Purpose

To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Monday, September 28, 2015

Coming Soon to Google Maps: Street-Level Air Pollution

A new partnership with Aclima will track air quality in L.A., San Francisco, and California's Central Valley.

 http://www.citylab.com/weather/2015/09/coming-soon-to-google-maps-street-level-air-pollution/407740/

By Julian Spector, September 28, 2015



 Image Aclima
 A Google Street View car equipped with Aclima air quality sensors, photographed in Denver in 2014.

To make cities safer from air pollution, urban planners need to know exactly where the damaging particles originate and how they move through the air. A new partnership between Google and San Francisco-based air sensor company Aclima promises to collect that data and make it publicly available.

Google Street View cars equipped with Aclima mobile air sensors will map pollution at the neighborhood level in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and California’s Central Valley, Aclima CEO and co-founder Davida Herzl announced at the Clinton Global Initiative on Monday. The resulting data will appear on Google Earth Engine for scientists to examine, while everyone will be able to track environmental health where they live through street-level air pollution maps on Google Earth and Google Maps. The project is already underway in San Francisco and is set to expand in 2016.

“Today when you look at an air quality index you're seeing data compiled that's based on a model, and what limited data is available,” Herzl tells CityLab via email. “As scientists and modelers gain more data—we hope through our driving—our knowledge base will greatly improve and contribute richer dimension to the models they are creating that inform our understanding of daily air quality.”

Granular, consistent, and reliable data

That information is especially needed in the places Aclima and Google chose for the pilot. Those California regions rank among the American cities most polluted by particulate matter, which scientists have linked to heart disease, lung disease, and premature deaths (L.A. and the Central Valley are heavyweights on the list of ozone pollution, too). Air pollution annually kills approximately 3.3 million people worldwide, and 55,000 in the U.S. alone.


The EPA operates stationary air sensors throughout the country to monitor background air quality for compliance with the Clean Air Act. These expensive and reliable tools don’t have much to say about variations in on-the-ground air quality from street to street and neighborhood to neighborhood. That’s where portable air sensors come in: a new generation of cheaper and smaller sensor technology allows users to track air quality as they move through their days and transmit the data to crowdsourced online databases.

Moving away from authoritative government data sources opens up a set of reliability concerns. It’s hard to know whether a given unofficial sensor is accurate, or if different people’s sensors are calibrated to each other. The Aclima-Google partnership, though, brings the credibility of those two companies to the table—promising to generate more granular data than the EPA sensors, but with more consistency and reliability than crowdsourcing.

Aclima collaborated with Google Street View cars in Denver last year to calibrate the sensors. They collected mobile readings throughout the city, then worked with the EPA to cross-check them with the official government sensors in the area. Having passed that test, the company is ready to scale up the operation.

Google will provide free public access to these data. Scientists can delve into Google Earth Engine’s geospatial analysis tools to overlay air quality readings with years of archived satellite imagery, for instance, seeing how changes in land use relate to present-day pollution. Herzl is particularly excited about the ability to merge public health datasets with new geotagged readings of particulate matter and other pollutants.

“This will really be the first time that we’ll be able to connect these two datasets at scale,” Herzl says.

Informing daily decisions

The information could drive public policy at the local level, Google Earth Outreach Program Manager Karin Tuxen-Bettman said at a press conference following the announcement. If city governments knew where the dirtiest intersections were, for instance, they could plant buffers of trees to keep fumes away from children playing on a nearby playground. The pollution maps can also inform casual observers on very simple lifestyle choices.

“I’m a mother. If I had an asthmatic child, I would want to know where to take my child to the playground, what time of day is healthier, how to avoid poor air quality, just to be able to avoid asthma attacks,” says Tuxen-Bettman. “I’m a biker. If I want to bike to work, I would want to know how to choose the healthiest route for my trip.”

We’ll have to wait to see how this commitment turns out in practice, but highly granular street-level data on the pollutants that Californians inhale every day could play a huge role in smarter city design. A question as important as whether a new school location is going to damage its students lungs should not be left up to chance.

Without Transit, American Cities Would Take Up 37 Percent More Space

http://usa.streetsblog.org/2015/09/28/without-transit-american-cities-would-take-up-37-percent-more-space/

By Angie Schmitt, September 28, 2015

Even if you never set foot on a bus or a train, chances are transit is saving you time and money. The most obvious reason is that transit keeps cars off the road, but the full explanation is both less intuitive and more profound: Transit shrinks distances between destinations, putting everything within closer reach.

A new study published by the Transportation Research Board quantifies the spatial impact of transit in new ways [PDF]. Without transit, the researchers found, American cities would take up 37 percent more space.

Transit-oriented development in Portland's Pearl District. Photo: Smartgrowth.org
Transit-oriented development in Portland’s Pearl District. 

The research team from New York, San Francisco, and Salt Lake City modeled not just how many driving miles are directly averted by people riding transit, but how the availability of transit affects the way we build cities.

By allowing urban areas to be built more compactly, the “land use effect” of transit reduces driving much more than the substitution of car trips with transit trips. Total miles driven in American cities would be 8 percent higher without the land use effect of transit, the researchers concluded, compared to 2 percent higher if you forced everyone who rides transit to drive.

On average, the study found, the “land use effect” of transit is four times greater than the “ridership effect,” or the substitution of car trips with transit trips. But the land use effect of transit varies a great deal across urban areas, the study found. In places like Greenville, South Carolina, it’s responsible for reducing driving 3 percent. In San Francisco and New York City, it’s 18 and 19 percent, respectively.


The authors suggest their model can help assess the effect of transit investments on travel behavior with greater sophistication. For example, adding a rail station to a neighborhood without one increased the density of jobs and residences by 9 percent within a one-mile radius, the study found. That would reduce driving about 2 percent for all the households across the area.

In addition to new infrastructure, increasing the frequency of transit service reduces traffic too. The researchers estimate that a 1 percent increase in transit frequency across a region would be expected to bring about a 0.045 percent decrease in miles driven. And a 1 percent increase in route density — a measure of how many transit lines service a given area — would be expected to produce a 0.047 percent reduction in traffic.

The report includes a “Land Use Benefit Calculator” [XLS] to help determine the total environmental benefits of transit projects.

This Week In Livable Streets

http://la.streetsblog.org/2015/09/28/this-week-in-livable-streets-21/

By Joe Linton, September 28, 2015

This week: ride, run, and plan for the future of Los Angeles – plus some great film screenings! No L.A. City Council meetings this week, due to a late September recess.
  • Tuesday 8/29 – “#IAmPlanning: Bridging the Gap Between Planning and Activism” takes place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Mercado La Paloma at 3655 S Grand Ave in South L.A. It is free, but RSVP required at Brown Paper Tickets. Additional details at Facebook event.
  • Thursday 9/1 – Community Services Unlimited hosts a film screening, panel, and reception as part of the art exhibit Urban Visions: Art a Social Practice. The free event takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Gallery. Details at Facebook event.
  • Saturday 10/3 – Boyle Heights 5K Run/Walk & Munchkin Fun Run takes off from the Mariachi Avenue Gold Line Station at 8 a.m. Registration details at Facebook event.
  • Saturday 10/3UCLA Transportation Camp takes place from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. – but it’s sold out. Register for the wait list for $25 at Eventbrite. Additional information at UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies.
  • Saturday 10/3 – Wear pink to the free #wattsrockpink2 bike ride and health fair. Starts at 10 a.m. at Watts Labor Community Action Committee at 10950 S Central Ave. For more information, see Facebook event.
  • Sunday 10/4 – Head to the free Hollywood Sign Summit walk. It’s a free, public walk through Beachwood Canyon and Griffith Park to the Hollywood Sign, starting at 9 a.m. from Beachwood Market at 2701 Belden Drive in Hollywood. Tour some popular viewing areas and paths to the sign. Event includes guest speakers and a discussion and mini-charrette on improving access to the sign and Griffith Park in general. For more information, see Facebook event.
  • Sunday 10/4 – Free bike tune-up session hosted by BKOB/Ride On Bike Co-Op from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Leimert Park. Details at Facebook event.
  • Sunday 10/4 – The Ambulante Film Festival presents a free screening of the movie Bikes Vs. Cars at the L.A. River bowtie parcel near the 2 Freeway in Glassell Park. For details see Ambulante Festival. Feeder rides from San Fernando Valley hosted by CiclaValley, and from South L.A. hosted by BKOB/Ride On Bike Co-Op.