Archive | Transportation and Health

Is Transit Active Transportation?

PSU Transportation Seminar

Links Between Public Transportation and Physical Activity

Speaker: Brian Saelens, Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Seattle’s Children’s Hospital & University of Washington
Topic:  Links Between Public Transportation and Physical Activity
When: Friday, November 7, 12-1 p.m.
Where: PSU Urban Center Building, SW 6th and Mill, Room 204
Summary: This seminar will explore the empirical evidence regarding the links between the use of public transportation and physical activity, with a specific focus on using integrated device and self-report methods to identify travel modes and physical activity.

The Air We Breathe

PSU Transportation Seminar: Measuring Urban Bicyclists’ Uptake of Traffic-Related Pollution

Speaker: Alex Bigazzi, PhD candidate, Portland State University
Topic: Measuring Urban Bicyclists’ Uptake of Traffic-Related Pollution
When: Friday, February 28, 2014, 12-1 p.m.
Where: PSU Urban Center Building, SW 6th and Mill, Room 204
Abstracts: Urban bicyclists’ uptake of traffic-related air pollution is still not well quantified, due to a lack of direct measurements of uptake and a lack of analysis of the variation in uptake. This paper describes and establishes the feasibility of a novel method for measuring bicyclists’ uptake of volatile organic compounds (VOC) by sampling breath concentrations. Early results from the data set demonstrate the ability of the proposed method to generate findings for transportation analysis, with statistically significant exposure and uptake differences from bicycling on arterial versus bikeway facilities for several traffic-related VOC. These results provide the first empirical evidence that the usage of bikeways (or greenways) by bicyclists within an urban environment can significantly reduce uptake of dangerous traffic-related gas pollutants. Dynamic concentration and respiration data reveal unfavorable correlations from a health impacts perspective, where bicyclists’ respiration and travel time are greater at higher-concentration locations on already high-concentration roadways (arterials).


Driving the Bus with Carbon Monoxide?

Readers of this blog will be aware that OPAL has been a leading voice criticizing TriMet service reductions in recent years.

They’re now latching onto a somewhat obscure air quality regulation to try to put some teeth into that advocacy.

The Portland region is under Federal compliance plans for two pollutants: ozone and carbon monoxide (CO). Arguably there are some much more harmful pollutants in our air (benzene and particulates for starters) but regulatory inertia makes us pay attention to these two.

The region has compliance plans for these two pollutants and the plan for CO includes a requirement to increase transit service 1% per year, measured over a 5-year window (essentially a five year moving average).

TriMet has met this requirement in recent history by relying largely on the big increase in service hours from the opening of the Green Line in 2009. But cuts in service in the last few years mean that on a five-year average basis TriMet no longer meets the average 1% increase as of last month.

The regional transportation bureaucracy proposes to fix this by modifying the compliance plan to call out a 10-year average instead of five-year. The State DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) has to weigh in on this, and OPAL’s comments (PDF, 585K) on the proposed change are interesting reading. They make arguments that the actual ridership benefit of rail service is overestimated in the calculations and more bus service would actually be more effective in reducing CO emissions.

It’s a very wonky club to try to pound TriMet with, but I have to respect OPAL’s tenacity. I hope DEQ at least does a serious evaluation of OPAL’s claims.

The Favorite Pedometer I Don’t Wear

My convictions around active transportation aren’t hypothetical, they’re also personal and pragmatic. I make a point to walk 10,000 steps or bike 10 miles every day (or some combination thereof) to help control both my blood pressure and blood sugar – and most days I get closer to 15,000/15.

And because I’m engineer at heart, I measure. Tracking my bicycle miles is simple enough, a small computer with a sensor on my front wheel logs my miles with no action required on my part.

Tracking steps takes a little more intention. I used to where a pedometer, but that meant I had to remember to put it on in the morning, and to take it off (or at least reset it) when I used my bike – pedaling results in meaningless numbers. A hassle.

Recently, I’ve ditched my pedometer in favor of a simpler solution – an app. Moves – an iPhone app (free) sits in my pocket (since I’m never without my phone) and keeps track of my movements. It can tell when I’m walking, cycling or using a vehicle and gives me a running total every day.


One less device to complicate my life!