What is the Next Biggest Environmental Health Problem After Air Pollution?

Lessening the Severe Health Effects of Traffic Noise in Cities by Emission Reductions (28 page pdf, Tor Kihlman, Wolfgang Kropp, and William Lang, The CAETS Noise Control Technology Committee and the International Institute of Noise Control Engineering, May 2014)

Also discussed here: Traffic noise is dangerous for your health: Solutions exist for dense cities (ScienceDaily, Jul.1, 2014)

Today we review a report that looks at the second biggest environmental cause of health problems after air pollution, noise. As with air pollution, the single biggest source is road traffic from the interaction between tires and pavement or “rolling noise”. Solutions call for “quiet pavements” and improved design of tires although the authors report that present regulations and that most actions by government and industry fall well short of solving the problem. An interesting point was made about safety concerns about electric cars being too quiet to the point that government wants to require noise emitters – a step that is seen as unnecessary and counterproductive. Again, as with air pollution, an effective solution is to reduce roads traffic by promoting quiet forms of transportation, such as walking and cycling. Steps to reduce road noise would also benefit efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and climate change impacts.

noise in cities

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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

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How Congested with Traffic are Canadian Cities?

TomTom Americas Traffic Index (74 page pdf, TomTom, Jun. 3, 2014)

Also discussed here: TomTom Live Traffic

And here: Vancouver home to worst gridlock in Canada (CTV News, Jun. 3, 2014)
Today we review the latest report on Traffic Congestion by the GPS-maker, TomTom. The three worst cities in Canada are Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa where the average driver with a 30 minute commute encounters as much as 87 hours of delay each year. TomTom also produces real-time, live traffic congestion maps, such as the one shown below for Ottawa during the morning rush hour. The reddened areas indicate where there is a need for congestion charging to lower and redistribute peak traffic flow away from these road segments.

congestion Ottawa

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Are Tolls a Better Way to Pay for Road Infrastructure than Taxes?

The Free Ride Is Over: Why Cities, and Citizens, Must Start Paying for Much-Needed Infrastructure (34 page pdf, Philip Bazel and Jack Mintz, Research Paper, The School of Public Policy, University of Calgary, May 20, 2014)
Also discussed here: Cities should embrace user fees to fund repairs to aging infrastructure: Report (Manisha Krishnan, Calgary Herald, May 20, 2014)

Today we review a report that analyses why user fees for municipalities are not applied to roads but are happily applied to other forms of public infrastructure such as public transit, waste and water drainage. The costs of road infrastructure tends to come from transfers from the federal or provincial levels (which as a revenue stream has been rising) or from property taxes with very little outside of gas taxes from the users. The result is that local politicians are shielded from accountability for the condition of roads and, as it affects property taxes which are higher in the urban core, people tend to accept commuting longer distances to buy cheaper properties in the suburbs – which only celebrates urban sprawl and congested highways leading into the cities. It also disadvantages those affected by the added congestion whether it is added congestion from the suburbs or the environmental and health costs borne by those living downtown. Other countries regularly charge road users for roads and bridge infrastructure.

As this report concludes: “To the detriment of their infrastructure, cities across Canada have made insufficient use of user pricing. It is time for a change.”

road user fees

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Monitoring Personal Pollution Exposure and Location with a GPS

Using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and temperature data to generate time-activity classifications for estimating personal exposure in air monitoring studies: an automated method(21 page pdf, Elizabeth Nethery Gary Mallach, Daniel Rainham. Mark S Goldberg, Amanda J Wheeler, Environmental Health, May 8, 2014)

exposure by gps

Today we review research that looks at the advantages offered by a GPS and a PM2.5 particulate sensor to monitor 70 children and the pollution sources and durations they are exposed to over 10 days. The pollution sources vary between indoors and outdoors, using transit or driving, as well as in proximity to roadside emissions in the large metropolitan area that Montreal is. This approach improves upon the data that can be collected from a personal pollution exposure sensor that only produces the total pollution exposure over a given time period by breaking down the exposure by location. The use of a GPS also precludes the need to keep a diary as well as offering more convenience and accuracy, and possibly an effective way of monitoring larger populations for longer periods- if smart phones with a sensor were used for example..

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Making Streets Complete for More Mobility

Rethinking Streets – An Evidence-Based Guide to 25 Complete Street Transformations(148 page pdf, Marc Schlossberg, John Rowell, Dave Amos, Kelly Sanford, Sustainable Cities Initiative Oregon, 2013)

Today we review a book that examines street design in 25 varied communities across the USA and how these communities have adapted their streets to a more mobile end result. Each has different needs and, as a result, different design but all are focused on making the streets more effective, as well as more enjoyable for driving, walking, transit and cycling.

street xsection

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Where is the Most and Least Urban Sprawl in the USA?

Measuring Sprawl 2014(51 page pdf, Smart Growth America, April 2014)

Also discussed here: Updated Urban Sprawl Data for the United States (National Cancer Institute, Geographic Information Systems and Science for cancer prevention and control)

Today we review a report on the extent that sprawl exists and the rate that it is increasing or decreasing in over 200 cities and almost 1000 counties in the USA, using a quantitative sprawl index. Results indicate that the most compact, least sprawled cities are New York City (203) and San Francisco (194). In contrast, the most sprawl is found in Atlanta (41) and Morganton NC (25). Analysis of the social and health impacts of sprawl reveal that a doubling of the index equates to 3 more years of life and an increase of only 10 points is linked to lower housing and transportation costs by 3-4%, improved air quality and 15% less fatal vehicle crashes.

sprawled cities

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Solar Parking Lots and Driveways

The Solar Parking Lot (Isaiah Mouw, Parking Matters, Spr. 14, 2014)
Also discussed here: City driving to get roadway test grant (Cameron Rasmusson, Bonner Conty Dail Bee, Apr. 3, 2014)
And here: Solar Roadways

And here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvWTaqUvsfA

The Promise of Solar Roadways: Scott Brusaw at TEDxSacramento (16 min. You-Tube video)

Today we review progress by the inventor of Solar Roadways, Scott Brusaw, toward his goal of using photoelectric cells embedded in glass pavements in highways across the USA which would replace the energy generated by fossil fuels and cut greenhouse gas emissions in half. He has now passed two phases of tests and development funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation and has just finished building an outdoor parking 12 by 36 ft. lot which is described in the references noted. A key advantage for colder climates in addition to the electrical energy generated which could be used to recharge electric cars is the capability to melt snow that falls on the parking lot – and, when economically feasible, for driveways for private homes. Brusaw’s home city of Sandpoint in Utah, USA is seeking DOT funding to test a solar street in its downtown.


solar Parking-lot-east-300x225

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How Can Satellite Imagery Help Reduce Care Use, Congestion and Emissions?

Landscape Pattern and Car Use: Evidence Linking Household Data with Satellite Imagery (Abstract, Rose Keller, Colin Vance, Journal of Transport Geography, Jan. , 2013)
Also discussed here: Urban planning could change driving behaviour (1 page pdf, Science for Environment Policy, European Commission DG Environment News Alert Service, Mar. 27, 2014)

And here: Factors influencing commute distance: a case study of Toronto’s commuter shed (Abstract, Axisa, Jeffrey J.; Scott, Darren M.; Bruce Newbold, K., , Journal of Transport Geography, Sep. 2012)

Today we review research that used satellite imagery along with geographical information system data (GIS) to find out what are the main pre-determinants for car use. Results indicate that diversity of land uses which includes the mix of open space with built-up space and the mix of regional businesses with residential are most highly linked to less care use, along with two more publicly-accepted notions about higher fuel prices and availability of public transit. This suggests that urbn planners would do well to compare digital maps of land use as part of their efforts to effectively reduce car use, congestion and carbon dioxide emissions (which make up 12% of all greenhouse gas emissions in Europe)

Per capita responsibility for current atmosphe...

Per capita responsibility for current atmospheric CO 2 level, including land-use change (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Turning the Corner on Car Use in the USA, Australia, Canada, Europe and Asia

Decoupling Urban Car Use and Metropolitan GDP Growth(30 page pdf, Jeff Kenworthy, pg. 7-21, World Transport Policy & Practice, Oct. 30, 2013)

Also discussed here: World Transport Policy & Practice – Vol. 19, No. 4 (World Streets, Oct. 30, 2013)
Today we review data on car use per $GDP from 42 cities that indicate that car use is declining, mainly due to improvements in public transit in terms of economic value and speed compared to private vehicles, and to the growth of social media, urban intensification and the knowledge economy. Traffic congestion is the main barrier to speed for either cars or bus transit and when steps, such as road pricing, are taken to reduce congestion, the advantage of bus transit is greater. The greatest decline in car use occurred in European cities where a combination of Light Rail Transit and urban congestion charging seem to be progressing the most.

peak car use

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How Do Smart Phones Affect Car Use, Street Networks and Urban Design?

The Car as Smartphone: Effects on the Built Environment and Sociality(22 page pdf, Ben Schulman, 2013)

Also discussed here: Are smartphones changing the geography of our cities?(Human Transit, Oct. 28, 2013)

And here: Grid Unlocked: How Street Networks Evolve as Cities Grow(Sarah Fecht, Scientific American, Apr. 6, 2012)

Today we review a paper on the changing impacts that the introduction of first cars and then smart phones and online devices have had and might have in the future on the design of street networks and of the city itself. Both cars and online devices serve a social communicative purpose. Cars move communications outward and encourage sprawl. The growth of smart phone use appears to be linked to the decline of car use and the tendency for more young people to live in the downtown core where they can communicate freely. Where the car changed street design from dense population cores with interdispersed parks and meeting places to street arteries and major roads to quickly exit the city, smart phones seem to have reversed this trend. Interesting!

street design

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How Can the Law be used to Curb Traffic on Roads that Cause Congestion and Air Pollution?

Legal warning over pollution impact of roads(Campaign for Better Transport, Oct. 18, 2013)

Also discussed here: Environmental Statement Volume 1 (288 page pdf, A556 Project Team, Highways Agency & Jacobs, Mar. 2013)

And here: A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon Improvement Scheme – consultation response(16 page pdf, Campaign for Better Transport, Oct. 16, 2013)

And here: A14 upgrade ‘may push air pollution past legal limits’(Chris Havergal, Cambridgenews, Oct. 16, 2013)

Today we review efforts by a group in England to convince the highway authority to find other ways to reduce congestion than by widening roads which it claims would only lead to more congestion and health impacts from air pollution- which was confirmed by the Highway Authority in an Environmental Statement. What is interesting about this is the mechanism that allows citizens to raise concerns in a substantive and legal way on a specific project and, surprisingly (to a Canadian in Ottawa with similar concerns about roads and air pollution) get results. Worth noting too is that the UK, as one of a few countries in the world with comprehensive road side monitoring of air pollution in urban areas, provides data that can put a limit on traffic-related air pollution (TRAP). roads and the law

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Monitoring Pollution Near Multi-Lane Highways

Freeway air pollution travels farther in early morning(Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times, Apr. 17, 2013)

Also discussed here: Air board will start monitoring pollution next to SoCal freeway(Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times, Aug. 25, 2013)

And here: EPA’s Remarkable New Air Pollution Monitors (I’m like a Kid in a Candy Store(Gretchen Goldman, Union of Concerned Scientists, Aug. 29, 2013)

And here: A wide area of air pollutant impact downwind of a freeway during pre-sunrise hour(Abstract, ·  Shishan Hu, Scott Fruin, Kathleen Kozawa, Steve MaraSuzanne E. PaulsonArthur M. Wine, Atmospheric Environment, May 2009)

Today we review news that the Environmental  Protection Agency will be implementing a program to monitor air quality  within 160 ft of major roadways for the 100 largest cities in the US. This comes as more and more research indicate both the health risks produced by exposure to those who live near roadways (even at sunrise before peak rush hour traffic) and the extent to which pollution from the highways drift downstream (1.2 km).

freeway pollution

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Measuring and Reducing Traffic Congestion

Smart Congestion Relief – Comprehensive Evaluation Of Traffic Congestion Costs and Congestion Reduction Strategies(47 page pdf, Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, Aug. 28, 2013)

congestion measures

Today we review a report from the Victoria Transport Policy Institute that analyses various measures of congestion and the economic and other costs in various strategies to reduce congestion. The author emphasizes the need to include all aspects and both short and long term impacts when selecting an optimum strategy or strategies. Increasing road infrastructure, for example, will reduce congestion in the short term but also increases annual maintenance costs, parking costs and pollution levels while road pricing tends to decrease all three impacts.

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Measuring NO2 from Urban Vehicle Emissions with Infra-Red and Ultraviolet Remote Sensors

Remote sensing of NO2 exhaust emissions from road vehicles(93 page pdf, David Carslaw and Glyn Rhys-Tyler, DEFRA Project Reference:332c2011 (City of London Corporation) , 334c2011 (London Borough of Ealing) , May 2013)

Also discussed here: Remote sensing of NO2 exhaust emissions from road vehicles(King’s College London News, Jun. 12, 2013)

Today we review research on measuring NO2 emissions from EU standard and diesel vehicles using remote sensors on roadways in London. Results show that while NO2 concentrations have slowly decreased over the last decade due to more stringent EU standards, there has not been a similar improvement in diesel vehicles. For the latter, care must be taken in reducing NO2 that increases in Particulate Matter (PM) are avoided.

remote sensor londonno2 for eu class and diesel

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Managing Spawl to Produce Sustainable Communities

Can We Have Sustainable Transportation without Making People Drive Less or Give up Suburban Living? (Abstract, Mark Delucchi and Kenneth S. Kurani, Journal of Urban Planning and Development, Jun. 26, 2013)

Also discussed here: A Sustainable City With Cars and Low-Density Homes? It’s Possible(Eric Jaffe, The Atlantic, Jun. 28, 2013)

Today we review an article that addresses the biggest challenge to a carbon free society- sprawl, based on long commutes to widespread communities, fostered by the long era of cheap oil and gas. The proposed solution is to aim at small to mid-sized cities (under 100K) which restricts heavy polluting vehicles to the outer ring of the city and conserves the urban populated centre for low speed, less polluting modes of transportation.

low density homes

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HOV to HOT lanes – a first step to More Effective Congestion Pricing?

Gaining Public Support for Freeway Congestion Pricing(25 page pdf, Robert Poole, Reason Foundation, April 2012)

Also discussed here: Gaining Public Support for Congestion Pricing on Highways – Delivering value and offering multiple options for drivers and truckers(Robert Poole, Reason Foundation, Apr. 9, 2012)

Today we review a report which proposes a more effective approach to relieving highway traffic congestion and to generate more revenue for highway improvements than the unpopular flat tolls. The recent conversion of high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes to high occupancy toll lanes (HOT) in the USA and some Canadian provinces (notably as proposed for 400 series highways in the Greater Toronto Area in the 2013 Ontario budget) could herald a more sophisticated 3-stream system that would both improve traffic flow of traffic and recover more revenue as warranted from vehicles that cause the most damage to highways (trucks). Most important is the step by step approach to gain popular favour to congestion pricing in general.

hot lanes

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Health Risks for Highway Workers

Freeway to the  Lenny Zakim Bridge

Freeway to the Lenny Zakim Bridge (Photo credit: OhDuranDuran)

Exposure of Highway Maintenance Workers to Fine Particulate Matter and Noise ( Abstract, Reto Meier, Wayne E. Cascio, Brigitta Danuser and Michael Riediker, Annals of Occupational Hygiene, Mar. 15, 2013)<

Also discussed here: Strimmers are worse than motorway traffic  (Medical XPress, May 30, 32013)

Today we review an article that looks at the health risks of highway workers exposed to both vehicle emissions from proximity of traffic and the noise and emissions of particles from their equipment- such as from chain saws and jack hammers. Results indicate levels eight times higher than those faced by the average population. More generally, one could suppose that residences close to ongoing highway maintenance in a city environment would also be impacted.

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Protecting Cyclists on Urban Roads

Inventory of Protected Green Lanes(Green Lane Project)

Also discussed here: Memphis to Add 15 Miles of Protected Bike Lanes(Angie Schmitt , StreetsBlogNetwork, May 23, 2013)

And here: Why Are Some Cities Safer for Cycling?(Pollution Free Cities, Jul. 19, 2011)

And here: Segregated Bike Lanes(Pollution Free Cities, Oct. 12, 2009)

And here: Who owns the road in Montreal?(Pollution Free Cities, Oct. 3, 2009)

Today we review the progress being made in cities in the US and Canada of protection of cyclists on busy city roads through the addition of “protected” or “segregated” bike lanes which often separate cars from bikes by a raised curb. While Canada’s capital probably has the most and longest segregated bike parks (at 541 km, planned to increase to 2,500 km), many US cities are planning to double the number of protected lanes from the current 103 in the next year. The “Green Lane Project” provides a spreadsheet detailing the location and length of these lanes in each city which can be found by following the links above. The hoped for result would be to reduce the number of injuries and deaths caused by the merging of fast-moving vehicle traffic with cyclists.

seg bike path

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Roadside Emissions and Kidney Disease

Residential proximity to major roadways and renal function(Abstract, Shih-Ho Lue, Gregory A Wellenius, Elissa H Wilker, Elizabeth Mostofsky, Murray A Mittleman, J Epidemiol Community Health, May 13, 2013)

Also discussed here: Diesel emissions harming kidneys(Dr Cory Couillard, VibeGhana, May 14, 2013)

Today we review some research indicating that those who breathe particulates near busy roads risk not only a higher risk of cardiovascular disease but also kidney disease. Results indicate that when the proximity is less than 50 m can cause a relative aging of 4 years.


Kidney (Photo credit: Joshua Schwimmer)

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The Impact of Proximity to Traffic on Birth Outcomes

Residential proximity to major roads and adverse birth outcomes: a hospital-based study (26 page pdf, Takashi Yorifuji, Hiroo Naruse, Saori Kashima, Soshi Takao, Takeshi Murakoshi, Hiroyuki Doi and Ichiro Kawachi, Environmental Health, Apr. 18, 2013)

Today we review research into the link between proximity to heavy traffic and low birth weight or preterm birth for a perinatal hospital located in Shizuoka, Japan. The results confirmed the association with proximity to high levels of air pollution as well as the influence of a second factor, low income (termed as low socio-economic position) which has also been shown to be significant.

Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbili...

Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbilical cord has not yet been cut. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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How can Intelligent Transportation Systems Reduce Traffic Congestion?

Congestion Management in the GTHA: Balancing the Inverted Pendulum (Chapter 1)(pages 3-41, Baher Abdulhai, Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario, Apr. 2013)

Also discussed here: Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning Integrated Network Of Adaptive Traffic Signal Controllers (Marlin-ATSC)(44 page pdf, Samah El-Tantawy, presentation of PhD dissertation, University of Toronto, 2011)

And here: Making Traffic Smarter – An intelligent transportation system could reduce vehicle emissions in Toronto by as much as 30 per cent(John Lorinc, UofT Magazine, Spring 2013)

Today we review a report on the use of smart traffic lights to reduce waiting times at intersections by about 1/3 which in turn equates to significant reductions in greenhouse gases and toxic pollutants in urban areas. The systems use real-time learning to adjust and optimize signaling.

smart stoplights

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Where to Find Money for Public Transit?

Big Move Implementation Economics:Revenue Tool Profiles(230 page pdf, AECOM.KPMG, prepared for Metrolinx, Apr. 2, 2013)

Also discussed here: The Big Move: A sneak peek at Metrolinx’s short list of ‘revenue tools’ for expanded transit(Tess Kalinowski , Toronto Star, Apr. 2, 2013)

And here: Toll roads work but don’t use them to subsidize public transit(National Post, Andrew Coyne, Apr. 3, 2013)

Today we review a report which assessed a wide range of possible revenue options to cover the $50 B cost of improved public transit over the next 25 years for the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTAH), the largest population centre in Canada. While a downtown cordon congestion charge was not recommended because of a lack of alternative mobility modes, an innovative vehicle mileage charge (VKT) using GPS technology was suggested that could generate almost $2B/yr in the next decade, as well as highway tolls that could generate up to $1.5 B/yr and reduce the demand for road use and the resulting pollution. The report includes a useful analysis of revenue potentials from existing congestion pricing experiences in London, Stockholm, and Manchester.

Journalist and road pricing advocate, Andrew Coyne, cautions against  road pricing to subsidize public transit. Road pricing can reduce congestion and the resulting more smoothly running traffic benefits both those who use the roads and those who use transit. THAT becomes the attraction to encourage drivers to use transit, not cheaper fares as passengers seek quicker commute times (and convenience and comfort) above other points. As for the drivers, without some check on road use via appropriate pricing, any speed-up of traffic would be temporary and congestion would redevelop. Further, subsidized public transit contributes to sprawl which road pricing discourages. A final selection of options will be part of a strategy to be proposed by Metrolinx, the transit authority, for government approval in June 2013 following extensive public consultation.

Toronto Skyline

Toronto Skyline (Photo credit: Bobolink)

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Measuring Traffic Congestion and Its Costs

Congestion Costing Critique – Critical Evaluation of the “Urban Mobility Report ”(19 page pdf, Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, Mar. 7, 2013)

Today we review an analysis by Todd Litman of the Urban Mobility Report in which he criticizes the relatively narrow engineering view taken of congestion which tends to exaggerate the costs of traffic and leads to more road building aimed at increased vehicle speeds without considering other options which would benefit mobility in general, safety and the environment at lower cost. When compared with other vehicle costs, congestion comes out a lower one compared to car ownership, operations and parking- something that road builders seldom consider.

congestion costs2

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The London Downtown Congestion Charge After a Decade

10 years of London’s congestion charge – a success or disappointment?(Scott Wilson, Road Pricing, Feb. 17, 2013)

Also discussed here: Ten years of the Congestion Charge: Fewer cars, less pollution and a positive impact on business(James Bloodworth, Left Foot Forward, Feb. 25, 2013)

Today we review an assessment of the London Downtown Congestion Charge, ten years after it was introduced in one of the world’s largest cities and after it inspired other cities, notably Stockholm and New York City, to emulate the British experiment with mixed results. In fact the London experience was a mixed result with limited success in reducing vehicles from entering the congestion area but no progress in reducing actual congestion because of the removal of road space to free up other transport options such as walking on sidewalks and bike lanes. There was little effect on business or economic activity and collection of revenue costs were relatively high at 40% of gross. Lessons learned from London (and Stockholm and Singapore) and advances in GPS technology suggest that future attempts may do better.

Until 18 February 2007 the congestion charge a...

Until 18 February 2007 the congestion charge applied to drivers within the highlighted area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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The Future of Urban Roads – Safe, Healthy?

Our Approach to Health and Road Safety(20 page pdf, EMBARQ)

Also discussed here: More Urbanites, More Cars: The Challenge of Urban Road Safety and Health(Claudia Adriazola and Benoit Colin, WRI Insights,  Feb. 21, 2013)

And here: What’s Next for Sustainable Transport in Cities?(EMBARQ, Jan 31, 2013)

Today we review a report from EMBARQ, a leading advocate for urban mobility, which examined the growth of vehicles in cities and what this means for the future in terms of health and road safety. Among some of the statistics presented is the link between the distance driven each year and road deaths by vehicles- the death rate per 100,000 inhabitants grows sixfold (from 5 to 30)  as the distance driven increases from 15 miles/day to 50. If ways can be found to reduce car dependence by making transit cycling and walking more attractive, there would be fewer deaths and cleaner, healthier cities.

miles driven and deaths

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Bicycle Boulevards for Cleaner Air

Cyclist route choice, traffic-related air pollution, and lung function: a scripted exposure study(24 page pdf, Sarah Jarjour, Michael Jerrett, Dane Westerdahl, Audrey Nazelle, Cooper Hanning, Laura Daly, Jonah Lipsitt, John Balmes , Environmental Health, Feb. 7,  2013)

Today we review research on the exposure of cyclists to pollution while commuting on urban streets in Berkeley, California. Comparisons were made between conditions on special cyclist routes along low traffic corridors – bicycle boulevards-  with those on major roadways. Results indicate significantly lower exposure while on roads with low traffic and outside of rush hours.

bike emissions

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Health Impacts from Proximity to Traffic

Changes in Residential Proximity to Road Traffic and the Risk of Death From Coronary Heart Disease(8 page pdf, Wen Qi Gan, Lillian Tamburic, Hugh W. Davies, Paul A. Demers, Mieke Koehoorn, and Michael Brauer, Epidemiology, Sept.  2010)

Also discussed here: Traffic-related air pollution, community noise and coronary heart disease mortality(49 page pdf, Wenqi Gan, PHO Rounds, Toronto, Mar. 12, 2012)

Today we review research on traffic related air pollution in Vancouver that examines how proximity to that traffic is linked to deaths from heart disease (CHD). Results indicate that those who are within 50 m of highways have approximately 50% greater relative risk (RR) compared to those who are not exposed to traffic. This drops to 20 to 40 % greater risk for those more than 150 m from a highway or within 50 m of a major road. The author notes that proximity to roads is only a proxy for estimating traffic volume and air pollution concentration near roads and that traffic noise is another factor that affect CHDs as well as air pollution.

proximity to highways

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Sweden Implements Congestion Charging (again) in Gothenburg

Sweden’s second city introduces road toll to cut traffic(the New Age, Dec. 30, 2012)

Also discussed here: Snabbt resultat av trängselskatt i Göteborg (translated from Swedish: Quick results of the congestion charge in Gothenburg)(Swedish Transport Agency)
And here: Betalstationernas placering i Göteborg (translated from Swedish: Pay stations located in Gothenburg)(Swedish Transport Agency)
Sweden again shows world leadership and and their leaders, political courage, in reducing carbon emissions (to become carbon neutral within a decade) both nationally and municipally in transportation, through congestion charging, building on the success seen in its largest city, Stockholm. After  only one day, traffic flow (and emissions) was down 25% compared to recent years, indicating how efficient this approach is compared to the miniscule, incremental emission reductions  resulting of tailpipe technology improvements used by governments in the US and Canada to reduce vehicle pollution . Overhead cameras register the vehicles crossing the city limit boundary and bill the drivers automatically in a system similar to the one used for Canada’s toll highway 407, near Toronto.

Detaljerad karta för tryck 20121101 (visning)
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How Does Outside Air Pollution Affect Indoor Air Pollution?

Guide: Indoor air quality can be worse than outdoor

Indoor Air Pollution

Indoor Air Pollution (Photo credit: SEDACMaps)

(4 page pdf, Simon Birkett, Clean Air London, Sep. 19, 2012)

Also discussed here: WHO guidelines for indoor air quality: selected pollutants(484 page pdf, World Health Organization, 2010)

And here: Amendment No. 38 to the Regional Plan (2006)(Official Plan for the Halton Planning Area, Regional Municipality of Halton, Dec. 16, 2009)

Today we review a call for action to the London Assembly (or city council) to improve the level of air quality found indoors where people live and breathe most of the time. While many believe that poor indoor air quality (IAQ) is caused by moulds and volatile gases emitted by furniture and curtains, there is recent evidence that outdoor pollutants such as particulate matter emitted by vehicles can be responsible for up to half the pollution found indoors. Part of the solution is to install very fine filters. Another solution, being pursued in Canada, is to require developers to build homes for the vulnerable populations of children and the elderly at least 30 m away from major roads or 150 m from highways (or provide air quality evidence that it is safe)- as municipal authorities in Halton Region have done recently.

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Is it Time for Traffic Lights at Intersections to Go?

Traffic lights giving way to roundabouts(The Local, Mar. 11, 2011)

Also discussed here: The long wait at the many unnecessary traffic lights in Germany may soon be over(World Streets, Nov. 15, 2012)

And here: Roundabouts & Emissions- Monmouth County, New Jersey(16 slide PowerPoint)

And here: Modern Roundabouts, Global Warming, and Emissions Reductions: Status of Research, and Opportunities for North America (16 page Word document, Tony Redington, New Hampshire Office of Environmental Protection)

And here: Comparing costs of roundabouts and traffic signals(travis baker, Road Warrior,  Sep. 25, 2012)

And here: Roundabouts – Frequently asked questions (FAQs)(Wisconsin Department of Transportation)

More and more evidence shows that when an intersection with traffic signals is replaced with a modern roundabout, vehicle emissions drop and safety for both pedestrians and those in vehicles increase significantly. Today we review news from Germany that a country-wide switch is being considered along with some modeling assessments from Vermont in the USA that indicate that roundabouts could play a critical and inexpensive role in meeting greenhouse gas targets (assuming that the national government ever adopt stringent ones). On sheer economics, there is no contest. Roundabouts have an initial installation cost less than that for traffic lights (roughly $250 K) and an ongoing operational cost that is almost negligible (the cost of electricity alone is approximately $1,000/year for traffic lights at each intersection).

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

Why does Germany have More Sustainable Transportation?

Sustainable Transport that Works:Lessons from Germany(34 page pdf, Ralph Buehler, John Pucher, World Transport Policy & Practice, Apr. 2009)

Also discussed here: Demand for Public Transport in Germany and the USA: An Analysis of Rider Characteristics(27 page pdf, Ralph Buehler and John Pucher, Transport Reviews, Sept. 2012)

And here: Making Urban Transport Sustainable: Lessons from Europe and North America( Keynote speaker, Dr. Ralph Buehler, Carleton University, Oct. 18, 2012)

And here: City considers cuts to Bronson Ave. speed limit after fatal crash (Ottawa Sun, Nov. 2, 2012)

And here: Who owns the road in Montreal?(Pollution Free Cities, Feb. 11,2011)

Today we review a paper authored by Prof Buehler and John Pucher who have also published a book very recently about safer cycling in cities. The paper compares the degree of sustainable transportation in Germany to the USA and other countries and notes that “The USA is perhaps the best known example of unsustainable transport” for a number of reasons, ranging from much greater support for public  transit as well as progressive land use and taxation policies in Germany that result in much less use of cars for commuting  (5 times greater use of transit),  as well as 2-3 times fewer traffic casualties and 80% fewer cycling casualties. Virtually all German cities have car-free zones and few have motorways that penetrate into the city core (unlike 99% of the large urban areas in the USA and Canada).

It is somewhat telling that shortly after an evening presentation on sustainable transportation by Prof Buehler at Carleton University in Ottawa, a student cycling home was killed by a car on a 6 lane roadway that links the airport with the city core and lacks a safe bike lane (noting that a segregated bike lane is being piloted downtown and Ottawa currently has over 541 km of bike lanes including 258 km off road and is planning for 2,500 km, more than any other Canadian city).

There are many lessons to learn here.

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

How Do Skyscrapers Affect Where Urban Pollution Goes?

Wind tunnel investigation of the downwash effect of a rooftop structure on plume dispersion(Abstract, Amit Gupta, Ted Stathopoulos, Patrick Saathoff, Atmospheric Environment, Jan. 2012)

Also discussed here: Air Pollution, Gone With the Wind: Proposed New Building Guidelines to Clean Up the Air We Breath(Science Daily, Nov. 1, 2012)

And here: Tracer Gas dispersion in an Urban Environment:Scaling Considerations in wind tunnel testing(13 page pdf, Amit Gupta, Ted Stathopoulos, Journal of Wind and Engineering, Jan. 2012)

And here: Air pollution, gone with the wind -Concordia researchers propose new building guidelines to clean up city air(University Communications Services, Concordia University, Nov. 2, 2012)

And here: Why skyscrapers are polluting our cities(FirstPost, Nov. 2, 2012)

Today we review award winning research in Montreal that uses wind tunnels to examine the circulation of pollution from one building to another. Suggested solutions include better spacing between buildings and better location of air vents.

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

What is Paris Teaching the World about Sustainable Transportation?

“What are the top 3 things Paris has done in the last 10 years to deliver a genuinely sustainable transport system?”(World Streets: The Politics of Transport in Cities, Nov. 2, 2012)

What makes Paris so great when it comes to the way they deal with cars and traffic? Today we review a post on a leading sustainable transportation blog, World Streets, that asks and answers the question. It seems to be a matter of consistency and perseverance that not only works in Paris but throughout many other cities in France. Only 17% of Parisians choose their car to commute compared to over 60% and 46% to walk in car-addicted Torino (and to cities in the USA and Canada).

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

The Case for Private Management of Roads and a Canadian Example

The Privatization of Roads and Highways-Human and Economic Factors (496 page pdf, Walter Block, Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2009)

Also discussed here:

(You-Tube, 97 min video, Jan. 26. 2009)

And here:  407 ETR

With over 42 pages of references, libertarian Walter Block presents arguments for the privatization of all roads and highways, after analyzing and dismissing many of the counter arguments to his proposition that claim that continued public ownership is too big and serves the public interest too well to throw it away. Block’s analysis of road pricing and tolls, in particular, is worth careful study even if you do not share his opinion which in essence depends on the free market and the ability of those adversely affected to sure the private owner for damages – whether it be loss of life or air pollution impacts on health.

Supporting his vision (but not noted in the book) is one of the first successful electronic road pricing projects in North America- highway 407, tendered for lease at $3 B and since 2001 privately owned and operated (principal owners: Cintra Infraestructuras S.A and the Canada Pension Plan) that provides a quicker trip of 108 km (65 miles approx)  across the top of  the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) using transponders and remote cameras capable of identifying license plates for those who lack transponders. Many of the issues Block discusses about highway safety and the difficulties public road management would has seem to have been overcome though private ownership.

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

The Lasting Impact of Stockholm’s “Congestion Tax”

Effects of congestion charging increase over time (1 page pdf, Science for Environment Policy, European Commission News Alert, Sep. 6, 2012)

Also discussed here: Stockholm congestion pricing has had long term effects on traffic levels (Roadpricing, Sep. 26, 2012)

Today we review a news report from the European Commission on the lasting impact of congestion charging in Stockholm which started as a pilot in 2005 after the success of the London implementation in 2003 and then confirmed it by a slim majority by a referendum. Not only was the scheme effective but the public approval rating of it almost doubled, due partly to the benefits to mobility areas outside the charging zone accomplished from the revenue produced. Another notable point is that the fear of traffic flooding streets and roads outside of the charging zone are unfounded.

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

Reducing Road Deaths and Injuries in London England

Towards a Road Safety Action Plan for London: 2020 (115 page pdf, Mayor of London, Transport for London, July 2012)

Also discussed here: Towards a new Road Safety Action Plan for London: 2020 (Transport for London, July 2012)

And here: London’s road safety action plan(Jenny Jones, MayorWatch, Sep. 3, 2012)

Today we look at a consultation report from London to improve road safety. Among the 70 recommendations are some aimed at pedestrians and cyclists and youth between 18 and 23, both of which are showing increased or peak casualties from road accidents. The 10 key policy proposals call for a 40% drop in road casualties by 2020 though better communications, examining best case examples from other cities and making prime use of technology.

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

Time to Outlaw Cars with Drivers?

Look, no hands (The Economist, Sep. 1, 2012)

Also discussed here: Kiss your bus goodbye(Bern Grush, Traffic Technology International, Aug/Sep 2012)

And here: This week in self-driving cars  (Grush Hour, Aug. 2, 2012)

And here: Robot Taxis(Pollution Free Cities, Feb. 2, 2011)

Today we review an article in the Economist which looks at the progress and potential of driverless cars which remove the human element responsible for 90% of traffic accidents and, among other things, much of the congestion and resulting air pollution that afflicts many cities today.  Earlier we had looked at one person robot taxis being developed at MIT.  Google’s Street View program has been using driverless cars operationally for some time in various cities in the USA and Canada with zero accidents. The benefits both economic and environmental , not to speak of the design of cities with a higher quality of life so outweigh the costs of developing a production model that one day the law may even outlaw manually driven cars!

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

The Status of Road Tolls in Europe

Tolling of cars in the European Union (Road pricing, Aug. 30, 2012)

Also discussed here: Truck tolls/HGV road user charging in the European Union (Road Pricing, Aug. 29, 2012)

Today we summarize a post from the blog “Road Pricing” that describes the present state of tolls in the 27 countries that make up the European Union (excluding Norway and Switzerland) which are divided into two categories: cars and trucks and into two approaches: charging by time (vignette) or distance (VMT). AT present there are 13 countries with tolling systems for cars and 7 for trucks with 1 more planning for cars and 4 more for trucks.

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

Is it time to recover the costs of road use from car drivers?

The war on motorists: Myth or reality? (33 page pdf, Lisa Hopkinson , Institute for Public Policy Research,  Aug. 23, 2012)

The title of the report reviewed today represents the retort to any attempt by government to reduce the costs imposed on society by car drivers by reducing the subsidies to them, in the face of ever increasing traffic and the impacts on health that this brings. In the UK the government spends $9 B on roads and the costs range up to $56 B per year. Among the recommendations is a call for extracting some of these costs by putting a price on road use.

To see KeyQuotes and Links to key reports about this post click HERE

Roadside Air Quality as a Priority Research Issue

Why are we concerned with near-road air quality?(11  page pdf, Rich Baldauf, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Apr. 27, 2010)

Also discussed here: Freeways Don’t Need to be a Housing Show-Stopper(The Greater Marin, Aug. 13, 2012)

Today we highlight a summary of the issues and research priorities and recent findings in the scientific literature for air pollution near major roads from the perspective of the Environmental Protection Agency in the USA. Among other points, the use of vegetation along roads to contain the pollution is seen as a promising approach for the future.

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

Using Longer Red Traffic Lights to Reduce Pollution

Intelligent Traffic Control in Copenhagen(Copenhagenize, Mar. 29, 2012)

What do you do if your proposal to implement congestion pricing to reduce both congestion and pollution is blocked by conservative political forces. If you are the mayor of Copenhagen, you use intelligent stoplights that, counter-intuitively, are used to increase the delays and congestion by increasing the red light times. This step is taken on days when pollution exceed certain levels and is designed to encourage drivers, warned in advance, to leave their cars at home. With the same population as Canada’s capital at 1.2 million, Copenhagen has almost twice the number of premature deaths due to air pollution (800/year), so that action to reduce vehicle emissions is needed. 7 million Kroner has been budgeted for the pilot project- about one Canadian dollar for each citizen of that city.

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

Pros and Cons for Road Pricing in Canada

A simulated-colour image of Greater Toronto Ar...

A simulated-colour image of Greater Toronto Area taken by NASA’s Landsat 7 satellite from 2004. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Congestion Relief: Assessing the Case for Road Tolls in Canada (36 page pdf, Robin Lindsey,  C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, May 2007)

A look at arguments for and against road tolls is reviewed today, noting that in the 19th century, public and private toll bridges, roads, and ferries were prevalent in Canada.  As the paper concludes after making several key recommendations, “that toll roads will be resurrected in the twenty-first century and seem like an obvious innovation whose time should have come (again) long ago”

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

Residences Near Roads and Childhood Asthma

Residential Proximity to a Major Roadway Is Associated with Features of Asthma Control in Children (9 page pdf, Meredith S. Brown, Stefanie Ebelt Sarnat, Karen A. DeMuth1, Lou Ann S. Brown, Denise R. Whitlock1, Shanae W. Brown, Paige E. Tolbert, Anne M. Fitzpatrick, PLoS ONE, May 17,2012)

Today’s review focuses on research into the relationship between proximity of residences to major roads in Atlanta Georgia, USA ( a city known for high rates of asthma as well as for traffic related-pollution) and the occurrence of asthma in children. Results indicate significant impacts as measured by wheeziness and hospital ization when the residences are within 417m as well as gastroesophageal reflux.

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

Do More Roads Have Less Traffic?

Vehicle miles travelled on US roads

Vehicle miles travelled on US roads (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Edward Glaeser’s Triumph of the City (Grush Hour, Apr. 11, 2012)

Also discussed here: Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier [Paperback]  (352 pages, Edward Glaeser, Penguin, 2012)

Today, we review a book by Edward Glaeser (with a nod of appreciation to Bern Grush’s blog) on cities and some highly quotable quotes about the need to price peak demand for road use in order to make roads more usable for all and cities more friendly for their citizens.

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click  HERE

Safe Roads for Seniors

Keeping Baby Boomers Mobile: Preserving the Mobility and Safety of Older Americans (25 page pdf, TRIP and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Feb. 2012)

Also discussed here: Forgive and Forget (Streetsblog, Mar. 5, 2012)

And here: Few U.S. cities are ready for aging Baby Boomer population (USA Today-Your Life, Mar. 25, 2012)

Under review today is a report that looks at the safety issues on local streets that the growing older population either drives on (80% of them do) or uses on foot. These include: the higher risks for seniors making left turns at intersections and the window available for them to avoid heavy traffic, becoming shorter because of the increased congestion from noon on. Combining these issues with the poor design of many city streets that borrow from highway design and fail to achieve either mobility or efficiency- the “STROAD”. The future will see twice as many seniors so that all these problems will amplify in the absence of corrections.

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

The Next Congestion Charge System for New York City?

New York congestion pricing 2012 version  (Road pricing, Mar. 12, 2012)

Also discussed here: Details of Sam Schwartz’s “Fair Plan” and Other Orcutt+Komanoff Highlights  (Ben Fried, Streetsblog, Mar. 7,2012)

And here: The mother of all traffic plans hits NYC (Daniel Massey, Crain’s New York Business, Mar. 21, 2012)

Today we review an interesting proposal to address some of the issues in the failed 2008 plan to introduce congestion charges for New York City failed at the state level (although it was supported by the city’s public). One of the big factors was the lack of benefit to many from outside the city who would pay tolls- and this is where the main opposition was. The 2012 plan introduces a collections system that does not involve money, improvements to highways and flexible pricing according to demand rather than fixed. Many of the questions posed (with some answers) are the same ones that other cities considering road pricing need to consider.

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

Turning Urban Highways into Parks for People

The Life and Death of Urban Highways ( 44 page pdf, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and EMBARQ, Mar. 2012)

Also discussed here: Urban Highways Offer Cities New Opportunities for Revitalization (Erica Schlaikjer, The City Fix, Mar. 21, 2012)

The report reviewed today summarizes the social, economic and environmental benefits that have resulted from the removal of urban highways in five cities: Portland, Oregon; San Francisco, California; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Seoul, South Korea; and Bogotá, Colombia. Each city used the new urban space in different ways but it is clear that the assumptions that went into the vast expansion of urban highways during the 20th century have changed or are changing to meet the needs of the 21st. One observes that all Canadian cities except for one have a freeway through their centre. The one that doesn’t has been rated one of the world’s top cities in terms of quality of life and environmental benefits. Care to guess which one?  (Vancouver)

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click  HERE

How Does San Francisco Price On-Street Parking?

A Meter So Expensive, It Creates Parking Spots (Michael Cooper and Jo Craven McGinty, New York Times, Mar. 15, 2012)

San Francisco is a leader among cities which want to reduce the number of drivers circling the block for an open space and adding to the traffic congestion found in many downtown areas. It is doing this by adjusting the rates charged by parking meters up or down (by  25-50 cents/hr) every 2 months based on actual usage of each space in order to meet an optimum usage and revenue target. Higher rates, now capped at $6/hr are being slowly phased in. The benefits are several: reduced congestion, less pollution and more revenue to improve transit and last, but not least, anyone looking for a open parking space will find one.

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click  HERE

Respiratory Health Impacts from Exposure to Roadside Emissions

Association between proximity to major roads and sputum cell counts (6 page pdf, Julie Wallace, Liesel D’silva, John Brannan, Frederick E Hargreave, Pavlos Kanaroglou, and Parameswaran Nair, Can Respir J, January/February 2011)

Today we review some research into respiratory health impacts from exposure to nearby roadside emissions in the highly industrialized City of Hamilton. Results indicate increased bronchitis and asthma even for people located1 km away from major roads and highways.

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE


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