Why Not Apply the User Pay Principle to Road Users? A Case for Road Pricing

Who Pays for Roads? – How the “Users Pay” Myth Gets in the Way of Solving America’s Transportation Problems (45 page pdf, Tony Dutzik and Gideon Weissman, Phineas Baxandall, Frontier Group U.S. PIRG Education Fund, May 5, 2015)

Also discussed here: Report: 21st Century Transportation (Press Release, Frontier Group U.S. PIRG Education Fund, May 5, 2015)

Today we review an analysis of road costs in the USA (also applies to Canada) which shows increasingly that the tax on fuel for vehicles pays less and less of the overall costs for roads which include construction and maintenance, snow clearance, the health costs of air pollution from vehicle emissions, etc that amount to $10 to $40 B/ year attributable to driving. This is more than the costs of transit, passenger rail travel, cycling and walking combined. The balance of the costs not funded from gas taxes is borne by property taxes and general tax revenue which, in cities such as Ottawa, Canada’s capital, is more than the cost of police services or public transit. This is a clear call for road pricing which would relieve the tax burden of those who do not use roads and go beyond flat and partially subsidized road tolls.

user pay for roads

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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

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Are LRTs and Subways becoming Obsolete?

By 2040, We Won’t Need Subways (Candice Malcolm, Huffington Post Blog from Toronto Sun, Aug. 25, 2014)

Today we review a forward looking article which predicts that subways and Light Train Transit systems will be a fossil of the past when the technological revolution taking place in today and tomorrow’s cities replace them with driverless electric cars which are already a reality in some places. This outlook is not new to anyone who follows developments in urban mobility and makes one wonder about the wisdom of the Mayors in some cities, such as Toronto and Ottawa, where billions of dollars are projected and planned to buy obsolete forms of transportation that will not likely come close to meeting future demands.

English: A Tesla Roadster, Reva i and Ford Th!...

English: A Tesla Roadster, Reva i and Ford Th!nk electric cars parked at a free parking and charging station near Akershus fortress in Oslo, Norway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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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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Why Isn’t Canada Meeting Its Greenhouse Gas Emission Targets?

Allocating Canadian Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions Amongst Sources and Provinces: Learning from the European Union, Australia and Germany (185 page pdf, Douglas Macdonald, Jochen Monstadt, Kristine Kern, University of Toronto, Apr 2013)

Also discussed here: Kyoto Protocol (Wikipedia)

And here: State-and-Trends of the Environment: 1987–2007 Chapter 2 Atmosphere (44 page pdf, United National Environment Program, 2008)

And here: History of the Global Climate Change Regime (18 page pdf, Daniel Bodansky, 2012)

And here: 2014 Air Quality and Climate Change Management Plan (165 page pdf, City of Ottawa Environment Committee, May 20, 2014)

The quick answer to the question posed is: lack of engagement and consensus for action by the provinces who have prime responsibility for energy, environment and natural resources. Today, we review an academic report and analysis of the reasons for Canada’s failure to meet international agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions since the first commitments were made by the Prime Minister at the United Nations-sponsored “Changing the Atmosphere Conference” in Toronto in 1988 – where it was agreed that Global CO2 emissions be cut by 20% by 2005 but without national obligations which came later with the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. He made this commitment without having prior provincial support to do so – an issue not a faced by most other heads of government, even from nations with states or provinces, such as Australia or Germany (whose efforts to reduce GHG emissions are also analysed in this report).

The lack of national leadership (and mandate), the lack of provincial consensus and the difficulty in getting provincial agreement, even with a national coordination secretariat (which existed from 1998-2003), is blamed on the uneven costs for implementing  such a plan, with most of the costs and emissions coming from Alberta and Ontario whose energy and transportation sectors make up over 80% of the emissions for Canada. On top of this, the resistance of Canada’s largest trading partner, the USA, to agree to reductions has hampered Canadian efforts, let alone ratify the agreement under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce emissions by 6% (base year 1990) by 2012. The current administration in 2011 decided to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol and adopt a goal of a 17% reduction in total emissions (from a 2005 base year) by 2020, consistent with American plans, but again without consensus on provincial responsibilities.

ghg allocations canadaghg sources canada 2008


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Why Do We Subsidize Parking for Public Transit Users?

The Dirty Truth Behind Park & Rides (Matt Steele, StreetsMM, Mar. 18, 2014)

Today we review some suggestions from Minneapolis where the proposal to expand their park and ride facilities is assessed in terms of what it costs to give the parking away free (when it costs $10 per user) compared to other more cost effective options, such as doing away with higher express fares at peak use times or producing more revenue from the lot areas than giving away parking. Bottom line is that the number of extra riders and revenue produced by free parking is less than improvements to the transit system itself which would make the latter more efficient and double the net revenue. A good question whether this arguments holds for cities such as Ottawa that are sprawled out over more than 2,800 km2 where some suburban and rural areas are poorly or expensively served by public transit. But it is always useful to consider impacts on ridership and the costs of subsidies in running very expensive public transit systems.


parka nd ride

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Solving Congestion Problems in China’s Biggest Cities

A big reason Beijing is polluted: The average car goes 7.5 miles per hour( Gwynn Guilford, Quartz, Jan. 3, 2014)

Also discussed here: China’s Urban Nightmare: Gridlock(The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 2, 2014)

Also here: Spatial and Social Characteristics of Urban Transportation in Beijing(9 page pdf, Jiawen Yang, Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board,2010)

Today we review a report that compares the degree of traffic congestion in Beijing and Wuhan with large western cities that have similar trends on the growth of car ownership (and urban road building) with GDP and with the degree to which congestion has strangled traffic flows to a point where drivers in Beijing average only 12 kph. Interesting that Wuhan implemented a congestion pricing system in 2011 while more progressive cities such as New York City have failed to proceed with it as one of the most effective ways of reducing urban congestion.

Also interesting that Beijing’s twin city in Canada shares an almost identical ratio of km road lanes to urban area (of about 3-4 to 1), an indicator of poor urban transportation design (Ottawa also lacks modern Light Rail Transit, depending only on buses and planning to get a basic LRT system in the next 10-15 years).

 road density

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What is Public Transit’s Role (if any) in Reducing Traffic Congestion?

Do density and transport resolve congestion? (Cities Matter, Dec. 11, 2013)

Today we review a look at the links between congestion on the one hand and transit, population density and city location. The short answer is that better transit does not correlate with less congestion. The only significant link is between higher urban population density and higher congestion. This is the opposite way to what planners frequently assume- that higher urban densities process more efficient public transit and less congestion. A side result reveals which cities have poorer performance than expected and here there are surprises: in Canada, Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal have 5-10% higher congestion than Toronto, Calgary or Edmonton. As the contrarian blogger who wrote this article, Phil McDermott , wryly comments: “transit creates a commitment to a land use pattern that promotes congestion, delaying or distorting the decentralisation of employment that might otherwise occur in a well-connected city”.

What was not analysed is the impact of road pricing on congestion and the results from cities which have tried it- from Dubai to Stockholm and from London to Singapore seem to point to this being the best way to reduce congestion and pollution. The conclusion seems to point to a combination of lower population density (i.e. sprawled cities) combined with road pricing as the best option to address congestion in (already sprawled) cities in the US and Canada, rather than expanding expensive and, from this analysis, ineffective public transit.

NAmerica Congestion Chart

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How Are Canadian Cities Adapting to Climate Change?

Adapting to Climate Change: An Introduction for Canadian Municipalities (48 page pdf, Richardson, G. R. A., Natural Resources Canada, 2010)

And here: Air Quality and Climate Change Management Plan (107 page pdf, City of Ottawa, Nov. 2004)

Today we review a report on how some Canadian municipalities are planning to adapt to impacts expected from climate change which vary from melting of the permafrost in the North to heat health alerts in Canada’s largest city in the South to water level maps showing where sea level rise or flooding would impact communities, both in the interior and coastal regions, unless changes are made by amendments to zoning plans. What is amazing to this blogger is the absence of some cities from the list of those who have community adaptation plans, including notably and regrettably, the national capital of Ottawa which in 2004 had only addressed ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the corporate structure and not by the community and has not yet developed a climate adaptation plan.

temp ch canada by seasons

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How Does Congestion Affect the Choice of Taking Transit or Private Vehicle to Work?

Commuting to work: Results of the 2010 General Social Survey(14 page pdf Martin Turcotte, Statistics Canada, Aug. 24, 2011)

From Canada’s keeper of national statistics comes an analysis of commuting times in cities. Most Canadians choose to drive to work in cars and the commuting times are less than from using public transit. At the same time, dissatisfaction with the delays caused by congestion is much greater from car commuters than transit users and this dissatisfaction increases with the time or distance travelled. Reducing congestion (and commuting times) therefore is a goal worth pursuing in developing improved forms of public transit and encouraging drivers to use it. Although not mentioned in the report, congestion charging appears to be the solution waiting to be exploited from this aspect- as several large cities in other countries have found out.

commuting and congestion

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Heating and Cooling Buildings after the Climate has Changed

Air conditioning versus heating: climate control is more energy demanding in Minneapolis than in Miami(5 page pdf,  Michael Sivak, Environ. Res. Letters, Mar. 27, 2013)

Also discussed here : Cold Cities Less Sustainable Than Warm Cities, Research Suggests(Science News, Mar. 26, 2013)

And here: Hot cities more sustainable than cold ones, study says(Science on NBC news, John Roach, Mar. 27, 2013)

The issue reviewed today concerns the differing challenges of heating and cooling buildings in warmer and colder climates and what this might imply with rising temperatures as a result of climate change. Results indicate that it takes more energy to heat a room than to cool it, due to the technologically superior efficiency of air conditioners vs furnaces. This, in turn, points to a positive trend in sustainable energy terms for cities in cold climates, such as Ottawa (the second coldest capital city in the world to Ulan Bator, capital of Mongolia), as long as the relative warming and cooling efficiencies remain the same. That noted, the research did not consider the energy efficiency of geothermal heating which offers emission free heating along with a small energy cost for electricity to power the circulation of the heated air.

cold climate

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How Can Canadian Cities Reduce their Emissions of Greenhouse Gases?

Toronto Skyline

Toronto Skyline (Photo credit: Bobolink)

A low carbon infrastructure plan for Toronto, Canada(11 Page pdf, Lorraine Sugar and Christopher Kennedy, Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering,  Feb. 6, 2013)

Also discussed here: Cities can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent(NRC Research Press, Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering, Feb. 6, 2013)

Today we review an application of a municipal energy and greenhouse gas reduction guide to Canada’s largest city, Toronto. Reductions of 30% are projected over the next 20 years and 70% in the long term with a focus on lower carbon fuel demands from the building (example solar water heaters) and transportation sectors (example higher parking rates to shift commuters from cars to transit). Many of the suggestions would allow other Canadian cities to meet the same aggressive targets.

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Climate Action Plan for a Mountain Valley City – Kelowna

Community Climate Action Plan(70 page pdf, City of Kelowna, May 2012)

Also discussed here: Kelowna & Climate Action(City of Kelowna)

And here: Kelowna’s Community Climate Action Plan Summary of Actions (2012 – 2020)

Today we review a climate action plan valid from 2012 to 2020, approved by the City of Kelowna, British Columbia in 2012 and aimed at a 33% reduction of greenhouse gases for the community (the entire city), going beyond the climate plans of many other cities which deal mainly with “corporate” emissions (municipal vehicles and buildings). Kelowna is a small city, located in the Rocky Mountains of western Canada. Over 2/3’s of the greenhouse gas emissions come from vehicles which might be explained by the low population density and large geographical area of the city (it is the same size as Ottawa with ¼ the population) and the highest per capita car ownership of any Canadian city. No surprise then that the main target for reduced emissions is reducing the amount of travelling by car, “right-sizing” (downsizing) the type of car and boosting alternative modes of transportation, as well as managing parking rates and unnecessary idling. It is heartening to see that over 90% of the population support the 20% proposed reduction of vehicle miles driven. Other reductions are proposed for buildings, waste management and land use planning.

kelowna ghg sources

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Monitoring Roadside Air Pollution and Urban Health Impacts

Evolution of Air Pollution Monitoring in Ottawa (60 slide ppt, Natty Urquizo and Martha Robinson, Upwind Downwind Conference 2012, Hamilton, ON, Feb. 27, 2012)

or in pdf format here:evolution of air pollution monitoring in ottawa

Also discussed here: Ottawa Air Quality Information System(10 page pdf, Natividad Urquizo, Daniel Spitzer, William Pugsley and Martha Robinson, 44th Annual Congress of the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, Ottawa, ON, May 29-June 4, 2010)

And here: Mapping Small Scale Air Pollution Distribution using Satellite Observations an a Large Canadian City(6 page pdf, Natividad Urquizo; D. Spitzer; W. Pugsley and M. Robinson, 11th Conference on Atmospheric Chemistry of the annual conference of the American Meteorological Society at Phoenix AZ, Jan. 12, 2009)

And here: Is Air Quality Affecting Your Health?(John Lorinc, UofT Magazine, Jan. 11, 2013)

Today we review a paper presented at the biannual Upwind-Downwind Conference in Hamilton that describes the development of a fairly unique urban air quality program. The program was given a boost in 2007 by a project that combined satellite air quality data  from space with observations from a dozen ground stations to produce maps at 10 km resolution at 10 minute intervals for a year over the national capital area (which includes the twin cities of Ottawa and Gatineau). Further applications of these data with real-time traffic flow data allowed for mapping down to the street level in downtown Ottawa and assessments of health impacts near these roads which showed that over 50% of schools and old age homes are located within 50 m of heavy traffic, placing the most vulnerable residents at risk from vehicle emissions. A new program has just been announced by the University of Toronto to examine similar applications of roadside emissions and health impacts in Canada’s largest city.

ottawa proximity to traffic.jpg

roadside map

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How is Ontario Doing on Climate Change?

A Question of Commitment – Review of the Ontario Government’s Climate Change Action Plan Results(88 page pdf,  Environmental Commissioner of Ontario,  Dec. 4, 2012)

Today we review the annual report from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) to the provincial legislature. The 2012 report questions the government’s commitment to meet the goals it proposed in 2007, after assessing progress to date toward those goals. It is unfortunate that the role of cities which make up by far the greatest population of Ontario– the two largest cities, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and the City of Ottawa make up over 50% of the total.  Most of the increased emissions in the transportation sector, a key emissions component, come from road traffic, an area where cities have most mandate and ability to control – with cooperation from the province. Road pricing comes to mind and here the ECO is only thinking of improved public transit without looking at revenue and air quality benefits.

English: GHG emission per capita in metric ton...

English: GHG emission per capita in metric tons per person for each country in 2005. Data is from the CAIT 8.0 dataset. CO2 equivalent emissions from land use change and emissions of CO2,CH4,N2O,PFC,HFC, and SF6 are included. Bunker fuel (aka ships) is not. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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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.

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Intelligent Sewage Control

Managing sewage like traffic thanks to data(Derrick Harris, GIGAOM, Aug.30, 2012)

Also discussed here: Report sounds alarm on aging infrastructure(CBC News, Sep. 11, 2012)

Today, we look at an article that describes how South Bend, a city in the USA, reduced sewage overflow problems from 27 to one per year and saved $114 million, using a combination of sensors and intelligent monitoring and control, much as how traffic is managed with intelligent traffic lights, for example. This would be of interest to those cities, such as Ottawa in Canada, which is trying to reduce pollution reaching nearby rivers and streams by constructing large holding ponds at a cost of several hundred million dollars. The same approach could be used to monitor and control water leakage, another major and growing issue in cities with antique piping infrastructures.

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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.

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Health Impacts of Air Pollution in New Zealand

Updated Health and Air Pollution in New Zealand Study – Volume 2: Technical Reports (86 page pdf, Gerda Kuschel and Jayne Metcalfe, Emily Wilton, Jagadish Guria, Simon Hales, Kevin Rolfe, Alistair Woodward, HAPINZ, March 2012)


AIR POLLUTION CONTROL CENTER – NARA – 542766 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Also discussed here: Updated Health and Air Pollution in New Zealand Study (2012)

And here: Pollution harming Aucklanders’ health – report  (Trevor Quinn, Auckland Now, Jul. 31, 2012)

And here: Air Quality (Auckland Council)

From New Zealand comes an updated report on the health impacts of air pollution based on an expanded monitoring of air pollution sources both natural and man made. The impacts are consistent with those in other developed countries where, for example, the number of premature deaths for Canada’s capital region, (Ottawa and Gatineau), with a population of just over 1.3 million and 530 deaths per year (reference: Illness Costs of Air Pollution for Ontario, 2008) compared to New Zealand’s capital, Auckland, with population of 1.4 million and 436 deaths, with over half coming from motor vehicle emissions. The report also flags impacts on children, specifically during the neonatal period.

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Big Box Shopping Centres and the Needs of Those Who Don’t Drive

South Keys Shopping Centre walkers could benefit from new bridge (Trevor Pritchard, openfile, Jul. 23, 2012)

What happens when a city council puts priorities for big box shopping centres  and cars ahead of safety for pedestrians and cyclists- it’s called the South Keys Shopping Centre in Ottawa. Today’s review checks out the challenges –and bad design from a pedestrians, transit users and cyclists point if view- of this shopping centre. We can only hold our breath at what emerges at the newest  shopping centre planned  downtown at what undoubtedly will be called the “Lansdowne Park Shopping Centre”,  big box stores and all .

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How Do Beetle-Infested Trees Pollute the Air?

Effect of Bark Beetle Infestation on Secondary Organic Aerosol Precursor Emissions (Abstract ,Hardik Amin, P. Tyson Atkins, Rachel S. Russo, Aaron W. Brown,  Barkley Sive, A. Gannet Hallar, and Kara E. Huff Hartz, Environmental Science & Technology, April 30, 2012)

Also discussed here: Beetle-Infested Pine Trees Contribute More to Air Pollution and Haze in Forests (ScienceDaily, May 23, 2012)

And here: Emerald Ash Borer (City of Ottawa)

Today we review research that looks at how trees infested with beetles  contribute to poorer air quality in and near forests. Results indicate up to a 20 fold increase in Volatile Organic Chemicals. Although the focus is on forests in the wild, one can speculate that the same process may be at work in urban areas with beetle diseased trees, such as the Emerald Ash Borer which has killed millions of ash trees in Ontario and many parts of the United States.

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Lifetime Population Exposure to Air Pollution in Canada

Spatiotemporal air pollution exposure assessment for a Canadian population-based lung cancer case-control study (26 page pdf, Perry Hystad, Paul A Demers, Kenneth C Johnson, Jeff Brook, Aaron van Donkelaar, Lok Lamsal, Randall Martin and Michael Brauer, Environmental Health, Apr.4, 2012)

Today, we review a report that develops a method of assessing exposure to air pollution over several decades, based on the exposure of residents to air pollution from industrial and mobile sources, as deduced from the conventional national air pollution network and from vehicle emissions, updated using space based sensors on the OMI satellite. The approach used will likely be very useful for then assessing the lifetime risk of cancer from accumulated exposure to air pollution.

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A Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gases for Canada’s Capital

An Energy & Emissions Plan for Canada’s Capital Region (78 page pdf, City of Ottawa, City of Gatineau, National Capital Commission, Lead Consultant, HB Lanarc Consultants Ltd., Feb. 2012)

Also discussed here:Talking Points for Presentation to Environment Committee on Choosing Our Future(2 page pdf, Bill Pugsley, Feb. 21, 2012)

Today, we review the plans for mitigating Climate Change over the next 40 years, developed by the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau that make up the National Capital Region of Canada. While the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions is from heating and cooling and energy for buildings, the  largest emission increases come from transportation and commuting by private vehicles in this urban area, one of the country’s cities at over 2,700 km2 (for Ottawa). Using best practices, emissions could be reduced by 27% from transportation, 95% from electricity and 100% from waste to meet the long term goal of 80% reductions by 2060. A number of potential targets for transportation, buildings, energy and waste are included. We look forward to a year by year funded action plan by each of the three jurisdictions (two cities, two provincial governments, and the federal government) to reach these targets.

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Health Threats to Canadian School Children Near Heavy Traffic

Prince Philip Public Elementary School Nutana ...

Prince Philip Public Elementary School Nutana Park subdivision Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Proximity of public elementary schools to major roads in Canadian urban areas  (33 page pdf, Ofer Amram, Rebecca Abernethy, Michael Brauer, Hugh Davies and Ryan W Allen, International Journal of Health Geographics, Dec. 21, 2011)

Also discussed here: School location a factor in student health, performance (Public Affairs, Simon Fraser University, Jan. 4, 2012)

And here: School location may impact kids’ health (The Canadian Press, Jan 5, 2012)

Today, we focus on the proximity of schools are to major roads and why this constitutes a health risk to the school children. Nitrogen dioxide concentrations measured near schools  drop off significantly within 75 m and up to 200 m from the roads. . The research reviewed indicates that in the 10 cities analysed (making up 1/3 of Canada’s population), 16 % of schools are within 75 m and  36% within 200 m of traffic.  Provincial authorities in BC recommend keeping schools at least 150 m away from roads. Action may be taken with existing schools close to roads to reduce hazardous concentrations by as installing high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in ventilation systems and other measures.

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Air Pollution Exposure and the Health of Neighbourhoods in Ottawa, Canada

Air Pollution and Health: Toward Improving the Spatial Definition of Exposure, Susceptibility and Risk  (Marie-Pierre Parenteau, PhD Thesis, Dept of Geography, University of Ottawa, 2011)

The focus today is an assessment of whether “where one lives impacts one’s health“ holds true at the “inter-urban” scale for 90 neighbourhoods (defined using a number of social indicators)  in Ottawa, Canada’s 4th largest city. While no statistical association was found between spatial variations of NO2  and community health, despite the established general link in the literature for individuals between pollution and health i.e. the health of an individual is determined by much more than the air pollution near their residence. Ottawa is surrounded by a “greenbelt” (shown as a low pollution yellow on the figure below) which is also close to most of residential Ottawa, while the downtown core, where most people work and fewer live, has many pollution hotspots. As the author points out, exposure and mobility need to be considered when assessing health impacts.

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The Cost of Climate Change for the Health of Canadians

Paying The Price: The Economic Impacts of Climate Change for Canada (Ch. 5 Human Health) (168 page pdf, National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, Sep. 2011)

Today we review a a significant report from Canada’s National Round Table on the Environment and Economy that puts an added cost of 1-10 billion dollars each year for each of the four cities assessed, as a result of the impact of climate change and the changes that this implies for air pollution on the health of people. Over the next 10 years, this translates into a cumulative cost of over $80 B in Canada’s largest city- and this is only for premature deaths. The report also has recommendations on how to reduce these impacts by making adaptations to reduce the pollution levels- widespread use of green roofs, for example.

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Health Risks with Cycling near Traffic

Traffic-Related Air Pollution and Acute Changes in Heart Rate Variability and Respiratory Function in Urban Cyclists (6 page pdf, Scott Weichenthal, Ryan Kulka, Aimee Dubeau, Christina Martin, Daniel Wang, Robert Dales, Environ Health Perspect, Oct. 2011)

Today’s review article looks at the health risks for cyclists exposed to high and low levels of traffic along the routes they take each day during the summer of 2010 in Ottawa, a city famous for its extensive network of bike paths and lanes. Conclusion is that cycling near traffic presents higher health risk for heart disease but not respiratory disease.

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Why Are Some Cities Safer for Cycling?

Evidence on Why Bike-Friendly Cities Are Safer for All Road Users (12 page pdf, Wesley E. Marshall, Norman W. Garrick, Environmental Practice, March 2011)

Today’s review article – safety for cyclists- is quite timely for this blogger who lives in the first city in Canada’s largest province to get segregated bike lanes (opened July 10), prompted mainly out of  a concern for cyclists’ safety when they have to travel in close proximity to vehicles. The article assesses factors from 24 cities in California, U.S. that seem to be linked to low accident and low fatality rates- ranging from safety in numbers (of cyclists) to street density to street design. The safest city (Davis) had a fatal crash rate which was 1/7th of the average for the country. Making a city safe for cyclists will also encourage more motorists to leave their polluting machines at home, of course, so that the safety aspect also affects the broader health interests of the public at large.

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Urban Form and Greenhouse Gas Reductions

An Assessment of Urban Form and Pedestrian and Transit Improvements as an Integrated GHG Reduction Strategy (117 page pdf, Dr. Lawrence D. Frank, Michael J. Greenwald, Sarah Kavage, Andrew Devlin, Washington State Department of Transportation, Apr. 1, 2011)

Today’s article under review looks at transportation demand management in and around Seattle, Washington as a way of reducing greenhouse gases, given that the biggest contributer is cars and trucks (as in other cities with little industry, such as Ottawa, Canada). The report found that parking rates, sidewalk width and transit availability (in that order) had the closest link to the use of cars (as measured by VMT) and CO2 emissions.

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

Urban Health Impacts of Climate Change and Air Pollution in Southern Ontario and Southern Quebec

Possible Impacts of Climate Change on Economic Losses and Health Care Costs due to Heat- and Air Pollution-related Premature Mortality in South-central Canada Using Downscaled Future Climate Scenarios (Abstract, Qian Li, Chad S. Cheng, Guilong Li, Heather Auld, Congress, Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, Victoria, June 2011)

The key health impact report in 2005 for four large Canadian cities near the Great Lakes is the focus of today’s review as the authors presented an update at the annual Congress of the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society in Victoria, BC. They point out a number of significantly higher health risks, including the projection that premature deaths from high pollution episodes and climate change-induced heat waves could increase three-fold by 2080. At the same time cold-related deaths would decrease by 60-70% by 2080.

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

Traffic Air Pollution and Health Impacts in Urban Italy

Urban air pollution and emergency room admissions for respiratory symptoms: a case–crossover study in Palermo, Italy (39 page pdf, Fabio Tramuto, Rosanna Cusimano, Giuseppe Cerame, Marcello Vultaggio, Giuseppe Calamusa , Carmelo M Maida and Francesco Vitale, Environmental Health 2011, 10:31, Apr.13, 2011)


Today’s review article takes us to Palermo, Italy which happens to have a good data base of 10 air pollution monitoring stations and the characteristic (seen only in a few large cities with little local industry, such as Ottawa in Canada) of pollution coming mainly from traffic- although it was acknowledged that some SO2 comes from vessels in its port. The conclusions point to high correlations between poor respiratory health and high levels of air pollution, particularly PM10.

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, visit the new internet platform for Pollution Free Cities by clicking  HERE

Public Health and the Built Environment in Ontario

Public Health and Land Use Planning: How Ten Public Health Units are Working to Create Healthy and Sustainable Communities (232 page pdf, Kim Perrotta, Clean Air Partnership, April 2011)
Today’s focus is on a report that reviews of factors in the built environment and in land use planning affecting health, including a summary of the different approaches used by rural, urban and suburban public health units across the province of Ontario (with over 10 M population).

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, visit the new internet platform for Pollution Free Cities by clicking HERE

Modelling Rush Hour Emissions for Ottawa’s Major Roadways

Carleton University as seen from the Rideau River

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Development of a Methodology for Estimating Vehicle Emissions (416 page pdf thesis, Jennifer Armstrong, Carleton University, AMICUS service of Library and Archives Canada, Aug. 2000)


The report reviewed today is a ground-breaking thesis by a graduate student at Carleton University’s engineering school which won awards from the Ontario Ministry of Environment and the Professional Engineers of Ontario in 2001. The research brought together the vehicle emission data for the national capital area which included Origin-Destination municipal survey data, travel demand modelling, emission modelling and GIS mapping to produce maps of pollutants at peak travel times across the cities of Ottawa and Hull (now Gatineau). It shows quantitatively the importance of vehicle emissions particularly in the congested downtown and near the 6 –8 lane Queensway that  bisects the city of Ottawa.

To read more about this post, click HERE to visit the new internet platform for Pollution Free Cities

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Designing a Sustainable City with Local Farming and Waste Management


Optimizing Urban Material Flows and Waste Streams in Urban Development through Principles of Zero Waste and Sustainable Consumption (29 page pdf, Sustainability 2011, 3(1), 155-183, Jan. 11, 2011)

Also discussed here: Zero Waste Australia

Today’s review article caught my attention because it focussed on urban farming and waste reduction and the large contributions to waste from the construction and demolition sector as a city progresses toward sustainability. These are all important aspects of Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, which is the larger by area than all of the other large Canadian cities by population put together- and contains more farmland than any other city in Canada. Its large area and loose controls on urban boundaries have resulted in sprawl and a very large road network which funnels the working population into its centre every day with downtown congestion and health impacts. The article makes recommendations that have been implemented in Australia under a “zero waste” and local food objectives.

Key Quotes:

“urban farming has emerged as a valid urban design strategy, where food is produced and consumed locally within city boundaries, turning disused sites and underutilized public space into productive urban landscapes and community gardens.”

“reports on best practice of urban design principles in regard to materials flow, material recovery, adaptive re-use of entire building elements and components..and other relevant strategies to implement zero waste by avoiding waste creation, reducing wasteful consumption and changing behaviour in the design and construction sectors”

“Today, no other sector of industry uses more materials, produces more waste and contributes less to recycling than the construction sector”

“Emerging complex global issues, such as health and the environment, or lifestyles and consumption, require approaches that transcend the traditional boundaries between disciplines. The relationship between efficiency and effectiveness is not always clear: high efficiency is not equal to high effectiveness, while recovery offers another side of those two notions. Today, it is increasingly understood that the same way we discuss energy efficiency; we need also to discuss resource effectiveness and resource recovery. “

Organic waste is playing an increasingly important role. ..a recommended split for a city can be found, where no waste goes to landfill:

  • Recycling and reusing min. 50–60%
  • Composting of organic waste 20–30%
  • Incineration of residual waste (waste-to-energy) max. 20%”

“recycling in itself is inefficient in solving the problem, as it does not deliver the necessary ‗decoupling‘ of economic development from the depletion of non-renewable raw materials “

“Australia is the third highest generator of waste per capita in the developed world. In July 2006, only around 50% of waste collected in the state of New South Wales (NSW) was recycled”

“Cities are resource-intensive systems. By 2030, we will need to produce 50% more energy and 30% more food on less land, with less water and fewer pesticides, using less material“

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Why are Canadian Cities Tops for Transit?

Request for Information: Canadian Ridership (Human Transit, Oct. 7, 2010)

Also discussed here: Further cause for Canadian Triumphalism (Human Transit, Oct. 8, 2010)

This post on Jarrett Walker’s Human Transit blog is quite striking from the point of view, at least, of this Canadian blogger (in Ottawa, no less) who despairs of the apparent lack of use of public transit and addiction to cars for commuting – and here we are top of the heap!

Jarrett asked why? – when Ottawa, followed closely by two other sprawled, relatively low population density cities, Edmonton and Calgary, ranks higher than larger cities  such as Vancouver – or Melbourne and Sydney in Australia. My guess, as a meteorologist, is the cold climate at these three cities which reaches a peak at the same time as transit demand peaks because of work and school and with mid-winter temperatures as low as minus 40 (in either Fahrenheit or Celsius) – and at those temperatures, cars sometimes don’t start, so that the bus is the only way to get to work. Average mid winter “normal” temperatures were extracted for some of the cities noted in the graph (see below) from the climate archives in Canada and Australia.  Clearly, Canadian cities in January are much colder than in Australia with one third of the days with minima below –20 deg C, while Australian cities are basking in temperatures in the mid teens – do they even know what snow is? This theory does not work in Ozland- there must be something else  to explain why Melbourne riders use transit so much more than in Perth.



City                  Average Winter            trips/cap/yr      Days below –20C

Max Temp(C)

Ottawa                 -6.1                              165                            9

Calgary               -2.8                              145                           9.2

Edmonton            -8                               140                        12.8


Melbourne            13                                125

Sydney                    17                               110

Adelaide               14.9                              60

Perth                      17.9                             75

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Impact of Air Pollution on Mortality in Canadian Cities

View of Centre Block and Library of Parliament...
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Estimated Number of Excess Deaths in Canada Due To Air Pollution (10 pages, Air Health Effects Division, Health Canada, and Meteorological Service of Canada, Environment Canada, Gatineau, Quebec, April 2005)

Key Quotes:

“the annual number of excess deaths due to current air pollution levels in Canada.. associated with both short- and long-term exposure to air pollution”

“based on nonaccidental mortality counts and National Air Pollution Surveillance data ..and pollutant-mortality concentration response functions from epidemiological studies”

“The annual excess number of deaths associated with short-term exposure was estimated to be 1,800.. with long term exposure was estimated to be 4,200.. results in a total excess deaths estimate of 5,900”

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Monitoring Local Air Pollution in Ontario

Category:Visitor attractions in Ontario
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Brief Review: Using Air Monitoring as a Tool to Assess & Address Local Airsheds & Micro-Environments in Ontario (66 pages, March 9, 2010, Kim Perrotta for the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario)

Also discussed here: 2009/2010 Annual Report of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (232 pages pdf, Sept. 22, 2010)

The report reviewed today, in support of the 2009/2010 Annual Report by the Environmental Commissioner for Ontario, describes the state of air quality monitoring for a number of municipalities in southern and eastern Ontario (Toronto, York, Halton Region, Peel Region, Waterloo, Hamilton, Sudbury, and Ottawa) and how these data may be used for applications, such as urban planning and public health. The Commissioner’s report, in turn, suggested a greater priority for mobile sources that appears to go beyond the present regional objectives of the Ontario Ministry of Environment which nevertheless is committed to “developing an approach to considering cumulative impacts of mobile and area sources”.

Key Quotes:

“[the report] examines when, where and how air monitoring is currently being used in Ontario as a tool to assess and address local airsheds and/or micro-environments, and when, where and how it could or should be used as a tool to assess air quality impacts and protect human health.”

“As a rule, the MOE does not get involved in the assessment of local airsheds in a comprehensive way because the MOE does not see itself having regulatory authority or jurisdiction for many of the emission sources within a community”

“the Province may need to recognize that: the MOE air quality expertise is needed to assess and address air quality in a cumulative way; and the MOE needs to move beyond its focus on point source to include mobile and area sources as well as point sources.. emissions associated with vehicles and traffic corridors are considered a very high priority..”

“The AQI air monitoring network is composed of 40 air monitoring stations that are located across the province.. intended to measure ambient air quality and are used to support the issuance of smog advisories when elevated AQI levels are forecast to occur…intentionally sited in areas that will not be heavily influenced by local emission sources such as large industrial facilities or highways”

[Environmental Commissioner of Ontario annual report] “Municipal representatives observed that MOE’s role in air quality protection needs to evolve, to address not only large point sources, but also the cumulative impacts of mobile and area sources, such as traffic corridors and residential home heating. As municipalities become increasingly intensified, we are bound to see growing public pressure to maintain acceptable air quality in highly urbanized settings. In order to effectively manage urban air quality, we will certainly need to assess it.”

[Ministry of Environment of Ontario response] “The ministry operates a state-of-the art ambient air monitoring network and works with stakeholders, including various levels of government and academia, in assessing the impacts of street-level emissions on air quality along major traffic corridors and in high density urban areas.. These street-level monitoring activities, together with air-quality modeling, will enable the ministry to determine whether more comprehensive air monitoring networks would benefit the health of Ontarians. MOE has committed to developing an approach to considering cumulative impacts of mobile and area sources”

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Designing Streets for People not just for Cars

Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice(72 page pdf, Volume 16. Number 1, May 2010)

Also discussed here: World Transport Policy & Practice – Vol. 16, No. 2(World /Streets, Aug. 31, 2010)

And here: Manual for Streets(146 page pdf, UK Dept. of Transport, 2010)

And here: Byward Market Pedestrian Area(Pollution Free Cities, Oct.2, 2009)

As the annual celebration of World Car Free Day approaches on September 22, the focus of today’s blog turns to the latest edition of the Journal of World Transport and Policy. It examines the design of streets for walking and cycling as well as for driving cars, echoed in the “Manual for Streets” published by the British Department of Transport 3 years ago. A short list of key recommendations to bring about a more people friendly street world is highlighted – many of these could be applied elsewhere. In Canada’s capital city, for example, a pedestrian area is being planned in the heart of the city’s bustling, but car congested, farmers market (which is shown in the drawing below)

Key Quotes:

Roads are essentially highways whose main function is accommodating the movement of motor traffic. Streets are typically lined with buildings and public spaces, and while movement is still a key function, there are several others”

“High levels of walking and cycling in this study are no longer vague aspirations and poorly supported policy objectives. They actually happen because changes in the physical environment make them happen.”

“Recommendations sent to UK Minister of Transport:

  • Cancel the complete road building programme and motorway widening programme
  • Cancel the complete high speed rail programme.
  • Implement .. emission charging and implement strict noise and air quality regulations around airports to protect local residents from health damaging environments.
  • Implement system-wide reform in all UK urban areas.. – 20% of all trips in all urban areas will be by bicycle by 2020.
  • De-commission 50% of car parking spaces in urban areas and reallocate the released land for high quality, car free, affordable housing.
  • Implement a serious road user hierarchy.. delivers absolute consideration for pedestrians and cyclists and puts car users at the bottom of the list
  • Introduce land value taxation to produce funds for new public transport infrastructure
  • Require a year on year increase in accessibility by foot, bike and public transport to all health, education, employment and recreational facilities..deliver a modal split in urban areas of one third of trips walk/cycle, one third public transport and one third by car
  • Set high standards of public transport provision for rural public transport ..the car is not the default option for rural areas”

“[Manual for Streets]focuses on lightly-trafficked residential streets, but many of its key principles may be applicable to other types of street, for example high streets and lightly-trafficked lanes in rural areas..does not set out new policy or introduce new additional burdens on local authorities, highway authorities or developers. Rather it presents guidance on how to do things differently within the existing policy, technical and legal framework”

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Health Effects of Noise

IMG 1666 b
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Noise Effects Handbook (EPA, 1981)

Also discussed here: Noise Exposure and Public Health (9 page pdf, Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol 108,  March 2000)

And here: Environmental Noise Control Guidelines (102 page pdf, City of Ottawa, 2006)

The handbook reviewed today describes a wide number of impacts of noise pollution ranging from cardiovascular health problems to learning difficulties for children. While air pollution is the cause of 8-10 % of premature deaths (in Canada), noise pollution  causes hearing losses considered as a handicap for 13% of the population (in the USA).

Table of Contents:

  • The National Noise Problem
  • Hearing Loss
  • Nonauditory Physiological Response
  • Communication Interference
  • Performance Interference
  • Sleep Disturbance
  • Subjective Response
  • Community Response
  • Health and Welfare Analysis
  • Summary of Human Effects of Noise from Various Outdoor Noise Levels

Key Quotes:

“noise was a major neighborhood problem ..street noise was mentioned more often than all other unwanted neighborhood condition.. one-third of all the respondents who wished to move because of undesirable neighborhood conditions, did so because of noise”

“the day-night sound level of residential areas should not exceed 55 dB to protect against activity interference and annoyance..The threshold of pain is located at the upper boundary of audibility and in normal hearers is in the region of 135 dB for all frequencies.”

“13 percent of the U.S. population have hearing losses that can be described as handicapping”

“Hearing loss can:

  • lead to reduced employability of the sufferer. It is especially damaging if children suffer hearing loss during their developmental and educational years.
  • also be a safety hazard and can contribute to accidents because warning signals or calls for help can be missed by a person with a hearing loss

“studies indicate that long-term exposure to high levels of occupational noise is associated with increased rates of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular health problems”

“the reading scores of children in grades two through five who live in an apartment building showed that the noise in and around the building was detrimental to their reading development. The longer the children had lived in the noisy environment, the lower their reading test scores”

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Does Road Construction Affect the Sustainability of a City?

Graph of CO2 emissions by city for the year 19...
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Towards Sustainable Transport in Ottawa: An End to Road Construction (10 page pdf, Ecology Ottawa, July 8, 2010)

The article under review today urges those competing for election to municipal office in Canada’s capital city to implement a moratorium on road construction, as a step in making Ottawa more sustainable.

Key Quotes:

“Dealing with transport by reducing reliance on the private automobile and shifting to public transit, cycling and walking, is one of the most important parts of making Ottawa sustainable.“

“Council plans to spend $1.5 billion on road construction and widening between 2008-20171, while the budget in 2009 for public transit was $133m“

“Road construction .. consumption of large quantities of oil (the main ingredient in most forms of asphalt) ..hardcore which requires quarrying..a hard surface which increases water run-off and reduces absorption by the soil, increasing flooding problems. It also creates run-off of toxic chemicals such as heavy metals copper and zinc into water…contributes much to the “urban heat island effect

“Transport accounts for 33% of Ottawa’s greenhouse gas emissions, and it is the fastest growing source of emissions“

“Low-density suburban development, which extensive road-construction makes possible, also enables .. large area single family homes which consume far more resources .. than denser urban buildings focused on duplexes, row housing and apartments.. the 58% of Ottawa’s greenhouse gas emissions that comes from buildings is substantially affected by transport policy in the City.“

“if we are to pursue sustainability seriously, congestion for car drivers needs to get worse, while for other transport modes congestion needs to reduce.“

“building sprawling suburbs of car-centred development is expensive… houses inside the greenbelt pay on average $1035 more in taxes than the cost of providing them services, while urban houses outside the greenbelt pay $70 less than they cost the City”
” A moratorium on road construction .. is not going to create this sustainable Ottawa on its own. It has to be combined in particular with a radical reorientation of the planning system towards creating a high-density city.”

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Modelling Urban Air Pollution Hot Spots

Modelling Urban Traffic Air Pollution Dispersion (The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences. Vol. XXXVII. Part B8. Beijing 2008)

The article being reviewed today addresses the need for local authorities to know the distribution of urban air pollution both in the horizontal, as reported in Ottawa Air Quality Information System and in the vertical. The result is a system which authorities can use to identify the extent of hot spots and potential health threats along roadways, as well as vertically in buildings along the road.

Key Quotes:

“The prime aim of this research is to support decision making, e.g., air quality impact analysis, human health assessment, through spatially modelling traffic-induced air pollution dispersion in urban areas at street level. “

“composed of basically three parts: an urban base data model, a dispersion model with a spatial database and a 3D GIS environment for visualisation. “

“local authorities are facing the challenge of being responsible for effective counter measures if limit values of air pollution are exceeded.. need ‘high-resolution’ information on air pollution levels that give not only the pollution levels for few measurement stations within a city (macro-level) but also pollution levels for the individual streets (micro-level). “

“Providing information about traffic air pollution and finding out its distribution is therefore a crucial starting point for planning effective measures to improve air quality…The location of hot spots of high pollution levels that exceed a certain threshold has besides a horizontal also a vertical dimension; the latter is usually neglected. ”

“a warning line that represents where pollution limit value is exceeded can be used to calculate the number of floors affected as well as allow an estimation of the number of influenced inhabitants. “

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Mapping Health Impacts of Urban Vehicle Emissions

Ottawa Air Quality Information System (1 page pdf,  Poster, 44th Annual Congress Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, Ottawa, June 2010)

The paper reviewed today is the result of development of satellite mapping of air pollutants carried out by A-MAPS Environmental as reported at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society Mapping Small Scale Air Pollution Distribution using Satellite Observations an a Large Canadian City and extensions to the mapping to incorporate health impacts of traffic by Risk Sciences International based on the Air Quality Benefit Assessment Tool, using concentration response functions developed by Health Canada in 2006, as described in AQBAT – Estimating Health Impacts for Changes in Canada’s Air Quality

This work was supported by funding from GeoConnections Program of Natural Resources Canada and the European Space Agency

or see  Ottawa Air Quality Information System-slideshow (10 page pdf)

Key Quotes

“This air quality information system is capable of displaying concentrations of NO2, NO, O3, PM2.5 and CO on an hourly basis for the 5,600 km2 area of the National Capital Region.”

“a graphical user interface was developed, enabling analyses of the data in terms of standard statistical and custom designed functions such as averaging, max, min, standard deviation, percentiles and critical pollutant level exceedances.“

“The Traffic Health Impact module is a user friendly software application capable of providing pollution consequences on population health (morbidity, mortality, hospitalisation, health cost“

“Highway 417 is closed for three days and traffic is diverted northeast (white arrows). The total health costs of this traffic diversion is then estimated using the health end points module, listing the impacts in terms of premature deaths, illnesses and costs in dollars.“

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What Does a Car Really Cost?

How much is that car really costing? You? The rest of us? (World Streets, May 24, 2010)

Also discussed here: Transportation Cost and Benefit Analysis Techniques, Estimates and Implications (500 page pdf in sections, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, Jan.2,  2009)

And here: Transportation Cost Analysis Spreadsheet (Excel spreadsheet, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, Jan.2, 2009)

And here: External Costs of Transport in the U.S. (34 page pdf, Forthcoming in Handbook of Transport Economics, ed. by A. de Palma, R. Lindsey, E. Quinet, and R. Vickerman, Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd. 2010)

When asked how much their car costs, many drivers think first of the cost to operate it( fuel mainly), or maybe also the cost of owning it which includes depreciation, insurance, licensing etc. Few consider what it costs to the city in terms of infrastructure (road maintenance and building)or the costs to public health because of worsened air quality, as a result of traffic congestion and vehicle emissions, the focus of this blog. To turn the question around, what would be saved for each car taken off the road and replaced by another modal option. The article reviewed today looks at these issues. Among some myth-breaking insights is the higher costs of driving at rush hour vs. off peak or the relative insignificant savings of electric cars or the 70% higher costs of urban (peak) driving vs. rural driving.

The City of Ottawa recently looked at what each mode costs the city in terms of services provided- in terms of service per passenger trip in this report: Costs For Different Transportation Modes (City of Ottawa Transportation Committee, Feb. 1, 2010)

“The total public (government and societal) cost per passenger trip, including construction, maintenance, land value, enforcement, unaccounted accidents, air, noise and water pollution are: Car driver: $2.50, Transit user: $1.76, Cyclist: $0.24, Pedestrian: $0.10”.

Translating these costs to a cost per mile (or km) was not attempted in the report but would likely lower the difference between modes as shown in the review article because car commuters typically travel 5 times farther than cyclists (25 km trip vs. 5 km say)who in turn would typically travel as much more than pedestrians (5 km trip vs. 1 km).

Using these “typical” figures results in a cost of about 10 cents per km for all three modes. Again though, the City included only the external costs to the city and did not include operating or ownership costs nor the impact on the environment.

Key Quotes:

“lists the 23 categories of transport costs considered in my analysis. Some costs, such as parking and accidents, are divided into internal costs, which are borne directly by users, and external costs, borne by other people.”

public transit travel costs are much lower than automobile costs under urban-peak conditions, and under favorable conditions walking and cycling can have very low costs”

“what it costs to drive they typically mention vehicle operating expenses, which average approximately 16¢ per mile for a typical automobile. Some may include vehicle ownership costs, which average about 27¢ per mile… Total estimated costs range from about $0.94 per vehicle mile for rural driving to $1.64 for urban-peak driving.”

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Why do you drive to work?

How Does Car Parking Availability and Public Transport Accessibility Influence Work-Related Travel Behaviors? (15 page pdf, Sustainability 2010, 2, 576-590, 12 February 2010)

How to get people out of their cars for the daily commute and into public transit is a challenge for many cities in North America. This article looks at the factors that have the most influence on that decision, which are similar to the results of a survey done by the Environmental Advisory Committee of the City of Ottawa a few years ago i.e. the provision of free or low cost parking or a company car by the employer is a major factor.

Key Quotes:

“is now recognized that many strategies employed to mitigate the effects of climate change (e.g., reducing private car use) can have major benefits for public health. Work-related commuting via private automobile is associated with substantial traffic congestion, air pollution, and reduced overall physical activity accumulation “

“Respondents who had an objectively-measured public transport stop proximal to their residence (<200 meters) or perceived public transport as being accessible were more likely to commute to work via mass transit. “

“those who perceived they have accessibility to car parking at their worksite or had a company car available were more likely to commute to work by private vehicle “

“also existed by worksite location, and this has been suggested to be a function of traffic density, public transport convenience, and cost of car parking “

“those who reported limited car availability were approximately six times more likely to walk or cycle to the worksite when compared with adults with unlimited vehicle access “

“significantly increased public transport engagement in participants achieving 101–210 minutes of walking per week but a reduction in those achieving more than 210 minutes of walking per week. “

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Plasma arc waste disposal

Plasma arc waste disposal (Wiki)

Since 2008,  Plasco Energy Group has disposed of 85 tons of waste each day in a demonstration project in Ottawa, through a largely pollution free process called “plasma arc gasification” .  If the demonstration is successful, the facility will be expanded to  process 400 tons per day which represents about 25 % of the daily waste produced in this city- over one million tons of waste per year. This is accomplished by heating the waste created by an electrical arc to an extremely high temperature (approximately 4,000 degrees C). The benefits include:

  • the diversion of waste from the city’s existing landfills which otherwise would be filled to capacity in a matter of 10 or 15 years,
  • the clean way that the waste is processed,  the only byproduct being a small amount of solid non toxic residue, along with CO2 and water, and
  • the production of hydroelectricity which would provide power to 3,600 homes (at the 85 ton/day rate)

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We’re Thru

We’re Thru  – Has the American romance with the drive-through gone sour? (Slate, Dec. 11, 2009)

– the City of Ottawa passed Idling Control BY-LAW NO. 2007 – 266 which came into effect September 1, 2007 and gives those who idle for more than 3 minutes a hefty fine. Exisiting Drive-Thrus were exempted but future ones will be discouraged as a policy.

Key Quotes:

McDonald’s didn’t open its first drive-through window until 1975, in Sierra Vista, Ariz., home to a nearby Army base…Now, however, drive-throughs account for some 65 percent of McDonald’s U.S. sales”

“As a Burger King exec told the Wall Street Journal, speaking on the emergence of drive-throughs—ventanillas—in Latin America, “everybody becomes more of a drive-through, hurry-up-and-eat-on-the-run kind of culture.”

“The facilities saw a 4 percent drop in business in 2008 due to the recession. And—more threatening still—a number of communities have recently passed anti-idling ordinances, some of which implicate even the fastest drive-through windows.”

“Another energy-efficiency expert estimated that queued drivers wasted at least $103,000 in fuel in one year at just three drive-through locations near his home.”

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Accountability of air quality management

Measuring public health accountability of air quality management (10 page pdf, Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health, March 2009)

Key Quotes:

“changes in ambient air quality are rarely linked to changes in public health”

Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators (CESI) .. three components: air quality, fresh water quality, and greenhouse gas emissions”

“The air quality component of the CESI measures the April to September mean concentrations of ozone and fine particulate matter averaged over all monitors within a community and then population-weighted averaged over all communities.”

“The air health indicator (AHI) has been developed to monitor the trend over time in the percentage of daily mortalities resulting from exposure to air pollution”

“We observed statistically significant changes in exposure to both ozone and nitrogen dioxide over time…. Conversely, we observed much larger proportional changes in risk over time…. This phenomenon results from low predictive power of air pollution to explain mortality translated into high uncertainty in estimates for both risk and trend over time.”

“The AHI appears to be a more informative tool for measuring the change in air pollution attributable health risk over time as a means of addressing accountability for the impacts of programs to control air pollution. However, to be truly informative and advance the cause of accountability in air pollution reduction measures, the reasons for changes in the AHI, and conversely the lack of response in the AHI to changes in air pollution exposure levels must be examined”

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“Siamo tutti pedoni” – We’re all pedestrians

Today’s post recognizes that the most pollution free form of transportation: walking, coming as it is on the last day of critical negotiations in Copenhagen on ways to mitigate the impact of climate change Conference Programme | COP 15.

The World Streets blog featured today the exhibition of cartoons about pedestrians, showing in Bologna from 19 December to 24 January which is described (in Italian) at Siamo Tutti Pedoni from which were extracted  the following statistics which likely are close to, if not worse,  in other major cities.

Key Quotes:

“In Italy, every year, over 600 pedestrians are killed and over 20,000 are injured”

“over 50% of the victims are more than 65 years”

“nearly 30% of pedestrians lost their lives while crossing the street on the strips”

One way to reduce this toll is the creation of car free areas, such as the one in the  Byward Market Pedestrian Area in Ottawa, which separates pedestrians from polluting vehicles. Another is the building of pedestrian bridges which not only allow pedestrians safe and convenient routes but reduces the need to use cars for making trips. The City of Ottawa has just completed a bridge across its Rideau Canal, called the Corktown Footbridge which has proved to be an outstanding success with thousands of pedestrians making use of it. Both the Bytown Market and Corktown Footbridge are within easy walking distance of the centre of the city for those who visit it.

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Roundabouts, Cleaner Air and Safer Intersections

With a nod of appreciation to this post A Roundabout Way to Curb Climate Change, the focus of today’s post is modern roundabouts. In comparison to interactions with traffic lights, roundabouts  virtually eliminate collisions (and the fatalities that often result) and significantly reduce both greenhouse gas and other toxic emissions because there is no idling while stopped for red lights.

Many cities have begun to use modern roundabouts – so designated to specify those with adequate signage and features such as mid road islands to allow safe road crossing by pedestrians and cyclists.  Vermont is one of the leading American states in their use- as demonstrated in this paper by Tony Redington – MODERN ROUNDABOUTS, GLOBAL WARMING, AND EMISSIONS REDUCTIONS: STATUS OF RESEARCH, AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR NORTH AMERICA –  which states the following:

“It is suggested that 25 roundabouts replacing existing traffic signals in the City of Burlington, Vermont would equate to over 20% of that City’s goal of bringing GHG emissions to 10% below the base line 1990 level.”

“The modern roundabout era began in 1996 with the adoption by Britain of  “yield-at-entry” rule for vehicles entering a roundabout, giving vehicles in the circular travelway the right-of-way for the first time.”

“Taking an arbitrary overall delay figure midway between the a.m. and p.m. delay–26.5 seconds delay for the 28,000 average daily traffic translates to a reduction of 75,231 hours yearly of stop delay..To translate stop delay to fuel usage… the 75,231 hours of stop delay translates to an annual motor fuel consumption decrease of 30,845 gallons.”

A third reference Modern Roundabouts and the Environment provides some further statistics on emisisons reductions, based on experience in Kansas with roundabouts:

“The report (Environmental Impacts of Kansas Roundabouts, September 2003) found a 38-45 percent decrease in Carbon Monoxide emissions, a 55-61 percent decrease in Carbon Dioxide emissions, a 44-51 percent decrease in Nitrogen Oxides, and a 62-68 percent decrease in Hydrocarbons. Other compiled studies found that when conventional intersections (signalized and unsignalized) are converted to modern roundabouts, there is an average reduction of 30 percent in carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, and a 30 percent reduction in fuel consumption.”

Here is a Roundabout list for the cities of Ottawa-Gatineau.

Finally, safety advantages are addressed in this report from Michigan Safety Benefits of Modern Roundabouts which states:  “For vehicle to pedestrian collisions, the number of conflicts at the intersection is reduced from 24 points with the conventional signalized intersection to 8 points with the modern roundabout, or a 67 percent reduction.”

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Canada’s Best Run Cities

Canada’s best and worst run cities (Macleans July 2009)

This annual survey rates 31 cities under such criteria as governance, finance, taxation,safety, transit, fire and police services, environmental health, and recreation.

Overall, Burnaby and Surrey, BC and Saskatoon SK emerge as leaders and Fredericton NB, Kingston ON and Charlottetown PEI as laggards.

An interactive table showing all the ratings may be viewed here.

Overall Rating

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