Environmental experts: Optimizing national transport infrastructure would save billions

BreezoMeter offers real-time access to 300 air pollution monitoring stations around the country and using an algorithm to calculate a user’s air-pollution level at any given location.

September 29, 2014 18:06
3 minute read.
Dizengoff st. traffic

Dizengoff St. traffic. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Transitioning to a more efficient transportation structure could save Israelis billions of shekels and prevent enormous amounts of pollution annually, the founders of an air pollution monitoring app say.

Seemingly minor changes like optimizing traffic flow, filling buses to near capacity and improving bus exhaust pipes could be instrumental in both attracting Israelis to use public transportation and curbing the pollution levels, according to environmental engineers Ziv Lautman and Ran Korber, co-founders of the BreezoMeter air pollution monitoring app. Lautman and Korber recently analyzed a slew of data about air pollution emitted by vehicles, originally compiled by Yaniv Ronen at the Knesset Center for Research and Information in December 2010.

BreezoMeter, which went live at the end of June, offers real-time access to 300 air pollution monitoring stations around the country and uses an algorithm to calculate a user’s air-pollution level at any given location. BreezoMeter was founded by Lautman and Korber along with software engineer Emil Fisher, after they raised $200,000 in seed funding from the venture capital firms Jumpspeed and Entree Capital.

The app has already been downloaded more than 11,000 times – about 40% of which represent daily users.

The data indicates that the emissions level of a full bus is equivalent to that of between 20 and 24 private cars. Assuming that there are about 1.2 passengers on average per private car, and a busy bus line contains about 65, a full bus eliminates the need for about 54 cars – saving more than twice the air pollution, Lautman said.

Looking at these numbers, Lautman and Korber concluded that “the real contribution of buses in reducing air pollution” actually lies in the tendency of Israelis to travel in nearly empty private vehicles.

Meanwhile, they saw that when the occupancy of a bus is only 24 out of 65 possible passengers, the emissions data per passenger compare to that of a private vehicle.

“A bus has the potential to contribute significantly to the reduction of air pollutants, but if the lines are not optimally designed or if there are less busy hours, full private vehicles can also be a good alternative,” Lautman and Korber wrote.

The two environmental engineers also examined the impact of Israel Railways operation on the country’s air pollution levels. While the effect of train operations on the country’s air pollution balance is minimal on a national scale, the diesel engines may have a significant impact on a local scale, particularly near major train stations, Lautman and Korber said.

Despite the fact that studies conducted around the world have shown that massive transitions to public transportation can sharply reduce hospitalized asthma events and ozone levels measured in urban space, private car travel in Israel has increased significantly alongside population growth.

While train travel has also grown considerably, bus travel has dropped in terms of the number of buses, number of passengers and available seats, they said.

Some of the measures that can be taken to overhaul the country’s transportation structure include synchronizing traffic lights, limiting speeds for reduced fuel burning, improving bus exhaust pipes, encouraging vehicle sharing and bettering both bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, Lautman and Korber said.

“There are many more things that we can do in order to cut down air pollution and make our environment better,” Lautman told The Jerusalem Post.

While it is crucial to encourage people to make more use of public transportation modes, doing so means not only investing in the buses themselves, but also in increasing bus frequency, Lautman said. Revamping the country’s transportation structure requires “a more holistic approach,” which takes into account the diverse array of factors that allow travelers a smooth drive, he added.

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