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Study finds modifying urban form may be a strategy to reduce air pollution

Mon Oct 30, 2017 5:43 pm

. . .
    More than half of the world population, 3.9 billion people (54%) in 2014, live in urban areas, with an additional 2.5 billion urban dwellers expected by 2050. Cities serve as economic and social centers, concentrating people, activities, ideas, and industries. Cities may also concentrate environmental hazards such as air pollution, and potentially health inequities. As such, cities are a focal point for understanding and addressing environmental health issues.

    … Transportation is one of the largest contributors to urban air pollution for pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, benzene, ozone, and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). For example, recent estimates suggest that globally, approximately 25% of ambient urban PM2.5 is attributable to motor vehicles. Strategies to reduce motor vehicle use may play a role in improving urban air quality. Evidence suggests that changes in urban form can impact travel behavior such as travel distance, trip frequency, and mode choice.

    … Here we employ satellite-based measurements of nitrogen dioxide (NO2 , a proxy for traffic-related air pollution and a major constituent of urban air pollution) and a global data set of 1,274 urban areas to explore the relationship between urban form and air quality. Our work builds on prior research by employing a much larger sample of global cities, allowing for the exploration of factors (i.e., city population, country-level income, environmental performance & policy) that may influence the relationship between urban form and air quality. In this work we are able to explore how urban form-air quality relationships vary for a consistent set of cities in low- and high-income countries, giving insight into the impacts of urban form in developing countries where existing literature is limited. Additionally, more than half of the cities in our data set (n = 675 cities; 53% of all cities) are small cities (100,000 - 500,000 people), allowing us to explore the relationship of urban form and air pollution for a large global sample of small cities.

    —Bechle et al. . . .

In the study, the team considered four urban form metrics: circularity, contiguity, percent vegetation, and percent impervious surfaces. Circularity is a measure of urban compactness, quantifying the relative closeness of the built-up area to the geographic center. A city exhibiting this type of compactness may indicate a more efficient use of urban area, and may induce fewer and shorter vehicle trips.

The contiguity index is the ratio of the largest contiguous polygon of built-up area to the total built-up area for a given city. Large amounts of leapfrog or exurban development, and polycentricism (particularly with satellite cities) would result in a low contiguity index.

Among their findings:

    Higher population had the largest effect; i.e., higher populations are associated with worsened air quality.

    Increased urban contiguity, circularity and vegetation metrics are significantly associated with lower urban NO2 concentrations.

    The impervious surface metric has a non-significant effect on urban NO2.

    Although the magnitude of the effect size of the three significant urban form metrics are small relative to population, their combined effect could be large.

Meteorology and country-level income play an important role in describing differences in urban NO2 concentrations among cities; income, solar insolation, and precipitation together describe 52% of the variation in urban NO2 concentration. . . .
Last edited by GRA on Mon Oct 30, 2017 7:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Study finds modifying urban form may be a strategy to reduce air pollution

Mon Oct 30, 2017 5:47 pm

I dont get it. Urban areas = more people = more emissions. How is this ground-breaking?

I would wager that the emissions per capita is less though since Billy-Bob has to drive 50 miles in his jalopy every time he needs something from the store whereas the urbanite can just walk around the corner and grab it...
2013 Nissan Leaf SV with every option
2013 Prius C Package 4
2012 Lexus RX450h
2006 Prius Gen II, pIV
2005 Honda Civic Hybrid
2001 Honda Civic EX
1997 Honda Prelude SH
1981 DeLorean DMC12
and more...

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