Emerging Issues Workshop – Leveraging High-Resolution Transportation Data for Healthier Cities

CTECH, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and CARTEEH co-organized the workshop “Emerging Issues – Leveraging High-Resolution Transportation Data for Healthier Cities”.  The workshop was held at the Cornell ILR NYC facility with participants from government, MPOs, and academics. Please see attached agenda and participants.

On November 21-22, 2019, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) hosted the workshop “Leveraging High-Resolution Transportation Data for Healthier Cities,” in partnership with the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) and the Center for Transportation, Environment and Community Health (CTECH) led by Cornell University. The workshop brought together major stakeholders in urban transportation planning and evaluated how high-resolution modeling of transportation impacts on air pollution and health can facilitate city and regional policy-making. The goal was to identify new opportunities for transportation planning, with an aim to embed air quality and health benefits in shaping real-world policy decisions. Oliver Gao participated in a panel discussion entitled State of the Science Part 2: Using full-chain assessment to connect the dots.

The collaboration continues via a working group and research papers summarizing the proceedings, including:  (1) an evaluation of the enablers and barriers for full-chain health impact analysis implementation in policy and decision making; (2) recommended best practices for how policymakers, academics and other stakeholders can optimize efforts to collaborate in efforts to leverage high-resolution transportation data to design policies that maximize health benefits from reductions in traffic-related emissions and associated air pollution exposures; and (3) key opportunities where new collaborations across sectors (public and private) and academic disciplines can facilitate scientific innovation that supports implementation and adoption of these best practices.

In cities, people are constantly exposed to pollution from cars, buses and trains. Pollutants from traffic, like nitrogen dioxide, are estimated to be responsible for nearly 1 in 5 new cases of childhood asthma in major urban areas. And the health burden of pollution is not distributed evenly: Transportation emissions and pollutant concentrations are known to vary dramatically across neighborhoods in cities, meaning there are also important environmental justice and economic equity implications.  Yet, air quality and health have often been left out of decisions that impact traffic emissions, such as infrastructure and public transit investments, congestion pricing and policies that promote electric vehicle adoption or reduce vehicle miles traveled. Among other things, policymakers are often limited by: (1) a lack of available data, and (2) a lack of collaboration across disciplines that makes it difficult to “connect the dots” among available information.

Fortunately, an enormous amount of data relevant to the transportation sector is increasingly available to city, regional and state officials, including telematics, traffic light and streetlight-mounted technologies, air quality monitoring data and satellite data, alongside opportunities for new data collection. Experts in the academic sector are using diverse data sets and sophisticated modeling to provide insight into how transportation emissions are distributed in urban areas, and what impact those emissions have on air quality and health outcomes.

Looking to the future, transportation planners are seeking to meet critical priorities like optimizing traffic flow, improving safety and reducing climate emissions, while local governments are developing plans to accommodate multimodal transportation and disruptive technologies like electric and autonomous vehicles. As the transportation sector undergoes these seismic shifts, there is a critical need for good data and robust modeling. By taking into account the real-world health impacts of transport choices, planners can help create equitable cities that are not only more connected and efficient, but are also cleaner and healthier.

For more information, please email Maia Draper: mdraper@edf.org or see the Agenda and Summary of Participant Surveys