Fall 2001, p.16

Auto-Free World

London On $7 A Day
Starting in 2003, drivers will have to pay $7 a day to bring their cars into congested central London as part of a plan aimed at reducing weekday traffic by 15 percent. Mayor Ken Livingstone said the $282 million in anticipated annual revenue will be used to revamp the city's ailing public transport system. Car owners will have to submit their vehicle registration numbers to London's transit agency and pay the fee to be eligible to enter Central London. A network of cameras will be used to check license plates to make sure that those driving between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday have paid. Violators could be ticketed as much as $112. Singapore and several Norwegian cities have also imposed charges on drivers entering the city center. Other British cities and counties are too considering congestion charges.
-The San Francisco Chronicle

Traffic Noise Poses Health Risk for Kids
Continuous, low-level traffic noise is a pollutant that can cause health and motivational problems in children, researchers have found. A study published in Journal of the Acoustical Society of America found that low but continuous noise of everyday local traffic can cause stress in children and raise blood pressure, heart rates, and levels of stress hormones. The study is the first to examine the non-auditory health effects of typical ambient community noise. The researchers analyzed data on 115 fourth graders in Austria. Half the children lived in quiet areas-below 50 decibels, the sound level of a clothes dryer or a quiet office-while half lived in a noisier residential area-above 60 decibels, about the intensity of an average dishwasher or raised voices.
-Environmental News Network (www.enn.com)

Fossil Fuels Are Bigger Killer than Car Crashes
More people are being killed by pollution from cars, trucks and other sources than by traffic crashes, researchers estimate in a report published in the journal Science. The study found that cutting greenhouse gases in just four major cities-Sao Paulo, Brazil; Mexico City; Santiago, Chile; and New York City-could save 64,000 lives over the next 20 years. The study's lead author, Professor Devra Lee Davis, said that ozone, particulate matter, carbon dioxide and other pollutants from the burning of fossil fuels are causing people, particularly in cities, to die prematurely from asthma, breathing disorders and heart disease. "There are more than a thousand studies from 20 countries all showing that you can predict a certain death rate based on the amount of pollution," she said. The data are consistent with a World Health Organization study estimating that air pollution will cause about 8 million deaths worldwide by 2020, she said.
-The Associated Press

Atlanta Shows Asthma-Driving Link
When Atlanta put strict driving rules into effect for the 1996 Summer Olympics, not just air pollution went down: so did the number of children seeking treatment for acute asthma. Atlanta took some extraordinary steps to reduce traffic during the 17-day event, including closing downtown to private traffic, creating a 24-hour mass transit system, and encouraging businesses to stagger hours and allow telecommuting. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, asthma-related emergency care visits in the city dropped 40 percent for Medicaid patients and 44 percent for HMO members. "Our findings suggest that by decreasing automobile emissions through city-wide changes in transportation and commuting practices," the study's authors wrote, "a substantial number of asthma exacerbations requiring medical attention can be prevented."
-The New York Times

Canadians Support Driving Restrictions
A majority of Canadians are willing to restrict car use on poor-air-quality days, according to a recent poll. Although 58 percent of Canadians supported driving reductions on smoggy days, only 37 percent were willing to pay more taxes for better public transport. The pollsters, however, neglected to ask respondents if they wanted funds diverted to public transit from other programs or from Canada's large budget surplus. Recent studies indicate that poor air quality leads to approximately 1,000 premature deaths a year in Toronto alone.
-The Globe and Mail

The True Cost of "Free" Parking
Americans end more than 90 percent of their car trips in free parking spaces. But these spaces aren't really free. 50 percent of the cost of parking is paid by employers, by the businesses drivers patronize, and by taxpayers. Another 40 percent is paid through rent and mortgages for off-street parking at home. This means that only about 10 percent of the nation's parking bill is pay-per-use at meters, lots, or garages. Pay parking is rare because antiquated provisions in zoning and tax codes-along with expansive street designs-bloat the parking supply and glut the market. Most zoning codes require a surplus of parking spaces. In the Pacific Northwest, for example, office buildings are required to provide up to four spaces per 1,000 square feet of floor space. Retail developers devote more space to cars than to merchandise.
-Michigan Land Use Institute

Read the latest information on this subject.