The Washington State legislature and the ports of Tacoma and Seattle are struggling to balance the air quality and health concerns of neighborhoods close to port facilities with protests from independent truckers who cannot afford to upgrade their equipment. The deadline to require all trucks serving the port to have newer, cleaner engines has twice been extended. Other states have tried to set rules for clean engines, with varying degrees of success.
Cleaning up the commercial diesel truck industry
In 2011, U.S. EPA and NHTSA established a national program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and set new fuel efficiency standards for commercial vehicles starting in 2014. The requirements of this program are a driving force that is causing manufacturers to advance diesel technologies to achieve more environmentally sustainable outcomes, and they are starting to pay off.
Google’s Street View cars are measuring and mapping air pollution
Last week, Google and the Environmental Defense Fund published the first in a series of maps with data on pollution levels collected using Google Street View vehicles. The initiative, a partnership between EDF, Google Earth Outreach, and San Francisco-based company Aclima, will make it possible to assess air pollution at a level of detail that was nearly impossible previously. The project team hopes the body of data created will help regulators and local and state officials develop a greater understanding of pollution levels on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, making it possible to target investments and other interventions to the populations facing the greatest health risks.
Motor vehicle dependence is making us sick: How transportation and urban planners are part of the solution
A recent study published in the medical journal The Lancet focuses on prevention strategies for the global epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) stemming from an unsustainable reliance on a transportation system reliant on fossil fuels. Such diseases include such as traffic violence, obesity, or respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. To address this crisis, the authors makes strong arguments that transportation and urban planners must coordinate across departments and accept their professional roles in determining how people travel.
There’s more to roadway emissions than what comes out of the tailpipe
While the push to reduce vehicle emissions has focused on cleaner fuels, more efficient engines, and other technologies that can reduce or eliminate tailpipe emissions, non-tailpipe emissions have remained largely under the radar. Non-tailpipe emissions include dust generated from brake pad and tire wear, as well as salt and other material kicked up from the roadway by passing vehicles. Studies have shown that along roadways, tailpipe emissions and non-exhaust sources are often responsible for roughly equal amounts of airborne particulate matter (PM), with non-exhaust sources sometimes accounting for the lion’s share.
Freight rail traffic is growing, but urban conflicts hinder infrastructure expansion
While passenger rail has been on the front page, freight railroads have been thriving. However a new truck-to-rail transfer facility to serve the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has caused a fierce debate on the thorny question of how to weigh the value of regional economic and environmental benefits against local environmental impacts and environmental justice concerns.
Disagreement over the environmental impacts of the Bayonne Bridge project
Two federal agencies, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, do not agree on the assessment of the environmental impacts of raising the Bayonne Bridge between Bayonne, NJ, and Staten Island, NY. The disagreement primarily concerns the impacts on air quality and the resulting effects on the local communities.
Silicon Valley shuttles change the face of public transit in San Francisco
Although the shuttles provided by Silicon Valley companies help alleviate congestion and air quality problems in the Bay Area, they have also created some tension in residential neighborhoods where they pick up employees. Only recently have the routes of these “ghost buses” been mapped. San Francisco transit planners and politicians are working to create rules for the popular shuttles.
Methods for Estimating the Environmental Health Impacts of SRTS Programs (National Center for Safe Routes to School, 2012)
This report explores environmental health and Safe Routes to School through a review of the relationship between environmental health and school travel, a discussion on measuring the environmental health impacts of school travel, and five examples of methods used by SRTS programs to estimate the impact of their activities on local air quality and carbon dioxide emissions.
Carmaggedon leads to significantly better air quality
As Los Angeles-area residents were preparing for “Carmageddon II” – the second scheduled closing in two years of 10 miles of Interstate 405, the busiest highway in the country, to complete bridge work – research findings were released showing almost instantaneous improvements in air quality during the original Camageddon in July 15-17, 2011. Unfortunately, the effect was reversed soon after the freeway re-opened.