Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Public Health

Major Professor

Amy L. Stuart


air pollution exposure, dispersion modeling, environmental justice, exposure inequality, urban form


Increasing vehicle dependence in the United States has resulted in substantial emissions of traffic-related air pollutants that contribute to the deterioration of urban air quality. Exposure to urban air pollutants trigger a number of public health concerns, including the potential of inequality of exposures and health effects among population subgroups. To better understand the impact of traffic-related pollutants on air quality, exposure, and exposure inequality, modeling methods that can appropriately characterize the spatiotemporally resolved concentration distributions of traffic-related pollutants need to be improved. These modeling methods can then be used to investigate the impacts of urban design and transportation management choices on air quality, pollution exposures, and related inequality.

This work will address these needs with three objectives: 1) to improve modeling methods for investigating interactions between city and transportation design choices and air pollution exposures, 2) to characterize current exposures and the social distribution of exposures to traffic-related air pollutants for the case study area of Hillsborough County, Florida, and 3) to determine expected impacts of urban design and transportation management choices on air quality, air pollution exposures, and exposure inequality.

To achieve these objectives, the impacts of a small-scale transportation management project, specifically the '95 Express' high occupancy toll lane project, on pollutant emissions and nearby air quality was investigated. Next, a modeling method capable of characterizing spatiotemporally resolved pollutant emissions, concentrations, and exposures was developed and applied to estimate the impact of traffic-related pollutants on exposure and exposure inequalities among several population subgroups in Hillsborough County, Florida. Finally, using these results as baseline, the impacts of sprawl and compact urban forms, as well as vehicle fleet electrification, on air quality, pollution exposure, and exposure inequality were explored.

Major findings include slightly higher pollutant emissions, with the exception of hydrocarbons, due to the managed lane project. Results also show that ambient concentration contributions from on-road mobile sources are disproportionate to their emissions. Additionally, processes not captured by the CALPUFF model, such as atmospheric formation, contribute substantially to ambient concentration levels of the secondary pollutants such as acetaldehyde and formaldehyde. Exposure inequalities for NOx, 1,3-butadiene, and benzene air pollution were found for black, Hispanic, and low income (annual household income less than $20,000) subgroups at both short-term and long-term temporal scales, which is consistent with previous findings. Exposure disparities among the subgroups are complex, and sometimes reversed for acetaldehyde and formaldehyde, due primarily to their distinct concentration distributions. Compact urban form was found to result in lower average NOx and benzene concentrations, but higher exposure for all pollutants except for NOx when compared to sprawl urban form. Evidence suggests that exposure inequalities differ between sprawl and compact urban forms, and also differ by pollutants, but are generally consistent at both short and long-term temporal scales. In addition, vehicle fleet electrification was found to result in generally lower average pollutant concentrations and exposures, except for NOx. However, the elimination of on-road mobile source emissions does not substantially reduce exposure inequality.

Results and findings from this work can be applied to assist transportation infrastructure and urban planning. In addition, method developed here can be applied elsewhere for better characterization of air pollution concentrations, exposure and related inequalities.