New App Shows Air Pollution Levels at London Tube Stations
While taking public transit can help reduce pollution compared to individuals driving personal vehicles on the roads, there are some elements that leave more to be desired from passengers. For London Underground, the public rail often referred to as The Tube, poor air quality at various city stations has been a main concern.
In response, Tanya Beri has developed an app that helps passengers choose routes with the lowest levels of air pollution among London Underground’s 11 lines and 272 stations.
“The UK safe limit for healthy air is to have fewer than 25 small particles in a cubic meter of air,” Beri told The Guardian. “In some places on the underground, it can top 200 per cubic meter. I want to help people avoid that.”
Like apps that show the fastest route to a destination, Beri’s app will allow people to choose routes based on air quality levels.
For example, Beri shared that going the fastest route from the North Harrow station to Canary Wharf on the Jubilee line would reach 220 particles per cubic meter, compared to a slower route on the Metropolitan line with about 50 particles per cubic meter. The app could give users these warnings, allowing them to take the less polluted path.
Even 50 particles per cubic meter is still above the UK’s limit for particulate matter, and even higher than the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines, which are 5 micrograms per cubic meter annually and 15 micrograms per cubic meter in 24 hours. But the difference in pollution exposure from various transportation routes can be staggering, and they are important to consider when it comes to human health.
The UK’s Taskforce for Lung Heath explained that poor air quality is linked to more than 36,000 deaths in England alone per year, and exposure to particulate matter is linked to poor health outcomes including asthma, COPD, stroke, lung cancer and coronary heart disease.
“I used to commute on the underground,” Beri told The Guardian. “And sometimes I got sick after traveling on it. So I thought it would be a good idea to find a way to help people who are worst affected by air pollution.”
Beri’s design concept already earned a nomination for the 2020 UX Design Awards, and the app will win a Young Innovators award from Innovate UK this week. The app is expected to launch later this year.