Air quality in Philly neighborhoods is mostly determined by proximity (how close are you to some of our city’s largest polluters). It is reasonable to believe that distance from where you are to the Sunoco refinery or I-95 has a significant impact on the quality of air you breathe. But, as I mentioned before, the current air quality monitoring network doesn’t give us a clear picture of this. This isn’t true for the whole of the city, as air pollution from places outside of Philadelphia can travel into the city by way of large-scale air currents. The heavy pollution from Beijing hanging in the Los Angeles basin is a good example of this type of air quality travel. At the neighborhood level, though, what you are close to means a lot for what you breathe.
Above is a land-use map of Philadelphia I made depicting the variety of different uses in the city. For those of us that spend quite a bit of time looking at maps and thinking about space in Philadelphia, it isn’t much of a surprise: a long stretch on industrial use on the western edge of the Delaware river that snakes down around the expanding southport; dense commercial and transportation use in our very own central business district, center city; a sea of yellow and orange residential and vacant land in our urban neighborhoods; and large tracts of contiguous industrial and transportation in the southwest marking the space of food terminals, the refinery, and our somewhat international airport. The pie chart of land use by square mile included here shows that just over half of land in the city is taken up by residences and transportation alone. Read More