Urban policy interventions to reduce traffic-related emissions and air pollution: A systematic evidence map. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Urban areas are hot spots for human exposure to air pollution, which originates in large part from traffic. As the urban population continues to grow, a greater number of people risk exposure to traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) and its adverse, costly health effects. In many cities, there is a need and scope for air quality improvements through targeted policy interventions, which continue to grow including rapidly changing technologies. OBJECTIVE: This systematic evidence map (SEM) examines and characterizes peer-reviewed evidence on urban-level policy interventions aimed at reducing traffic emissions and/or TRAP from on-road mobile sources, thus potentially reducing human exposures and adverse health effects and producing various co-benefits. METHODS: This SEM follows a previously peer-reviewed and published protocol with minor deviations, explicitly outlined here. Articles indexed in Public Affairs Index, TRID, Medline and Embase were searched, limited to English, published between January 1, 2000, and June 1, 2020. Covidence was used to screen articles based on previously developed eligibility criteria. Data for included articles was extracted and manually documented into an Excel database. Data visualizations were created in Tableau. RESULTS: We identified 7528 unique articles from database searches and included 376 unique articles in the final SEM. There were 58 unique policy interventions, and a total of 1,139 unique policy scenarios, comprising these interventions and different combinations thereof. The policy interventions fell under 6 overarching policy categories: 1) pricing, 2) land use, 3) infrastructure, 4) behavioral, 5) technology, and 6) management, standards, and services, with the latter being the most studied. For geographic location, 463 policy scenarios were studied in Europe, followed by 355 in Asia, 206 in North America, 57 in South America, 10 in Africa, and 7 in Australia. Alternative fuel technology was the most frequently studied intervention (271 times), followed by vehicle emission regulation (134 times). The least frequently studied interventions were vehicle ownership taxes, and studded tire regulations, studied once each. A mere 3% of studies addressed all elements of the full-chain-traffic emissions, TRAP, exposures, and health. The evidence recorded for each unique policy scenario is hosted in an open-access, query-able Excel database, and a complementary interactive visualization tool. We showcase how users can find more about the effectiveness of the 1,139 included policy scenarios in reducing, increasing, having mixed or no effect on traffic emissions and/or TRAP. CONCLUSION: This is the first peer-reviewed SEM to compile international evidence on urban-level policy interventions to reduce traffic emissions and/or TRAP in the context of human exposure and health effects. We also documented reported enablers, barriers, and co-benefits. The open-access Excel database and interactive visualization tool can be valuable resources for practitioners, policymakers, and researchers. Future updates to this work are recommended. PROTOCOL REGISTRATION: Sanchez, K.A., Foster, M., Nieuwenhuijsen, M.J., May, A.D., Ramani, T., Zietsman, J. and Khreis, H., 2020. Urban policy interventions to reduce traffic emissions and traffic-related air pollution: Protocol for a systematic evidence map. Environment international, 142, p.105826.

published proceedings

  • Environ Int

altmetric score

  • 166.3

author list (cited authors)

  • Khreis, H., Sanchez, K. A., Foster, M., Burns, J., Nieuwenhuijsen, M. J., Jaikumar, R., Ramani, T., & Zietsman, J.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Khreis, Haneen||Sanchez, Kristen A||Foster, Margaret||Burns, Jacob||Nieuwenhuijsen, Mark J||Jaikumar, Rohit||Ramani, Tara||Zietsman, Josias

publication date

  • February 2023