GIS and Traffic Impact Analysis: a GIS Analysis of the Environmental Impact of a Major Arterial Route
JONES S, The University ofHuddersfield, UK
The impact of road traffic on the environment is a subject of growing concern. Roads and traffic are variously condemned for increasing ambient noise levels, poor childhood respiratory health, loss of wildlife habitat, the division and dislocation of comm
The impact of road traffic on the environment is a subject of growing concern. Roads and traffic are variously condemned for increasing ambient noise levels, poor childhood respiratory health, loss of wildlife habitat, the division and dislocation of communities and many other manifestations of social and environmental pathology. Supporting evidence for these claims comes from transport statistics which record increasing numbers of drivers and vehicles coming onto the roads and ever higher levels of transport activity as measured in passenger and freight kilometres.
However, in terms of hard data, the environmental impacts of road transport are relatively poorly known, especially on an area-wide basis and at the local level. For example, some of the major air pollutants from motor vehicles are subject to monitoring by a national network (National Environmental Technology Centre, 1995) but the small number of monitoring stations involved means that it is inappropriate to apply their findings to local areas. Local authorities also run monitoring programmes but, as in the case of Kirklees in West Yorkshire which has two permanent sites for an area in excess of 450 square kilometres, the coverage is hardly extensive. Noise monitoring at the local level is usually directed at industrial and domestic sources of noise disturbance since these are the more common reasons for noise complaints. Other traffic impacts which feature in the environmental canon, such as severance or visual disamenity are largely ignored, most probably because of problems of definition. Congestion, the most obvious of traffic impacts, still has no universally accepted means of description and measurement by which roads can be assessed or compared (van Vuren and Leonard, 1994). The exception to this dearth of local information is for road traffic accidents, which has a history of local dissemination and reporting, rightly so as the reduction of traffic casualties is a legitimate subject of local concern. Yet even accident statistics as currently reported in the UK are flawed and often in need of verification from other sources of information (Austin 1993)
This lack of clear data to support or refute the claims of environmental damage caused by road traffic is strange when the subject is so fiercely contested by organisations representing residents and environmentalists on the one hand and motoring manufacturers and their supporting industries on the other. Especially so when the tools are potentially available to fill the information void, in the form of computer models which can predict noise levels and air quality from among other things, traffic flows.
The remainder of this paper describes an attempt to fill that void for a small area of Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, and assess the area-wide impacts of traffic using GIS techniques.
The data and the methods used in this paper were collected in the course of the ELI funded ISIS project (Integrating Systems to Implement Sustainability) and the author would like to gratefully acknowledge the help of the lead group in the project; the Environment Unit at Kirklees Metropolitan Council.
Association for European Transport