Community-based collaboration to monitor and reduce air pollution caused by truck traffic

Trucks on a freeway in Detroit.

The University of Michigan School of Public Health was awarded $225,000 from the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation to support a new project that uses air quality and traffic data to propose new, safe routes for trucks on residential streets.

The Michigan Public Health research team, represented by Amy Schulz, professor of Health Behavior and Health Education, will support community leaders from the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition and the Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision, who are working to develop an app that quantifies truck traffic using data from phones and other electronic devices. In 2021, Michigan Public Health researchers published an analysis in collaboration with the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition to evaluate the noise impact of the trucks on the Southwest Detroit community, as truck traffic was rerouted through the neighborhood as part of construction for the new Gordie Howe International Bridge.

“This project builds on years of research in Southwest Detroit, led by Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition and Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision, among many other community residents and organizations,” Schulz said. “That work, which has included truck counts, motion-activated cameras, noise sensors, indoor air monitors, and surveys, has documented the health harms associated with the high volume of large trucks near homes, schools, and health care facilities. The evidence built through those processes has not only raised awareness about truck traffic and its adverse health impacts but also informed potential solutions to address the large number of heavy trucks on residential streets.”

With assistance from Michigan Public Health’s researchers, community leaders Simone Sagovac of Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition and Raquel Garcia of Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision plan to connect this project with existing community air monitoring systems to expand available information about air pollution, and to implement improvements in neighborhood truck traffic. The project also aims to work with the Detroit community to provide public education on the need for a new truck routing ordinance in the city.