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Transportation-related Air Pollution & Urban Design

Posted on Wed, 12/12/2012 - 2:52pm

The California Air Resources Board has awarded UCLA a $360,000 grant for the research project “Identifying Urban Designs and Traffic Management Strategies for Southern California that Reduce Air Pollution Exposure.”  This study comes at an important time as California policies, like SB 375, incentivize greater residential density near transit to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging less driving. But greater density along transportation corridors may lead to the unintended effect of greater pedestrian and residential exposure to roadway air pollutants. The problem may be especially acute at public transit stops deliberately located on high-volume arterial roadways to increase the passenger connectivity, accessibility and multi-modal travel. 

The UCLA led study seeks to help minimize these exposures by advancing our understanding of factors controlling highly spatially-variable pollutant concentrations around roadways. The primary focus is on features that urban planners and transportation planners can control: building morphology (i.e. building height, spacing and setbacks), traffic management (stop signs, traffic lights, traffic queue length), transit stop siting, and to a lesser degree, orientation relative to prevailing winds. Because meteorological factors such as wind speed and atmospheric stability are so important, the study will also characterize the influence of these variables. The result will be a set of tools and guidelines that transportation and urban planning decision makers can use to guide everyday decisions that impact that exposure of pedestrians in transit oriented development.

Suzanne Paulson, professor in the UCLA Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, will lead the study. Co-principal investigators are J.R. DeShazo, director of the UCLA Luskin Center and professor of public policy in the Luskin School, Akula Venkatram of the UC Riverside Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Arthur Winer, distinguished professor emeritus of the UCLA Department of Environmental Health Sciences.  The ARB funding allows for an expanded study that builds on the project “Air Quality in Transit Oriented Development” funded by a grant from the University of California Transportation Center.