Environmental & Health Benefits of Airport Congestion Pricing: The Case of Los Angeles International Airport

*PhD Defense*
August 26 2019 10:00–13:00
4080 AIR Building
Sheng-Hsiang Peng
Sheng-Hsiang Peng
TSE PhD Candidate

Airports are a source of greenhouse gases (GHG) and air pollutants such as fine particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter under 2.5 μm (PM2.5), which adversely affect the climate and human health. This pollution is worsening with increasing aircraft congestion. Even though aviation is the second largest source of GHG emissions in the transportation sector, it was excluded from the recent COP21 Paris Agreement. Little is known about the climate change and adverse health impacts from increasing airports congestion. The purpose of this study is to start filling this gap.

In this dissertation, I estimate congestion, health, and climate benefits from airport congestion pricing for Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), the fourth busiest airport in the world by passenger numbers in 2018. I first derive the optimal congestion fee for airports like LAX that primarily serve local and regional markets. To quantify the impacts of airport congestion pricing, I analyze one year of airport operations (2014), which corresponds to 593,547 flights (both inbound and outbound). My simulation results suggest that hourly congestion pricing would on average reduce waiting time by 2.9 minutes per flight and annual PM2.5 emissions by 11.4 percent, thus decreasing the environmental impacts from aircraft landing and takeoff operations (LTO), which extend as far as 19 km downwind from the airport.
An analysis of the health gains from implementing a congestion fee that accounts for air pollution cost shows that it would annually reduce premature mortality from PM2.5 exposure by 4.6 cases, avoided hospital admissions for cardiovascular diseases by 167 cases, and avoid 8,539 lost work days. The corresponding monetary value of these health gains are $45.8 million, $21.9 million, and $1.4 million respectively (all in 2014 dollars). For my climate change analysis, I consider both the country-level social cost of carbon (CSCC; $36 per tonne) and the global social cost of carbon (GSCC; $417 per tonne). While pricing GHG emissions with the CSCC only has a minor impact, using the GSCC helps further reduce aircraft congestion and its associated health impacts. Indeed, an aircraft congestion fee with GHG based on the GSCC would reduce premature
mortality by 6 cases each year, avoid hospital admissions by 221 cases, and avoid 11,528 lost work days (95% CI: 4,995, 18,060). The corresponding monetary value of these health gains are $60.7 million, $27.7 million, and $1.9 million respectively.

The methodology presented in this study is widely applicable. It provides engineers, planners, and policymakers a tool for reducing airport congestion and for quantifying the resulting health and climate benefits.