DVRPC News: May 2015
Volume 36, Issue 10
Ozone Season Begins!
Sign Up for Air Quality Alerts and Receive a Free IndeGo Bike Share Trip
As warmer weather approaches, so does the onset of ground-level ozone. High levels of ozone pose health risks for everyone, and large segments of the population are considered especially sensitive to air pollution. Fortunately, ozone levels are being monitored and the public can be alerted when levels become unhealthy. The Air Quality Partnership (AQP), a program of DVRPC, educates residents about the dangerous effects of ground-level ozone and provides air quality forecasts to the public.
The AQP encourages actions to reduce air pollution, such as:
- Take transit or rideshare.
- Don't top off your gas tank. Spillage adds two tons of pollution to the air each day.
- Refuel at the end of the day. Ozone levels are highest in mid- to late-afternoon.
- Be sure to clean out your trunk, since an extra 100 pounds reduces gas mileage by up to 2% and wastes fuel.
- Trip-link when possible. Combining errands with your daily commute will save time, money, and the environment.
- Follow regular maintenance schedules for your car. A properly running vehicle emits less pollution and saves gas. Check your owner's manual and properly inflate your tires. Properly inflated tires can improve your gas mileage up to 3.3%. When changing your oil, use a manufacturer-recommended grade motor oil to improve fuel economy by 1-2%.
To sign up for air quality alerts, visit www.airqualitypartnership.org. The first 500 individuals to sign up for air quality alerts will receive a free trip with IndeGo bike share in Philadelphia.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Honors Air Quality Partnership
The Air Quality Partnership recently received a Clean Air Excellence Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its education and outreach efforts. The awards recognize and honor individuals and organizations that have served as pioneers in their fields, advanced public understanding of air pollution and improved air quality.
The AQP utilizes unique and evolving outreach and education strategies to maintain a fresh and relevant message that emphasizes the benefits of protecting air quality. Examples include working with partners on an anti-idling campaign that resulted in the creation of an online idling reporting platform (www.idlefreephilly.org), partnering with local media outlets to faithfully report air quality conditions, publishing an air quality activity book meeting Common Core curriculum standards and distributed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, holding a gas lawnmower trade-in event, and producing annual outreach campaigns.
The AQP has played a role in the region's progress towards attaining the air quality standards for ozone and PM2.5 pollution by consistently utilizing its partnerships to educate the region about preventing air pollution and protecting public health. To learn more, see www.airqualitypartnership.org.
Three Local Organizations Take Big Steps to Improve Air Quality
To celebrate local initiatives to improve air quality, QVC in West Chester, Pennsylvania; Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania; and Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority in Camden, New Jersey received 2015 Air Quality Excellence Awards. Each year, the Air Quality Partnership honors public and private institutions for their efforts to improve air quality.
QVC takes comprehensive steps to improve air quality by using LED fixtures and investing in energy management technologies; utilizing a Ride-Share Program that promotes carpooling; and providing an on-campus shuttle service between the West Chester campus and the Exton and Paoli train stations. Montgomery County Community College has pledged to make the campus carbon neutral, through the signing of the President's Climate Commitment. Other efforts include offering a shuttle, RideShare program, and a green parking lot for alternative vehicles; and being among the two community colleges in the country to be recognized as a bike-friendly campus. Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority goes above and beyond to protect the environment and be a good neighbor by taking a lead role in coordinating the Camden Collaborative Initiative; installing road signs instructing diesel trucks visiting the ports to avoid residential neighborhoods; planting trees along highways that border residential neighborhoods; installing rain gardens and no-flush toilets at CCMUA headquarters; and installing solar panels that provide 10% of the plant's energy needs.
DVRPC congratulates the award recipients and upholds their initiatives as models for the entire nine-county region. As we start the ozone season, it becomes even more important to recognize how initiatives such as those mentioned above can improve air quality. Visit www.airqualitypartnership.org to learn more.
Pedestrian Safety Action Plan Includes Concrete Measures to Decrease
Now that spring has finally arrived, people are taking advantage of the clear roads and the warm sunshine to exercise and enjoy the outdoors. However, while spring is a great time to renew your exercise regimen, it is also important to be aware of your surroundings. The New Jersey Department of Transportation has put together a Pedestrian Safety Action Plan and accompanying Toolbox that detail action steps and resources to definitively increase road safety, no matter the location.
In 2013 alone, 362 people were killed in crashes in the DVRPC region, 89 were pedestrians. Both Pennsylvania and New Jersey have been identified by FHWA as 'focus states' for containing cities with high pedestrian fatalities and/or fatality rates. You can view pedestrian and other crash data by municipality and county with DVRPC's Data Navigator.
The Toolbox, which is geared toward municipalities, counties, and other road owners and advocates, includes sections on Complete Streets, intersection treatments, mid-block crossings, and other considerations. Municipalities and public works departments should review the toolbox prior to final design and construction. Even relatively smaller investments such as effective lighting can dramatically increase pedestrian safety. The clear and actionable documents are available on the DVRPC website here.
Six months of CyclePhilly Bicycle Data Now Available
Last year's launch of the CyclePhilly smartphone application provided a valuable glimpse into the bicycling habits of Greater Philadelphia. From May to October 2014, hundreds of bicyclists used CyclePhilly to record thousands of trips, allowing the planners at DVRPC to see where people rode (to the closest intersection) and why. The app automatically mapped all of the routes, which can be broken down by trip purpose.
Check out the CyclePhilly 2014 data summary.
If you missed using the app last year, you have another chance to provide information that could inform future bicycle infrastructure investments. Download the CyclePhilly app today, press record, and go! Log a trip from May to October 2015 to be entered to win a GoPro camera. For more information, contact Cassidy Boulan at 215-238-2832 or email@example.com.
Ride. Record. Reimagine your Routes with CyclePhilly at www.cyclephilly.org.
Commission to Acquire New Aerial Imagery and LiDAR Data
This spring, DVRPC is partnering with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and has entered into a data sharing agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Philadelphia District to acquire new aerial imagery for the nine-county region. These partnerships will serve both federal government and DVRPC member government needs by reducing costs and avoiding duplication of effort. The data produced will be used to update the National Spatial Data Infrastructure and the National Map. The digital orthoimagery is ideally suited for use in a Geographic Information System (GIS) where it can be used for mapping purposes, or as a backdrop for existing spatial data.
LiDAR or Light Detection and Ranging data is also being acquired this spring. DVRPC, Temple University, and Quantum Spatial, Inc. submitted a joint proposal in response to the USGS's 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) Broad Agency Announcement which sought partners for the acquisition of high-quality, 3D elevation data. The USGS subsequently selected the joint proposal, the result of which will be QL-2 LiDAR data for eight of the nine counties in the DVRPC region (QL-2 LiDAR data for Chester County, PA is being acquired by the USGS under a separate project this spring). This LiDAR data will provide the region with a consistent, accurate, detailed elevation dataset.
DVRPC Co-Hosts Alternative Fuel Vehicle Symposium for Educators
Automotive technology instructors from across southeastern Pennsylvania recently attended an Alternative Fuel Vehicle Educators' Symposium and Vehicle Fair co-hosted by DVRPC and the Community College of Philadelphia. It was part of the U.S. Department of Energy-funded Pennsylvania Partnership to Promote Natural Gas Vehicles. Presentations by the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium, Cummins Power Systems, and SEPTA introduced participants to alternative fuels for vehicles, including natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas (a.k.a. propane), and electricity, and described engines, motors, transmissions, and fueling systems in use in the Greater Philadelphia region. For more information, visit www.dvrpc.org/EnergyClimate/CNG.htm.
New Resources Now Available
Philadelphia Regional On-Board Transit Survey
This report summarizes the on-board transit survey that was conducted by DVRPC during 2010 and 2011. Over 21,000 surveys were completed, for a return rate of 13.5 percent. It was found that 69% of passengers walk to the bus stop or train station, and 25% drive to a Park and Ride; and 48% of passengers are able to complete their trip using a single bus or train, while 52% needed to make a transfer.
Camden County Highway Plan
The Camden County Highway Plan was prepared as an element to the update of the overall Camden County Master Plan. Seven significant physical/operational mobility improvement projects, totaling $78 million, were identified along the county route network as specific recommendations to the overall county Master Plan. Of these—the proposed county-wide interconnected and coordinated traffic signal system ($30 million) is the smartest and farthest reaching. The project was conducted alongside the development of the Land Use Plan element and integrated findings from the Bicycling & Multi-Use Trails Plan and Farmland Preservation Plan elements.
State Street Transit Signal Priority Study
This study examined transit and motorized traffic along the State Street corridor in the central business district of the City of Trenton. The potential for Transit Signal Priority to be implemented on State Street was evaluated as an effective tool to decrease delay and increase travel speeds for buses in the corridor. This study is an extension of the TSP Favorability Score: Development and Application in Philadelphia and Mercer County (April 2014, DVRPC Publication No. 13033) as part of a follow-up effort to formalize the study's recommendation into implementation.
North Maple Avenue (CR 607) Road Safety Audit
The report details safety issues identified by the audit team at the study location and remedial strategies to address them. The audit goal is to identify safety issues and generate improvement recommendations for the study area in an effort to reduce crashes and improve walking and biking. Emphasis is placed on identifying low-cost, quick-turnaround safety projects to address the identified issues, where possible. This project represents a step toward implementation of DVRPC's Safety Action Plan. Implementation of improvement strategies are eligible for funding through the FHWA's Highway Safety Improvement Program.
Sitting in Traffic Again? NJ 73 from the Tacony Palmyra Bridge to Evesham Road
Congestion is getting harder to manage, but tools to analyze it and cost-effective measures are always improving. This is the second in a series of brochures using archived operations data to understand the causes of congestion and what can be done about it. The focus corridor for this edition is NJ 73 from the Tacony Palmyra Bridge to Evesham Road; however, the emphasis on operations, multimodal approaches, and partnerships as realistic approaches to congestion are widely applicable.
Primos Station Access & Development Opportunities Study
The Primos Station Access & Development Opportunities Study was conducted by DVRPC staff in collaboration with SEPTA, Delaware County, Aldan Borough, and Upper Darby Township. The study included a comprehensive analysis of the recently renovated SEPTA station, focusing on three key facets: station parking, intermodal access, and land use potential. The stated objectives of the study were to identify opportunities to improve parking, encourage transit-supportive development, ease intermodal access, and increase station ridership. The report includes an overview of existing conditions, a market analysis, early-action implementation strategies, as well as phased recommendations addressing land use, transportation, parking, and visual character in the study area.
Tell PA What You Think of the Roads and Transit System
Every two years, the State Transportation Commission (STC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) update the Twelve Year Transportation Program (TYP). The TYP outlines PennDOT's next 12 years of projects for all modes of travel including car and truck, public transit, bicycle and pedestrian, aviation, rail, and ports.
The first step in the TYP update process is to hear from you. Complete the survey and share your top transportation priorities at talkpatransportation.metroquest.com.
Find more details at www.TalkPATransportation.com.
DVRPC Staff Profile
Sean Greene, Senior Transportation Planner
What drew you to the field of planning, and how did you end up in air quality planning?
My undergraduate major was in biology, and my first jobs after college were conducting outreach and education on improving water quality for several water utilities and a land trust. This work led me to the realization that what happens on the land impacts the water, so I became interested in land use planning and went back to school for my Masters in Community and Regional Planning from Temple's Center for Sustainable Communities. I was actually a member of the first class to graduate from this new program, and my classmate Matt West, who was already working at DVRPC, told me about a job opening here for a transportation planner with a focus on air quality. It turned out that a lot of the job was similar to what I had done before in education and outreach for water quality, even the pollutants were the same!
Why does DVRPC have a transportation planner working on air quality?
Because one-third of emissions come from on-road mobile sources, and the Clean Air Act requires MPOs such as DVRPC to ensure that any new transportation projects won't worsen air quality.
The air is cleaner now than it was 10 years ago when I started. Federal standards in the Clean Air Act have been tightened, because we now know even lower concentrations of pollutants are harmful.
What are the impacts from poor air quality?
It affects vulnerable populations – such as people with asthma, the most. Many are children. Many people don't pay attention until it affects them or their family directly. Then it becomes a serious health and quality of life issue, and can snowball into other problems. For example, kids with asthma are less likely to exercise, making them more vulnerable to obesity, and all the health related issues to that.
What's the biggest challenge in air quality planning?
Most of the low hanging fruit has already been picked – now we have to reduce emissions from more difficult sources, such as turning over older, high polluting fleets. Plus, we live in an anti-regulatory environment, and the voluntary programs only work incrementally.
So what can we do as a region, or individually?
We need to make all the improvements we can locally, since some pollutants come to us downwind from other regions and are beyond our control. Philadelphia has set a great example by establishing the Office of Air Management Services in the Health Department to address air quality concerns, by being an early adopter of anti-idling laws, by preventing testing of diesel generators on poor air quality days, and by requiring construction equipment to use clean diesel technology. Other jurisdictions have begun some of these approaches as well. Individually, people can reduce emissions by using less electricity, especially in the summertime during peak use, and walking, biking or taking transit to reduce emissions from cars. Don't pump your gas past the click –all spilled gas turns into emissions, and don't idle your car when parked. Finally, the transportation of goods creates emissions, so try to buy locally. All these measures help in other ways too, by saving money, providing exercise, and helping the local economy.
What are you most proud of?
Our "Conformity Analysis" which, as a non-attainment area for air quality, we are required to conduct to demonstrate that emissions from our transportation plans will not cause air quality violations. It can be a difficult process to understand, but I think we have streamlined the process and made it more understandable for our stakeholders. It's not the most glamourous thing we do, but we all cooperate and get it done in short order.
The Air Quality Partnership recently received a Clean Air Excellence Award from EPA for Education and Outreach. What activities was the EPA recognizing?
The award was recognizing the Partnership's replicable and innovative approach to promoting awareness through paid advertisements, donated advertisements, and grassroots outreach. Paid advertisements include online ads encouraging people to prevent pollution and sign up for air quality alerts. Channel 6, NBC, and Fox broadcast air quality forecasts as a public service during the weather segments, an invaluable service for raising awareness. At the grassroots level, our TMAs re-broadcast alerts to their member businesses, and several local companies and municipalities, including Merck and Upper Dublin Township, fly the air quality alert flag on poor air quality days.
If you could wave a magic wand to fix one thing, what would it be?
Instead of fixing a technological or regulatory problem, which would be a one-time fix, I would change peoples' misunderstandings about each other. If we understood each other better, we could work together more effectively into the future.