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3.46 - TRAPHIC - Traffic related air pollution impacts on historic city centres: an integrated approach

Project Description

The TRAPHIC project addresses the need for policy-oriented integrated research on cities and transport, and more specifically on the impacts of traffic related air pollution on people and buildings in historical city centres. The prime goal of the project is to develop a consistent approach to evaluate the effects of traffic on human health and on the built environment. Its main outcome will be a decision support tool aimed to assist local authorities at analysing the potential benefits of alternative traffic measures and the respective trade-offs. The focus of the project is put on historical city centres because these are areas prone to air pollution due to their urban layout, which often are crowded with people involved in business and tourism activities, and host valuable heritage buildings.

Harmful effects of anthropogenic air pollution on human health are widely known and addressed by European air quality legislation. However, despite their obvious importance, remarkably few studies specifically assess the exposure to traffic-related air pollution. Usually, these studies do not consider explicitly transport and mobility data, and assess air quality based on observations from a limited number of fixed points. Thus, the source-receptor relationship, especially for urban “hotspots”, is insufficiently addressed. Moreover, in addition to human health concerns, there is the need of protecting the built environment from high pollution levels. The costs of materials deterioration and soiling due to air pollution are massive, and the damage to landmark buildings compromises seriously the cultural heritage. For both reasons, there is an urgent need for integrated research on the effects of traffic related air pollution in historic city centres.

The work to be carried out within the TRAPHIC project will contribute to a better understanding of such effects using a cascade of models for describing in detail the relations between the source (traffic) and the receptors (people and buildings), based on which it will be possible to anticipate accurately the impacts of traffic measures on human health and on the built environment. Within this tool, the characterisation of road traffic will be performed based on measurements of actual traffic in combination with a transportation model to forecast traffic flows and induced pollution levels. Quantification of atmospheric pollutants emitted by road transport will be based on recently developed models that will provide important inputs to the air quality model. A new model able to estimate the time series of people and materials exposure will be developed and implemented. Indoor pollution will be characterized by determining the ventilation rates and combined with outdoor concentrations. In addition to the potential effects on human health, the model will address the deterioration and soiling effects of pollutants on materials. For this purpose dose-response functions derived for multipollutant environments will be applied to characterise the dimension of damage to heritage buildings.

The main deliverable of the TRAPHIC project will be a decision support tool where the approach described above is implemented in a user-friendly way through a GIS platform. Its application will enable to evaluate the current impacts of traffic related air pollution on people’s health and on building status in an integrated manner, as well as to analyse how these impacts could be mitigated by traffic measures such as the extension of pedestrian areas, the increase of parking fees, and the creation of low emission zones.

For testing the decision support tool, two pilot applications will be carried out: one for Coimbra, whose historical centre was recently classified as UNESC O Heritage Site; and the other for Havana, the capital city of Cuba, in the framework of a similar project to be developed at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). The latter work will allow us to experiment the tool on a large city in a less developed country, and adapt it to the lack of data that typically characterizes such cities. This is important notably in view of future applications of our tool in Portuguese-speaking countries such as Brazil and Angola, whereby the main urban centres suffer from severe traffic related air pollution problems.

The TRAPHIC project will be carried out by a team of researchers from the Universities of Coimbra, Aveiro and Porto that, together, combine the key modelling skills required by its successful completion, that is: urban planning, transport engineering, environmental sciences and engineering, materials engineering and health geography. The collaboration with EPFL consists in the participation of leading investigators of HAVANA project as consultants of the proposed project and vice-versa.

Research Team

Oxana Tchepel (coordinator); Anabela Ribeiro; António Pais Antunes; Daniela Dias
Other partners
Association for the Development of Industrial Aerodynamics (ADAI)
University of Aveiro
University of Coimbra
University of Porto Institute of Public Health (ISPUP)

Financial Support

FCT - PTDC /EC MURB/3329/2014

Stage of Progress

In progress (Started 1st June 2016)
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