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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Inhalation of motor vehicle emissions: effects of urban population and land area


Urban population density may influence transportation demand, e.g., as expressed through average daily vehicle-kilometers traveled in private motor vehicles per capita. In turn, changes in transportation demand influence total passenger vehicle emissions to which populations are exposed. Population density can also influence the fraction of total emissions that are inhaled by the exposed urban population. Equations are presented that describe these relationships for an idealized representation of an urban area. Using analytic solutions to these equations, we investigate the effect of three changes in urban population and urban land area (infill, sprawl, and constant-density growth) on per capita inhalation intake of primary pollutants from passenger vehicles. For the system considered, the magnitude of these effects depends on density–emissions elasticity (εe); a normalized derivative relating change in population density to change in vehicle emissions. For example, based on the idealized representation of the emissions-to-intake relationship presented herein, if urban population increases, then per capita intake is less with infill development than with constant density growth if εe is -0.5, the reverse is true.

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