IC Reporter ISSUE 19 (23 JANUARY - 5 FEBRUARY 1996)
Staff Newspaper of Imperial College of Science, Technology
ACADEMICS UNITE AT IMPERIAL TO TACKLE THE IMPACT OF TRANSPORT ON THE ENVIRONMENT
Janice Hankes, administrator for the Graduate School of the Environment, reports on the meeting.
'The confrontation between society's demand for ever increasing levels of personal mobility and the need to preserve the natural environment presents one of the greatest challenges facing mankind,' said John Polak, Centre for Transport Studies, speaking at a one-day seminar on transport and environment. This confrontation and how to deal with it was the focus of the seminar hosted by the Graduate School of the Environment in December. Presentations identified the health and environmental effects of this century's transport explosion and explored a number of possible solutions drawing on a wide range of disciplines.
The effects of transport-related pollution on human health were the focus of presentations by Dr Mike Ashmore, ICCET, and Professor Paul Elliott, St Mary's. Mike Ashmore emphasised that the key to assessing the health impact of roadside pollution was to monitor personal exposure rather than relying on fixed site monitoring stations.
Paul Elliott spoke about an EU funded Small Area Variations in Air Quality and Health study which used geographical information systems to investigate the relationship between NO2 and asthma/ wheeze in school children in four countries. The negative effects of transport were reinforced by Professor Andrew Evans, Centre for Transport Studies, who reminded the seminar that, 'Transport presents the greatest risk of accidental death and injury encountered by the majority of people in everyday life'.
William Sheate, ICCET, discussing the importance of environmental impact assessment, suggested that, 'long term solutions to the impact of transport on the environment continue to remain elusive, not least because of a reluctance by decision-makers to think more strategically'. He called for environmental and sustainable considerations to be incorporated in the early stages of transport planning. The need for strategic planning was also stressed by Professor Tony Ridley, Centre for Transport Studies, who in his opening speech questioned why no care is taken when planning land use to consider the transport implications.
Technological solutions for reduced vehicle emissions were offered by Professor Colin Besant, Mechanical Engineering, who is working on an EU funded project to design a hybrid electric vehicle and by Professor Brian Steele, Materials, who is embracing the challenge of an affordable ceramic fuel cell that will operate at low temperatures.
'The demand for transport is the result of individual decisions and individual behaviour,' explained Dr Uwe Reiter, the newly appointed lecturer in transport and the environment at the Centre for Transport Studies. Awareness of the negative impacts of transport intensive choices, for example, where to shop, live and go on holiday, may, he believed, result in the attitudinal shift that is necessary to change our travel behaviour. John Polak stressed how it is essential to try and understand the 'enormous complexity of human travel behaviour' before attempting to formulate a response to the transport and environment problem. He outlined the work of the Centre in using high performance computing to model travel behaviour.
Those attending the seminar were treated to a demonstration of the Paramics microscopic traffic simulation system by Kim Littlejohn of Quadstone Ltd and Steven Druitt of the Scottish consultancy SIAS. This consisted of a running model of central Edinburgh complete with cars, buses, roadworks, traffic lights and bus stops. Individual vehicles can be assigned with varying degrees of aggressiveness; the top of the scale being symbolised by the Italian flag!
The seminar closed with Dr Chris Barrett's presentation of the Los Alamos National Laboratories, on TRANSIMS, a US traffic simulation system. The purpose of the model is to enable transportation professionals to plan and design new systems and policies and to understand the possible impacts these might have. 'When is it OK to be surprised?' he asked. 'If you are always surprised, the model is wrong. If you are never surprised it is not worth doing.'
The seminar confirmed that transport and environment is a multi-faceted topic that demands an interdisciplinary approach and one in which the College already has considerable research capability. The seminar is part of an ongoing GSE research initiative into transport and environment. If you are working in this area and would like to become involved, please contact Janice Hankes, GSE (extension 47461 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
(c) Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, 1995
Last Revised: 20 January 1995