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Does subway expansion improve air quality?

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  • Li, Shanjun
  • Liu, Yanyan
  • Purevjav, Avralt-Od
  • Yang, Lin

Abstract

Major cities in China and many other fast-growing economies are expanding their subway systems in order to address worsening air pollution and traffic congestion. This paper quantifies the impact of subway expansion on air quality by leveraging fine-scale air quality data and the rapid build-out of 14 new subway lines and 252 stations in Beijing from 2008 to 2016. Our main empirical framework examines how the density of the subway network affects air quality across different locations in the city during this period. To address the potential endogenous location of subway stations, we construct an instrument based on historical subway planning, long before air pollution and traffic congestion were of concern. Our analysis shows that an increase in subway density by one standard deviation improves air quality by two percent and the result is robust to a variety of alternative specifications including the distance-based difference-in-differences method. The total discounted health benefit during a 20-year period from reduced mortality and morbidity as a result of 14 new subway lines amounts to $1.0–3.1 billion, or only 1.4–4.4 percent of the total construction and operating cost.

Suggested Citation

  • Li, Shanjun & Liu, Yanyan & Purevjav, Avralt-Od & Yang, Lin, 2019. "Does subway expansion improve air quality?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 213-235.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeeman:v:96:y:2019:i:c:p:213-235
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jeem.2019.05.005
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    2. Guoying Deng & Manuel A. Hernandez & Shu Xu, 2020. "When Power Plants Leave Town: Environmental Quality and the Housing Market in China," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 77(4), pages 751-780, December.
    3. Chen, Wei & Klaiber, H. Allen, 2020. "Does road expansion induce traffic? An evaluation of Vehicle-Kilometers Traveled in China," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 104(C).
    4. Tan, Ronghui & He, Qingsong & Zhou, Kehao & Xie, Peng, 2019. "The effect of new metro stations on local land use and housing prices: The case of Wuhan, China," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 1-1.
    5. Wes Austin & Stefano Carattini & John Gomez Mahecha & Michael Pesko, 2020. "COVID-19 Mortality and Contemporaneous Air Pollution," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper2016, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    6. He, Xiaoping & Jiang, Shuo, 2021. "Effects of vehicle purchase restrictions on urban air quality: Empirical study on cities in China," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 148(PB).
    7. Zhang, Haoran, 2020. "Metro and urban growth: Evidence from China," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 85(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Subway; Air quality; Traffic congestion;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling
    • R48 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics - - - Government Pricing and Policy

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