Posts Tagged ‘TRB’

Sustainable Opulence

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

by Mary Ellen Eagan

Vegas, Baby.  Just returned from four days in Vegas, attending the ACI-NA Environmental Affairs Conference and the TRB Environmental Impacts of Aviation (AV030) Mid-year meeting. 

This year the Environmental Affairs Conference teamed with the Operations and Technical Affairs Conference.  There were several joint sessions, most notably on Integrating RNAV/RNP into the airport setting.  Other hot topics included:

  • Further discussion of FAA’s impending Program Guidance Letter on Residential Sound Insulation.  Latest word is that ACI-NA and other industry groups will have an opportunity to review the draft shortly.  Stand by.
  • Air toxics and other ongoing air quality studies in the Los Angeles area.
  • Strategies for noise stringency at upcoming CAEP meeting.
  • PBN implementation and integration with airports:  “NextGen begins and ends at airports”.

Our TRB meeting covered a lot of ground in a few hours, including:

I had been dreading holding two environmental meetings in Las Vegas, which I have long considered one of the least sustainable places on earth.  However, after listening to these two guys talk about water conservation initiatives in Las Vegas – not just including the Strip, but especially the Strip – I was quite impressed.  Following the meeting, several of us had dinner in the Aria Hotel, which has achieved USGBC LEED Gold Certification.   More on the City Center’s Environmental Commitment – including an on-site cogeneration plant, specially designed low flow shower heads, and CNG limos here.  My only wish is that it would be more visible to the tourist with an environmental conscience.  This is one of those cases where what happens in Vegas shouldn’t stay in Vegas.

Keeping with its commitment to sustainability, CityCenter has commissioned the first stretch-limo fleet powered by compressed natural gas (CNG).

 

TRB Highlights – Aviation

Monday, January 30th, 2012

by Phil DeVita

One of the highlights of the TRB Annual Meeting that I look forward to each year is the AV030 sessions on aviation and environmental impacts.  HMMH’s president, Mary Ellen Eagan, does a great job in pulling these sessions together to allow the subcommittees to present an update on progress and highlight emerging “hot button” issues.   This year sessions did not disappoint with a very interesting student presentation on “Bird Aircraft Strike Risk Assessment at Commercial Airports: Sub-Model Development Accounting for Strike Occurrence and Severity at Seattle Tacoma International Airport”. 

The climate change subcommittee provided an update on climate change issues affecting aviation, including an update from the summer Woods Hole Conference which focused on climate change adaptation and planning.  With the changing climate, airports are starting to focus on the potential impacts of climate change and incorporating these impacts into the master planning.  Some of the issues included in the planning include rising sea water, stormwater and severe weather. There was also an entertaining discussion with attendees on other topics of concern such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy, energy efficiency and the role of alternate fuels.  The climate change discussion supports the activities of HMMH’s Climate and Energy Group with the release of the “Technical Guidance for Evaluating Selected Solar Technologies on Airports” and the ACRP Synthesis, “Investigating Safety Impacts of Energy Technologies on Airports and Aviation”.  With renewable energy becoming a viable alternative to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, the impact on aviation is becoming a growing concern and HMMH’s experience in this area is helping the aviation industry address these concerns.

TRB Highlights – Rail

Monday, January 30th, 2012

by Jason Ross

One of the best highlights from the 91st Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. was the “Riding the NEPA Railroad Workshop” on Sunday.  I usually find the workshops interesting and engaging and this year was no different.  Leading NEPA experts from FRA, FTA and FHWA compared the NEPA processes across all three agencies – something HMMH has experienced firsthand.  HMMH is leading the noise and vibration studies for two of the three highlighted projects including the Desert Xpress high-speed rail line proposed from Victorville, CA to Las Vegas, NV and the California High-Speed Rail Project between Fresno to Merced.

NEPA experts helped to again fill the house for Session 737 on “Expediting Environmental Review: Underlying Causes for Runaway Process”.  This session focused on the growing need to streamline the NEPA process.  Did you know the average time to complete an EIS has been 67 months?!  One project for which HMMH is proud to have conducted the noise and vibration analysis is the Dallas Streetcar EA.  This project resulted in a 14-page EA that was completed in 14 months.  Horst Greczmiel, from the Council on Environmental Quality, presented on recent NEPA trends including the availability of a tool to streamline the public comment and response process.  More information can be found on these recent trends and CEQ recommendations here.

A Better Way to Compare Aircraft Noise and Emissions?

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

by Nick Miller

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently published “Burden of disease from environmental noise, Quantification of healthy life years lost in Europe.” The title sparked my interest because there is an on-going effort in the U.S. to quantify and compare the relative adverse effects on society caused by aviation noise and aviation produced air pollutants. For the primary air pollutants, current U.S. work translates benefits of reductions to such things as reductions in premature mortality and in chronic bronchitis, to which dollar benefits are assigned. For noise, the Noise Depreciation Index (NDI) reveals how many dollars in housing prices are gained by reducing noise. 

I’ve always been troubled by this comparison of dollars of house price saved versus dollars of lives saved –not because I doubt either the calculations or assigning dollars to a life, which is standard in many cost benefit analyses. But my opinion, shared I think by many who deal with community reactions to aircraft noise, is that house prices really don’t reflect the adverse noise effects of living near a busy airport. For one thing, realtors and sellers go out of their way to down-play the aircraft noise issue.

Well, whether or not we want to pursue that debate, here come the Europeans and WHO, with “disability-adjusted life-years” (DALYs) as a method for quantifying any environmental health effect, and a report specifically addressing noise. Though my hopes for enlightenment about aircraft noise were immediately dashed when I learned that this report deals almost exclusively with the effects of road traffic noise, the DALY method may eventually have some use for comparison of aviation noise and emissions effects.

So how do we compute DALYs? Basically it’s the sum of years of life lost (e.g., premature mortality) and years lived with disability, or years of healthy life lost (e.g., suffering chronic bronchitis). The noise produced disabilities the WHO report examines are cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment in children, sleep disturbance, tinnitus and annoyance. These are all adverse health effects consistent with the WHO definition of health as being “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.”

Computation of DALYs requires knowledge of the number of people exposed to each level of noise, a dose-response relationship that gives percent of people affected at each level, the “disability weight,” DW, assigned to the effect (DW equals zero means no health effect, DW equals one, you die), and the number of years of living with the disability or years of life lost. Obviously, many assumptions are required, but I like the way the large number of assembled subject area experts synthesized their knowledge and the research literature results to quantify each variable and calculate the DALYs for each health effect. 

What most struck me, was the number of experts (41 are listed) who participated in developing the report. In contrast, current U.S. efforts have required that many people come up to speed on the effects of aircraft noise on people, working with an additional very few who had actually worked in the field of aircraft noise effects. (Three cheers to the FAA for bringing in experts from outside the U.S. to assist with development of the Aviation Noise Impacts Roadmap.) To be clear, those who had to learn, were already experts, many in acoustics, just not in aviation noise and its effects.

In some ways, how sad. In the 1970’s the U.S. lead the world in developing the knowledge needed to formulate a national policy on noise and noise control. But those efforts all stopped short in the early 1980’s. Hence, most of those with expertise have retired and no new blood added for these three decades.

Now that we are concerned about how we can expand the U.S. air transport system, change airspace use, add runways, and increase the use of under-utilized airports, recognition has come that we better understand what the noise and air quality effects will be on society. Let’s hope that we can develop enough understanding to provide the aviation decision-makers with the information they need for science based noise and emissions policy. Perhaps a bit more of looking to research results gathered outside the U.S. would benefit our efforts.

TRB releases Critical Issues in Aviation and the Environment e-circular

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

by Mary Ellen Eagan

TRB Transportation Research E-Circular E-C148: Critical Issues in Aviation and the Environment explores the environmental media affected by aviation activities and processes that link aviation and the environment. The circular consists of nine individually authored sections representing the authors’ expert opinions on these issues.

Critical Issues in Aviation and the Environment 2011

Many thanks to the authors of those sections:

E-C148 updates and expands upon previous circulars while maintaining their cross-disciplinary approach to reviewing subjects of interest to the civil aviation community in the United States. The circular focus is on the state of science, rather than on policy, and on identifying priority research with the potential to yield benefits during the next several years to several decades.

I hope you will find it a useful reference.