The Effect of Subway Expansion on Air Quality: Evidence from Beijing

48 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2019

See all articles by Shanjun Li

Shanjun Li

Cornell University - School of Applied Economics and Management

Yanyan Liu

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Avralt-Od Purevjav

Cornell University

Lin Yang

Cornell University

Date Written: December 18, 2018

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 1.4-4.4 percent of the total construction and operating cost.

Keywords: Subway, Air Quality, Traffic Congestion

JEL Classification: Q53, R48

Suggested Citation

Li, Shanjun and Liu, Yanyan and Purevjav, Avralt-Od and Yang, Lin, The Effect of Subway Expansion on Air Quality: Evidence from Beijing (December 18, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3302973 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3302973

Shanjun Li (Contact Author)

Cornell University - School of Applied Economics and Management ( email )

248 Warren Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

Yanyan Liu

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )

1201 Eye St, NW,
Washington, DC 20005
United States

Avralt-Od Purevjav

Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

Lin Yang

Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

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