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

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)

And here: Air pollution controls linked to lower death rates in North Carolina (Science Daily, Jun. 23, 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?

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)

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.


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