Civil Engineering ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 11-15-2018


A large body of evidence links fine particulate matter (PM2.5) exposure with a wide range of negative health outcomes. Research finds that about 30% of individuals’ exposure to particulate matter in urban areas come from mobiles sources. Evaluating regional transportation plans and estimating how they impact air quality and exposure to PM2.5 in the future is thus of major concern.

There are two major concerns about the current practice of evaluating regional transportation plans also known as long-range transportation plans (LRTPs). First, how LRTPs affect future air quality are at best evaluated by estimating the change in regional vehicle emission inventories. These aggregate emission inventories provides no information about localized air quality impacts and provide no way to estimate exposure levels. The lack of spatial detail also limits the consideration of differences in exposure among minority and low-income households – two groups known to suffer from higher exposures in many urban areas. Second, LRTPs are evaluated in terms of how they improve traffic, air quality and other performance metrics between the current time period and the end of the planning period, which is typically 30 years into the future. This evaluation method does not consider the performance of the plan during the planning period, a 30 year period or almost half a person’s lifetime.

The ultimate goal of this study is to create a clearer picture of how LRTPs affect exposure to PM2.5 from vehicle traffic and health outcomes, and develop a modeling approach that evaluates the cumulative effects of LTRPs over the entire planning period. Together, the new information that the techniques developed in this dissertation can provide may help MPOs develop more effective and health protective LRTPs.

I develop a dispersion modeling framework to evaluate the current exposure to PM2.5 in the Atlanta Metropolitan area and how the region’s LRTP will affect this. I show how a more detailed exposure assessment framework provides a more tangible measure of how the LRTP affects health. I also develop an integrated land use, travel demand, emission, and dispersion modeling framework that models the annual outcomes of a LRTP developed by the MPO in Albuquerque, New Mexico and calculate cumulative performance metrics to compare with more typical end of planning period metrics. I then use the annual modeling method to evaluate strategies for improving air quality, reducing exposure, and improving travel conditions in the region. I also perform a willingness to pay study to estimate the welfare change associated with improving bicycling facilities in the region which could be a low cost and practical method to reduce vehicle emissions and congestion.


Transportation Planning, Land use, Air Quality, Exposure, PM2.5, GHG emissions

Document Type




Degree Name

Civil Engineering

Level of Degree


Department Name

Civil Engineering

First Committee Member (Chair)

Gregory Rowangould

Second Committee Member

Vanessa Valentin

Third Committee Member

Jose Cerrato

Fourth Committee Member

Sarah Stith