London — Making long-term changes to reduce air pollution tied to transport emissions requires a multi-agency, collaborative approach to communications of the issue and delivery of an ultimate solution — from national government, local and regional authorities, health professionals and transport companies, to industry and communities. Designed and implemented thoughtfully, the cleaner air measures can also support wider social and economic objectives.

“Cities are growing and population densities within and close to cities are increasing. People need to be able to commute quickly, efficiently and healthily and we need to generate places where people can live and work in a healthier environment,” said Jacobs Head of Air Quality in Europe Hazel Peace. “We need robust alternatives to reduce congestion and create a cleaner environment that improves the air quality. Measures like ultra-low emission zones and similarly clean air zones are an important start and need to be part of longer-term, ambitious and holistic planning around growth, congestion, climate and energy policy to make a significant difference.”

Clean air zones

The detailed assessment work that local authorities are now undertaking across the U.K. for clean air zones are part of wider measures looking at how travel around some of the major cities and towns can be transformed.

Variations on ultra-low emission zones are forming the backbone of the clean air zones; take London for example, where road transport is the biggest source of the emissions damaging health in the capital. Around half of emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) — these contribute to illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) — and particulate matter (PM) come from transport. These pollutants make chronic illnesses worse, shorten life expectancy and can damage lung development.

London has developed the world’s first Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) planned for Central London, an area within which all cars (other than taxis), motorcycles, vans, minibuses, buses, coaches and heavy goods vehicles are required to meet exhaust emissions standards or pay a daily charge to travel. The central London ULEZ will be in place from 8 April 2019.

The ULEZ builds on policy and strategy to reduce road transport emissions in central London – which includes encouraging more walking, cycling, use of public transport, more efficient freight deliveries and greener TfL bus fleet and TfL-licensed taxis. There are also plans to expand the ULEZ requirements to the North and South Circular Roads boundary for cars, vans and motorcycles and London-wide for heavy vehicles.

ULEZ benefits

The ULEZ will help reduce exhaust NOx and PM emissions, helping to improve air quality and making central London a safer and more pleasant place to live, work and visit. These positive effects will be especially beneficial to the young, older people and those who have respiratory problems, as well as residents of high pollution areas. At least 360 primary schools are currently in London areas exceeding safe legal pollution levels.

Most traffic entering the ULEZ will be from outside the zone, so the benefits of using more sustainable travel and cleaner, greener vehicles will be experienced across London, even for areas not located in the zone.

Jacobs examined the environmental, health, equality, economic and business effects of the proposed ULEZ. The firm looked at impacts across a range of issues, from air quality and noise; the health and well-being of the population and access to health-related services; to those who are socio-economically disadvantaged; and London’s economy. Stakeholder consultation workshops and key findings fed into an Integrated Impact Assessment (IIA) which provides an integrated and non-technical overview of the anticipated impacts. TfL used the outputs of the IIA to directly inform the ULEZ proposals and the development of measures to mitigate disproportionate impacts on different users, particularly vulnerable groups. The IIA reports were published as part of the public consultation on the ULEZ proposals.

Several London Boroughs are now developing proposals for Low Emissions Neighborhoods, and Jacobs is working with other major cities and authorities in the U.K. and globally, to help develop and deliver air quality management and mitigation strategies.

Sustainable decision-making for transportation

As part of a collaborative team with O2 and AECOM, Jacobs’ work with TfL on Project Edmond is looking at how to best understand population flow and behavior through the city’s transport network, to drive sustainable decision-making around traffic congestion, air pollution and transport investment to increase capacity. Here Jacobs fused innovative datasets from mobile phones (billions of raw events per day, aggregated and completely anonymous) with other data assets to understand mobility. To the firm’s knowledge, this is the first time such a large-scale, big data project using mobile phone event data, combined with other emerging app-based data sources, has been undertaken in a complex world city such as London.

Jacobs is also helping clients develop and deliver smart, sustainable systems for greener, more dependable transportation. In Canada, the firm is helping identify opportunities for wireless electrification of the country’s largest commuter transit system, Hydrail. Jacobs developed a feasibility study highlighting the possibilities of providing 6,000 weekly trips by 2025, powered by hydrogen fuel-cell technology as a clean, efficient energy choice versus conventional diesel or overhead electric wires.

In the U.S., developing a first-in-class subway car is an essential part of modernizing the New York City subway system. Jacobs is supporting New York City Transit with one of the largest rolling stock procurements in the industry – up to 1,612 top-of-the-line vehicles focused on safety, cost reduction, operational efficiency, customer experience and use of green technology.

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