and a second tunnel for Light Rail Transit) are underway in the core which is guaranteed to disrupt traffic further. Recent feeble efforts to accommodate pedestrians, such as a pedestrian bridge over the canal (one done, another planned) and to offer some protection for cyclists with an 8 block segregated/curbed bike lane through the downtown core need to be expanded, along with improvements in non-polluting public transit for the whole city (now planned for 2030). A close read of the Hong Kong report by Ottawa city transportation planners is warranted.

 hong kong  

Key Quotes:

“Recurrent causes of road congestion:

“(a) limited scope for more road transport infrastructure; (b) excessive number of vehicles; (c) competing use of road space; (d) management and enforcement issues; and (e) road works.”

“The number of total licensed vehicles grew by about 30% from about 524 000 in 2003 to about 681 000 in 2013, with an annual growth rate of 3.4% in recent years. The larger the vehicle fleet size, the slower the car journey speed in the urban areas.. During the same period, the average car journey speed in urban areas dropped by about 11% from 25.6 km/h in 2003 to 22.7 km/h in 2013”

“Government has put in place measures to promote non-mechanised means to commute, e.g. through building hillside escalators and improving pedestrian facilities to enhance walkability and connectivity.”

“Motor vehicles are the main source of air pollutants at street level and the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Hong Kong.”

 “if we do nothing now, with an assumption that the current PC growth rate of about 4.5% p.a. is to continue, it is estimated that the average journey speed in urban areas would be decreased by about 15% in 10 years’ time, with the amount of greenhouse gases generated increased by more than 20%.”

Short-Medium Term

A. Managing the PC fleet size
• Raise PC’s First Registration Tax and Annual Licence Fee Tighten up standards for EFPPCs <Environment-friendly Petrol Private Cars>
 • Raise “fuel levy” for diesel PCs

B. Efficient use of limited road space
• Start planning for a congestion charging pilot scheme
• Increase meter parking charges(The maximum fee for metered parking is $2 per 15 minutes (equivalent to $8 per hour)

C. Stringent penalty and enforcement of traffic offences
• enhance publicity and education efforts to promote compliance with traffic rules and regulations raise the fixed penalty charges for congestion-related offences to restore the deterrent effect (current fixed penalty charges are set at $320 or $450 for congestion-related offences, such as illegal parking
• adopt a stricter approach and deploy more resources to enforce congestion-related offences by the Police • make further use of information technology in enforcement Long-term measures
 * Review parking policy and disseminate real-time information on parkingVacancies
* Encourage on-street loading and unloading outside peak hours
* Provide more park-and-ride facilities"