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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

LA's War on Cars Clean Air

Posted by on Tue, Oct 2, 2012 at 1:23 PM

For the past two years, the Los Angeles transportation officials have shut down a 10-mile stretch of the 405—one of the busiest highways in the nation—for one weekend to make highway repairs. And each year, everyone's focus has been on gridlocked Carmaggedon, the threat that looms when you close 10 lanes of traffic that regularly accommodate half a million cars.

But as the construction occurred, scientists discovered an incredible-albeit-obvious side effect of diverting that much traffic in a car-humping, smog-plagued city: People can breathe again:

[UCLA professor] Suzanne Paulson and colleague Yifang Zhu measured pollutants in the air during Carmageddon last year and have recently released their pretty astounding findings. Air quality near the normally busy highway improved by 83 percent that day last July, relative to comparable weekends. Elsewhere in West Los Angeles, the improvement was equally dramatic. Air quality improved by 75 percent on that side of the city and in Santa Monica, and by 25 percent throughout the entire region, as a measure of the drop in ultrafine particulate matter associated with tailpipe emissions.

"We saw what we expected: you take motor vehicles away, the air gets really, really clean," Paulson says, "which tells us that most of the pollution is from motor vehicles from one type or another in this area."

There's little heavy industry around this stretch of the 405 Freeway; to the extent that this part of the city feels soaked in smog when you step outside for a breath of fresh air – that’s cars. Almost all cars.

Paulson and Zhu noted that the change in air quality was measurable within minutes of shutting down the highway. The takeaway, they say, is that urban areas need to invest in long-term, sustainable mass transit systems.

If only LA would ban single-occupancy car use, outlaw cows, and start milking cyclists for their fine dairy products, the city could give Portland a run for its money.

Curties to Aaron.


Comments (8) RSS

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Will in Seattle 1
It is like Rapid Ride, which makes it faster to Bike or Walk than take the now disappeared bus lines.
Posted by Will in Seattle on October 2, 2012 at 1:33 PM · Report this
biffp 2
I-90 was jammed in both directions this morning. Too bad there isn't reliable public transit in Seattle. I've taken the train and bus in LA, and I'm not sure it's any more frustrating than here.
Posted by biffp on October 2, 2012 at 1:46 PM · Report this
This emphasizes how wonderful it is that cars are getting fueled cleaner all the time. Since shaming people out of their cars hasn't worked particularly well (Carmageddon was a breeze because people gladly stayed off the roads in return for a better road the next day, after all), making the cars cleaner is fantastic. Then there's the lovely notion we won't have to be the ones driving ourselves any more. Our emissions-free cars will do the driving.…
Posted by gloomy gus on October 2, 2012 at 1:52 PM · Report this
@ 2 Metro isn't the best but its decent from the burbs to downtown its a 30 min ride in the morning and in the evening for rush hour more like an hour but still not too bad.
Posted by Seattle14 on October 2, 2012 at 1:53 PM · Report this
How is widening a freeway "war on cars"?
Posted by RDM on October 2, 2012 at 1:59 PM · Report this
biffp 6
Spending an hour in the morning in lieu of a 15 minute drive from Green Lake, okay. Waiting over 45 minutes because I leave the office after 6 pm is not okay, and after 10 pm, there's no limit on how long I might wait. You may not have lived in Vancouver or New York, but this is not real public transit.
Posted by biffp on October 2, 2012 at 2:42 PM · Report this
Cascadian 7
I'm sure our society will quickly learn the lesson that we don't need our cars as much as we think we do. We've done so well learning that lesson in the past.
Posted by Cascadian on October 2, 2012 at 3:27 PM · Report this
onion 8
Oh stop. I just moved to that area. I don't want to know.
ps I do take the bus to work every day.
Posted by onion on October 2, 2012 at 3:49 PM · Report this

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