Sunday, 26 June 2011

Solving a Mayor’s dilemma; fact based environmental policy development

This week Rotterdam, one of the major cities of the Netherlands, was on the news. The city’s Court of Audit had analysed the city counsel’s policies on improving the environmental conditions of the inner-city and concluded that things weren’t going great. Rotterdam has set itself emission reduction goals, but with the selected policies it wasn’t going to achieve them according to the Court of Audit. The Court even concluded that the situation was getting worse. Compared to 2009 the number of hot spots on NO2-emissions in the city has increased from 1 to 5 making the city a less healthy place to be in. The city council however is still convinced that they will achieve the goals set for 2015. Until now however, several countermeasures have been introduced with little or no effect on the air quality in the inner-city. One very drastic way to accomplish emission reductions would be to close down several parts of the inner-city; this would however impact the local economy heavily. Quite a dilemma for Mayor Aboutaleb.

Major part of the air pollution in inner-cities comes from the vehicles doing last mile distribution. Think of the replenishment of shops and stores but also of bars and restaurants. Many of them use a Just-in-time (JIT) based replenishment strategy, increasing the number of vehicle visits while reducing the drop size. JIT minimises the inventory levels in the shop and hence reduces costs. Counter side of it is that the inner cities become congested with vehicles and the emission levels rise. So, reducing the number of vehicles and/or the total distance travelled by those vehicles will lower emission levels and therefore improve air quality. Easy, thing is how to set a reasonable enough level of emission reduction to improve living conditions in the inner-city without harming economic activity and second decide on the necessary measures to achieve it.

It has been the subject of a project that I have been working on in the past months. Objective of the project was to provide decision support to the municipality of cities in deciding on logistical measures to better regulate inner-city logistics and reduce emission levels. One of the objectives of the project was to supply insights on the current sustainability of a city and assist in setting reasonable emission reduction goals. The project resulted in a mathematical model that supports these decisions, fact based. Also the model is capable of evaluating different measures (like a curfew, consolidated transport from city depot, electric vehicles, etc) on congestion and emission reduction effects. That way the most effective measure can be selected before putting it in practice.

Setting a realistic goal is difficult. Cities have different infrastructures and different distribution of shops, bars and restaurants. Taking all this into account would take a lot of modelling effort and detailed information on the route the vehicles take. Information that is not available (yes, even in these data rich times, we sometimes lack the data!). Therefore we decided to use a technique that doesn’t require a lot of detail on the “production” of emissions but would give a good estimate on the “environmental performance”. To achieve this we used Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA). DEA is a technique that is used to calculate and compare the efficiency of decision making units (DMU’s), for example factories, that makes no assumption on the underlying form of the production function. It focuses on the efficiency of the transition of inputs to outputs only. Differences in efficiency tell you how improvements can be achieved. In case of the environmental performance we looked at how vehicle movements and emissions were “produced” by number of deliveries and number of drop-off locations (shops, bars, etc) in the inner-city. The resulting relative environmental performance of the cities in the benchmark tells them how well they are doing compared to other cities and how much the emission levels should be lowered to be as “green” as the most efficient city in the benchmark.

When comparing Rotterdam with Amsterdam, Utrecht, The Hague, Enschede and Tilburg I found that Tilburg is the most environmental efficient city. This is no surprise, Tilburg has been working hard to improve inner-city environment for some years already, with all kinds of initiatives. So in reviewing and perhaps setting new goals for 2015, the city counsel of Rotterdam should have a talk with Tilburg, discussing the measures Tilburg has in place to improve the environmental conditions of the inner-city. Knowing what to aim for, the Mayor of Rotterdam can than make a fact-based trade of between the countermeasures to take to improve the inner-city environment and the economic impact of them. And Mayor Aboutaleb, …..010 is doing better than 020!
Post a Comment