Several European cities are currently failing to meet their set sustainability goals. At the same time, a new study from the European Environment Agency (EEA) shows that Europeans living in urban areas particularly suffer from health impacts of air pollution. Traffic and transport emissions represent around one quarter of the EUs’ total greenhouse gases. Being one of the main sources of air pollution, the transport sector must change.
This article outlines how optimising traffic management is an effective and future-proof way for cities to reduce air pollution and make sure they meet their sustainability targets.
The WHO air quality guidelines
WHO air quality guidelines (AQGs) for outdoor air pollution are the most widely accepted assessment of health effects due to air pollution. They recommend targets for air quality at which health risks are significantly reduced and offers global guidance.
In 2016, the WHO air quality guidelines levels were not met in the places where 91 percentage of the world population is living. 9 out of 10 breathes air that contain high level of pollutants that exceeds the guidelines. Low and middle-income countries are suffering from the highest exposures.
By reducing air pollution levels, the cardiovascular and respiratory health of the populations will be better, both long- and short-term. It will also lead to a smaller burden of diseases from stroke, lung cancer, heart disease and chronic respiratory diseases.
The WHO guidelines are right now under revision and the new global quality guidelines coming out are based on the newest scientific evidence synthetized in accordance to predefined systematic review methods.
Outdoor air pollution is a consequence of emissions from motor vehicles, heating, industry, and commercial sources. Transport is one of the main sources of air pollution and the fastest growing source of fossil-fuel CO2 emissions, which is the largest contributor to climate change. The transport sector also stands for almost 30 percent of the carbon dioxide emission in the European Union.
Policies and investments supporting cleaner transport would reduce key sources of outdoor air pollution. In the WHO air quality guidelines governments are challenged to protect their people’s health by improving air quality. Mentioned are several ambient air pollutants that are hazardous to human health. The guidelines also include a reference for setting national standards.
Most sources of outdoor air pollution are beyond the control of individuals. The guidelines demand action from policymakers from different sectors on local, regional, and national level. Transport is one of these important sectors together with energy, urban planning, waste management, and agriculture.
Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy
The European Commission just presented a ‘Sustainability and Smart Mobility Strategy’ that will work as a guideline the next four years. The strategy came with an Action Plan of 82 initiatives and lays the foundation for how the transport system in the EU can achieve its digital and green transformation. Aligning with the European Green Deal the aim is to cut emissions by 90 percent by 2050, as the result of a smart, safe and accessible transport system. According to the visions in the strategy, digitalisation as a key factor for the modernisation of the transport system, in a way of making it more efficient.
Optimising traffic management
To approach the problem of air pollution, an integrated platform for environmental data monitoring and traffic management can make a big difference. MyCity is a modular Traffic Management Platform that takes a holistic approach, instead of just looking at domain-specific solutions. This approach creates a new and modern way to look at traffic management. Instead of just dealing with isolated problems, you can look at the big picture. This makes it easier to make well based decisions on how to manage traffic. The system knows what is going on in all parts of the traffic, including cars, public transport, and cyclists. You can easily integrate various legacy systems, data sources, and information systems to get the information needed to create an optimization strategy. Besides that, the platform is open and can be customised to each individual city.
With the MyCity platform you can:
• Include the provision of pollution alerts
• Create pollution-smart itineraries for bikes and pedestrians
• Use strategic traffic management through automatic and semi-automatic traffic management measures triggered by the air quality levels
• Identify where air quality is below or within the planned thresholds
• Allow the system to create strategies to take early action before the air quality is a problem
• Collect data from several sources, monitor, and identify trends
• Predict when a pre-set threshold will be reached
You can run reports and assess data to make sure your actions and settings are having the requested impact. This can help you optimize the existing infrastructure and making it more efficient, especially in the context of air pollution.