To what extent the traffic restriction policies applied in Barcelona city can improve its air quality?
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Barcelona city (Spain) is applying a series of traffic restriction measures that aim at renewing and reducing the amount of circulating vehicles to improve air quality. The measures include changes in the built environment to reduce private vehicle space in specific areas through the so-called “superblocks” and tactical urban planning actions, along with the implementation of a city-wide Low Emission Zone (LEZ) that restricts the entry of the most polluting vehicles to the city. Our study quantifies the impact of these measures in the greater area of Barcelona combining a coupled macroscopic traffic and pollutant emission model with a multi-scale air quality model. Our modelling system allows estimating the effect of different traffic restrictions upon traffic and the associated emissions and air quality levels at a very high resolution (20 m). The measures were evaluated both individually and collectively to assess both their relative and overall impact upon emissions and air quality. We show that in the absence of traffic demand reductions, the application of isolated measures that reduce private vehicle space, either through superblocks or tactical urban planning, have no overall emission impacts; only localized street-level NOx positive and negative changes (±17%) are found due to traffic re-routing and the generation of new bottlenecks. It is only when these measures are combined with optimistic fleet renewal as a result of the LEZ implementation and demand reductions, that relevant global emission reductions in NOx are obtained (-13% and -30%, respectively) with estimated NO2 reductions of -36% and -23% at the two traffic air quality monitoring stations. Despite the potential improvements, our simulations suggest that current measures are insufficient to comply with EU air quality standards and that further traffic restriction policies to reduce traffic demand are needed.
CitationRodríguez, D. [et al.]. To what extent the traffic restriction policies applied in Barcelona city can improve its air quality? "Science of the total environment", 10 Febrer 2022, vol. 807, part 2, article 150743, p. 1-13.
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