Thursday, March 31, 2016

Does the End of Privately-Owned Cars Mean the End of Parking ?

The High Cost of Minimum Parking Requirements (27 page pdf, Donald Shoup, Transport and Sustainability, 2014)

Also discussed here: Autonomous cars and the end of parking (Scott Forman, sjforman, Feb 21. 2016)

Today we review an intriguing column that looks at the problem presented in many cities by mandated indoor parking requirements and outdoor parking spaces that create as much as 40% of the paved urban surface area- as well as requiring the use of carbon-based asphalt in their construction and maintenance and an added building cost of $32K per space. One result of autonomous, self- driving cars could be no need for parking spaces, especially privately-owned ones, as the robot cars will continue to move around the city to meet demand and, when not needed, will simply drive to unused parking spaces in the outskirts.  Talk about killing two birds with one stone- end vehicles emissions with electric robot cars and make much better use of the wasted space now solely dedicated to parking.


Key Quotes:

“As of today, there are something on the order of 250 million cars in the United States alone. There are also around 800 million parking spaces.”

“in most American cities, parking is actually required to be provided, with complicated formulae depending on land use. A new residential unit might require 2 parking spaces. An office building might require one for every worker.”

“Minimum parking requirements increase the cost of constructing a shopping center by up to 67 percent if the parking is in an above-ground structure and by up to 93 percent if the parking is underground.

“In suburban Seattle, parking requirements force developers to spend between $10,000 and $14,000 per dwelling to provide unused parking spaces”

“the average cost of constructing an underground garage in Boston is $95 per square foot, and the average space occupies 330 square feet, so the average cost of a parking space is $31,000 ($95×330). Across the 12 cities, the average cost per space ranges from a low of $26,000 in Phoenix to a high of $48,000 in Honolulu, with an overall average of $34,000 per space”

“taking an autonomous car everywhere you would normally drive is cheaper than owning a car yourself. It’s also much more convenient — because you don’t have to — you know — actually drive. Which, if you think about it, is kind of an absurd activity. You also don’t have to park.”

“If we end private car ownership we effectively end the need for parking. Fleets of autonomous vehicles should be in more-or-less constant motion when demand is high. And when they’re stationary, they can easily wait in marginal places — under freeway overpasses, on the outskirts.”

“in cities, we should only need about 1/10th as many autonomous cars as we currently have private ones.”

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

How does the Level of Air Pollution Affect the Risk of Strokes?

Age-standardised disability-adjusted life year...
Age-standardised disability-adjusted life year (DALY) rates from Cardiovascular diseases by country (per 100,000 inhabitants). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Number of strokes increase as pollution levels rise (Abstract, Hui Liu, M.S.; Xuan Yang, M.P.H.; Feng Jia, B.Sc.and Mingquan Wang, American Stroke Association, Feb. 17, 2016)

Also discussed here: Number of strokes increase as pollution levels rise. (Science Daily, Feb. 17, 2016)

And here: Stroke Prevalence Linked to Poor Air Quality (Nancy A. Melville, Medscape Medical News, Feb. 19. 2016)

 Today we review research into the links between higher levels of particulate pollution in the two countries with the highest emissions in the world, China and the USA, on the frequency of strokes. Results indicate that the number of strokes rose 1.19% for each 10 ugm/m3 increase of PM 2.5. Also the number of strokes were higher in regions of each country with higher annual PM2.5 (the American South compared to the West). Longer episodes of extreme heat, as a result of climate change, contributes also to more strokes.

 Key Quotes:

“Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States killing nearly 129,000 people every year, and is a leading cause of disability. Worldwide, the prevalence of stroke stood at 33 million, with 16.9 million people suffering their first stroke, and is the second-leading cause of global death behind heart disease.”

“the total number of stroke cases rose 1.19 percent for each 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air (µg/m3) increase of PM2.5.”

“the southern region of America had the highest average annual PM2.5 while the West had the lowest - which correlates with the fact that people living in the South had the highest prevalence of stroke at 4.2 percent compared with those in the West who had the lowest at 3 percent,”

"Seasonal variations in air quality can be partly attributable to the climate changes,…In the summer, there are lots of rainy and windy days, which can help disperse air pollution. High temperatures create a critical thermal stress that may lead to an increased risk for stroke and other heat- and air quality-related illnesses and deaths."

"patients with stroke are in danger of dehydration due to high temperatures in the summer, and are in danger of suffering from pneumonia, influenza and other respiratory diseases in winter. Women and the elderly also appear more vulnerable to stroke risk due to air quality and heat-related diseases.

" “Exposure to PM2.5 even over the course of a few hours to weeks can trigger cardiovascular disease–related mortality and nonfatal events, the statement concludes, and longer-term exposure increases the risk for cardiovascular mortality to an even greater degree.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What has Europe Done to Reduce Air Pollution and Related Premature Deaths?

The impact of European legislative and technology measures to reduce air pollutants on air quality, human health and climate (11 page pdf, S T Turnock, E W Butt, T B Richardson, G W Mann, C L Reddington1, P M Forster, J Haywood, M Crippa, G Janssens-Maenhout, C E Johnson, Environ. Res. Lett., Feb 12, 2016) 

 Today we review a paper that estimates, using two simulation models, how many premature deaths were prevented with and without the technology and regulatory changes over the period from 1970 to 2010. Results indicate that the adoption of the PM2.5 concentration to 15 μgm−3 prevented 80,000 deaths and economic benefits of $232 each year. Mitigation measures reduced the premature deaths by 3 to 4 premature deaths annually per 10 000 people in central and eastern Europe ..and 5 to 6 premature deaths annually per 10 000 people in south eastern Europe (Romania and Bulgaria). premature deaths in EU  

Key Quotes: 

  “We used a coupled composition-climate model to simulate the impacts of European air quality legislation and technology measures implemented between 1970 and 2010.”

 “European emissions of sulphur dioxide, black carbon (BC) and organic carbon in 2010 are 53%, 59% and 32% lower respectively compared to emissions that would have occurred in 2010 in the absence of legislative and technology measures.”

“The reduction inPM2.5 concentrations is calculated to have prevented 80 000 … premature deaths annually across the European Union, resulting in a perceived financial benefit to society of US$232 billion annually…Exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is responsible for ∼3.3 million deaths worldwide each year“

 “Reducing PM2.5 concentrations across more than 20 European cities to 15 μgm−3 was calculated to reduce the number of annual premature deaths by nearly 17 000”

Air pollutant mitigation measures prevent 3 to 4 premature deaths annually per 10 000 people in central and eastern Europe ..and 5 to 6 premature deaths annually per 10 000 people in south eastern Europe (Romania and Bulgaria), where the largest reductions in PM2.5 occurred”

“These improvements to health have had a perceived economic benefit to society estimated to be US $232 billion annually, representing 1.4% of the EU’s GDP in 2010.”

Thursday, March 17, 2016

How do Carbon Emissions from Electric Vehicles Compare to Conventional Ones on a Life Cycle Basis?

Consequential life cycle air emissions externalities for plug-in electric vehicles in the PJM interconnection (13 page pdf, Allison Weis, Paulina Jaramillo and Jeremy Michalek, Environ. Res. Lett., Feb 9, 2016)

 Today we review an assessment of the life cycle emissions their costs from hybrid, plug-in hybrid vehicles compared to conventional ones, driven in states where the majority of the electric power generated is from coal or natural gas. Not surprisingly, the conclusion is that plug-in hybrid emissions are more damaging than hybrid and conventional vehicles under current conditions. The same analysis was done in a future power regulated scenario where renewable energy sources partly replace the carbon burning sources (e.g. 3 to 20% more wind power). Here, the hybrid and plug-in vehicles have higher SO2 and other pollutant emissions and lower PM 2.5 emissions while NO2 and greenhouse gas emissions can be higher or lower than conventional, depending on the individual case. In summary, as applied to Canada, it appears that electric cars make sense in regions where the power sources are largely renewable (e.g. Ontario, Quebec and BC where almost all electric power is nuclear or hydro) but do NOT make sense in regions were power is generated from carbon fuels (such as Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Maritimes). e car emissions  

Key Quotes:

“the emissions associated with producing PEVs [plug-in electric vehicles] and generating the electricity to charge PEVs affect whether these vehicles have higher or lower life cycle environmental and health impacts compared to efficient gasoline vehicles”

 “We estimate the life cycle emissions of CO2, CO, SO2, PM2.5, NOx, and VOCs for conventional, hybrid, and PEVs, including the emissions from vehicle manufacturing, fuel production, and use.”

 “the PEVs have higher GHG, SO2, NOx, and PM2.5 emissions and lower CO and VOC emissions than the HEV [hybrid electric vehicles]. Compared to the CV, PEVs have higher SO2 emissions and lower CO and VOC emissions, while GHG, NOx and PM2.5 emissions may be higher or lower, depending on the PEV characteristics and the charging scenario.”

 “In the future grid scenarios, compared to the HEV, the PHEV-35 [plug-in hybrid electric vehicles] has higher SO2 emissions and lower PM2.5, VOC, and CO emissions, while GHG and NOx emissions may be higher or lower, depending on the charging scenario and wind power scenario.”

 “PEVs have higher expected life cycle damages than hybrid vehicles in the recent PJM [(an independent system operator in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Ohio, and several other states)] scenario in all cases examined…Their expected damages are also higher than those of conventional vehicles”

“PEVs have higher life cycle air emissions damages than gasoline HEVs in the recent grid scenario, which has a high percentage of coal generation on the margin.“

“While near-term benefits of PEV adoption in PJM are estimated to be small or negative, a transition of the transportation system could lead to long-term benefits outside the scope of this analysis, including greater benefits in other regions and future emissions savings enabled by a transition to electric vehicles as the electricity grid becomes cleaner and as public policy adjusts”

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

How Much can e-LRTs Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

Light Rail Transit train on the Dudley B. Menz...
Light Rail Transit train on the Dudley B. Menzies Bridge in Edmonton, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Role of Rail Transit Systems in Reducing Energy and Carbon Dioxide Emissions: The Case of The City of Rio de Janeiro (16 page pdf, Carlos Eduardo Sanches de Andrade  and Márcio de Almeida D’Agosto, Sustainability, Feb. 5, 2016) 

Today we review a paper that uses a model to estimate the GHG emissions avoided by shifting urban transportation mode from passenger car to electric rail transit as a test case for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a city of 6.5M, projected over the period from 2016 to 2040. The amount of GHG emissions avoided were 55,449 tonnes per year for the city or 44.53 grams per passenger kilometer. Although cars in Brazil use more ethanol in their fuel than elsewhere and this is accounted for here, many of the assumptions made to model the shift could be applied to other cities.

 Key Quotes: 

“Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has established…a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions of the transport system by 20% until 2020 compared to 2005. In order to reach this goal, the city’s public transport has been restructured with an emphasis on rail transit systems.” 

 “In Brazil, the energy consumed by the transport sector in 2013 represented 32% of the total energy, with an increase of 5.2% in relation to 2012.The amount of GHG emitted in that year by the transport sector in Brazil reached 215 million tones” 

“The model considers the following elements: (a) Debit: The emission produced by the generation of electricity used by the passenger rail system…. (b) Credit: The emission avoided by the system
  • Mode shift, which represents the gains achieved by the fact that users of private cars and other means of transport causing higher emissions shift their transport mode of choice and use the system, leading to fewer trips with these higher-emission vehicles.
  • Congestion relief, which represents the gains obtained by less traffic congestion due to the smaller number of vehicles on the streets..
  • Land use, which represents the gains obtained by a higher population density.. people need shorter trips and use fewer cars.”
“Tests carried out by the Rio de Janeiro Metro [38] indicated that the average energy consumption of each car varies from 2.97 to 4.80 kWh per kilometer traveled, with the first value representing an empty car and the second value representing the car during peak hours, with 357 passengers"

Passenger rail systems powered by electricity can contribute to the reduction of GHG emissions of the transport system and make it more sustainable. The condition for that result is that the rail system emission per PKM [passenger kilometer) be lower than that of the replaced transport modes.”

 “The net amount of carbon dioxide avoided [from 2016 to 2040] was 55,449 tonnes per year and 44.53 grams per passenger kilometer. The avoided energy reached 0.76 MJ per passenger kilometer.”

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Can Exposure to Air Pollution Make You Fat?

The air that makes you fat (David Robson, BBC Future, Feb. 1, 2016)

Also discussed here: Residential Proximity to Major Roadways and Prevalent Hypertension Among Postmenopausal Women: Results From the Women's Health Initiative San Diego Cohort (12 page pdf, J Am Heart Assoc., Oct 1, 2014)

Today we review research based on exposing mice to the various types of air pollution found in American cities. Results indicate their fat cells were 20% larger when exposed to high levels of air pollution after just 10 weeks because of less sensitivity to insulin which converts blood sugar into energy. This conclusion is similar to a study in Ontario where the risk of diabetes rose 11% for every 10 mico gram/m3 increase in particulate matter.

  pollution fat  

Key Quotes:

 “residential proximity to major roadways has been associated with increased prevalence of coronary heart disease, increased risk of acute myocardial infarction, increased risk of stroke mortality, increased risk of death following stroke and acute myocardial infarction, Increased evidence of coronary atherosclerosis, increased left ventricular mass index, narrower retinal arteriolar diameter, and reduced renal function” “living 100 m versus 1000 m from a major roadway was associated with a 9% (95% CI: 3, 16) higher prevalence of hypertension.”

 “After just 10 weeks, the effects were already visible. The mice exposed to the air pollution showed greater volumes of body fat, both around the belly and around the internal organs; at the microscopic level, the fat cells themselves were around 20% larger in the mice inhaling a fine mist of pollutants”

“they seemed to have become less sensitive to insulin, the hormone that signals to cells to convert blood sugar into energy: the first step towards diabetes.”

 “When we breathe in, the pollutants irritate the tiny, moist air sacs that normally allow the oxygen to pass into the blood stream. As a result, the lungs’ lining mounts a stress response, sending our nervous system into overdrive. This includes the release of hormones that reduce insulin’s potency and draws blood away from the insulin-sensitive muscle tissue, preventing the body from tightly controlling its blood sugar levels.”

“the medical records of 62,000 people in Ontario, Canada over a 14-year period… the risk of developing diabetes rose by about 11% for every 10 micrograms of fine particles in a cubic metre of air” “children born in the most polluted areas were 2.3 times more likely to be considered obese, compared to those living in cleaner neighbourhoods”  

babies of mothers living in polluted areas appear to put on weight more rapidly than those in cleaner areas

“whenever the city’s [Beijing’s] infamous smog descended, giveaway signs of developing problems like insulin resistance and hypertension peaked – providing more concrete evidence that the air quality was indeed driving changes to the metabolism.”

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

What is the Social Cost of Carbon Pollution?

How do we define climate pollution's cost to society? (Elizabeth Shogren, DC Dispatch Jan. 27, 2016)

Also discussed here: Evidence on the Impact of Sustained Exposure to Air Pollution on Life Expectancy from China’s Huai River Policy (53 page pdg, , Yuyu Chen, Avraham Ebenstein, Michael Greenstone and Hongbin Li, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Economics, Working Paper Series, Jun.20, 2013)

And here: Americans Are Living Longer, Thanks to the Clean Air Act (Melissa C. Lott, Scientific American, Jan. 31, 2016

Today we review a paper by an Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon (United States Government) which estimated the economic benefit of carbon pollution reductions, taking into account future discount rates and, using a model, the atmospheric impact of a metric ton of carbon, and how it affects earth temperatures in terms of a range of impacts such stresses to agriculture and increased need for air conditioning etc. Estimated costs to 2050 range from $11 (at a predicted 5% average rate) to $221(at 3% rate) per metric ton of CO2. The opposite side of this issue is the cost of imposing a government policy which results in damages to the public,

One example of air pollution policy yielding benefits is the Clean Air Act in the USA which has produced 336 million life-years since 1970. Another example from Northern China (with a 500M population, greater than the entire USA) where an earlier policy (which was reversed in 2007) to burn coal to support industry resulted in health impacts and a loss of 2.5 million life years of life expectancy for the region- or 5.5 years per person. The need to consider this direct cost and benefit, as well as the incentive value of carbon pricing to encourage renewable energy use, is obvious. social cost poll

 Key Quotes:

“The value of carbon emissions reduction is certainly not zero.. if the cost of polluting is not zero, what it is? Fletcher’s ruling challenged government officials to come up with a dollar amount that represents how much a ton of carbon pollution will “cost” society over the long run. Economists refer to this as the social cost of carbon. “

“climate change affects many aspects of society, including public health, environment, agriculture, natural disasters and economies…The damages from the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere — everything from heat waves to sea level rise — are felt across the globe.”

“First, the models estimate how a metric ton of carbon pollution will impact concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Second, the models estimate how those concentrations will affect temperature on Earth. Third, they analyze how increases in temperature will translate into a range of impacts”

“the Environmental Protection Agency’s analysis of its Clean Power Plan cites benefits in carbon dioxide reductions in 2030 that range from $6 billion to $60 billion”

“The population in Northern China between 1990 and 2000 exceeded 500 million. arbitrary Chinese policy that greatly increases total suspended particulates (TSP) air pollution is causing the 500 million residents of Northern China to lose more than 2.5 billion life years of life expectancy.. life expectancies are about 5.5 (95% CI: 0.8, 10.2) years lower in the North due to an increased incidence of cardiorespiratory mortality.”

“Americans have gained 336 million life-years since the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970”