Thursday, March 2, 2017

What are the Health Benefits of Congestion Pricing?

Congestion Pricing, Air Pollution, and Urban Health (11 page pdf, Emilia Simeonova, Janet Currie, Peter Nilsson and Reed Walker, American Economics Association Meeting, Chicago, Jan. 2017)

Also discussed here: Driving Fee Rolls Back Asthma Attacks in Stockholm (Nala Rogers, Inside Science. Feb. 2, 2017)

Today we review research on the impact of the introduction of congestion pricing in Stockholm, in 2006, and the reduction of traffic that followed on the health of children in that city. Pollution levels in that city are lower than EPA’s standards. Results indicate that the pricing system caused a drop in traffic volumes by 25%, reductions in NO2 and particulate (PM10) pollution of 5 and 10% and a reduction in asthma cases by 12% in the first seven months which increased to 45% over the longer term (several years). While the benefits in other cities with fewer diesel vehicles (emitting PM) may not be as great, it is clear that there are benefits even when the air quality in a given city (such as Ottawa) is considered “good” and that there are negative health impacts that begin at lower thresholds than EPA standards project.


Key Quotes:

"We are already looking at an area that has much lower levels [of pollution] than the current [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] standards, and we are reducing those levels by a little bit…Yet we see these vast changes in the health status of children."

“The tax varies between 0 and 2.6 USD per vehicle, depending on the time of the day. There are no charges at night, on weekends and public holidays, or during July. The toll is automatically collected using license plate scanning technology as cars cross the perimeter of the congestion zone.”

"If you're just looking at the short-term effects of lower levels of pollution, you will probably be missing a big piece of the picture."

 “current standards for air pollution may not adequately protect children…there is mounting evidence that health shocks in infancy and childhood have long-lasting impacts on affected children …the mechanisms through which children are affected by traffic-generated pollution may differ from those in adults. Lung development continues post-natally until the adolescent years and is susceptible to negative environmental shocks”

“Children under the age of six are the most likely to experience acute asthma. For example, U.S. children 0 to 4 are 1.9 times more likely to have an asthma attack than children 12 to 17 “

“Our estimates show that permanent reductions in air pollution from automobiles, even in locations which have average pollution levels well below the current EPA standards, can have significant positive effects on children’s respiratory health. “

“Congestion pricing may not work the same way in every part of the world. For example, diesel vehicles are more popular in Sweden than in the U.S.. Diesel produces more nitrogen dioxide and particulates than gasoline, so Sweden may have more to gain from small reductions in driving.”

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