Development of a Model to Predict and Mitigate Environmental and Public Health Impacts of Traffic Flows and Traffic Management Policies in Urban Transportation Microenvironments

Linda George, Portland State University



It is well established that vehicles powered by carbon-based fuels (e.g. gasoline, diesel) have a negative impact on air quality, especially in urban centers. Traditionally, air quality conformity studies analyze the macroenvironmental impact of transportation corridors, as they relate to regional air quality management concerns.   Urban residents spend a considerable amount of outdoor time in transportation microenvironments as pedestrians, bicycle commuters, people waiting to use public transport, residents and workers situated along roadways, and commuters within vehicles.   An emerging area of research has shown that human health impacts within transport microenvironments can be considerable, but have not been well-characterized.  As urban public policies increasingly encourage the use of multi-mode commuting in dense urban centers, decisionmakers need reliable modeling tools to predict and mitigate the health consequences of vehicle-related emissions in transportation microenvironments.  This project proposes unique integration of real-time multi-modal personal exposure monitoring with real-time detailed traffic monitoring in order to develop a computer model that links traffic characteristics, emissions, built environment configuration, mode of travel and health impacts.

Existing emission and dispersion models do not take direct account of the dynamic nature of traffic and how emissions impact the health of the diversity of urban dwellers, bus commuters, pedestrians, and bicycle riders. Typical approaches use highly aggregated vehicle data and computed link speeds to assign an emission factor to the traffic, an assumed proportion of which is trucks. In addition, existing methods to assess environmental impacts tend to focus on the production source of the pollutant not the impacts, which require information on population activities and its proximity to vehicle flows. Personal exposure studies document significant air quality impacts within the transportation microenvironment but do not integrate dynamic traffic and emission analysis.

Previous research argues for a comprehensive approach. From the perspective of mitigating transportation impacts, it is significant to understand: a) exposure to the pollution, which in turn requires assessment of where people are in relation to the source of the pollutant, and b) the relation between pollution and vehicle flows. This research will target highly polluted high exposure hotspots in Portland, e.g. high traffic flows running through a major trip destination area for shopping, entertainment, education, or health care highly dependent on mode of travel, traffic levels and type, and built environment characteristics. Our approach is to conduct field studies to measure personal exposure to particulate matter as a function of transportation mode through pre-determined routes in the city. Exposure levels, position, time and rate of travel will be recorded. Simultaneously we will collect detailed traffic data that will provide type/number of vehicle, speed of travel and start/stop behavior. GIS analysis of the urban form and land use characteristics will establish built environment parameters. These data will be integrated into a built environment-travel mode-exposure model. The major scientific innovations offered by this project are: 1) integration of detailed and real-time exposure/emissions with a real-time traffic measurement approach, and 2) development of an integrated emissions and transportation model that combines traffic characteristics, emissions, built environment configuration, mode of travel and predicted health impacts. The outcomes of the research will be of importance to the general public, urban communities, departments of transportation charged with managing urban traffic, and public health authorities.

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
End Date:
December 31,2010
UTC Grant Cycle:
OTREC 2010
UTC Funding: