Last October, photos and reports from Beijing surfaced, showing dense smog covering much of the City. People couldn't see across the street, let alone down a city block. While the photos and reports were disturbing, they were not shocking to many of us. Maybe if the reports came from a city like Paris, we would be more appalled, right? Well, raise your eyebrows and say “Whaaat??” because, that’s right, Paris had a spike in Air Quality Index (AQI) levels and, in late March, was 20 points higher than Beijing’s! To give you an idea about what this means: a good AQI is under 50 and Paris’s AQI reached 185. Yeah. 185.
|Yikes! Paris isn't so pretty this way.|
Photo Source: The New York Times
In an attempt to mitigate this, a partial driving ban was imposed for the first time in two decades. What is a partial driving ban, you ask? Well some vehicles, like those carrying three or more people and electric and hybrid cars were not fined or stopped. Hundreds of police officers were authorized to stop and fine vehicles that did not fit those criteria.
The day this article was published, the police were only fining those with even-numbered license plates, but this must have changed day-to-day to persuade people to not drive. Other incentives to not drive around Paris were the reduction of the speed limit to only 20kph (or 12mph) and free public transportation. The city lost over $5.5 Million in transportation revenue each day there is no fee for public transit, but there would have been far bigger costs down the line if the City did not take this action.
|Photo Source: The New York Times|
The ban ended at midnight Monday, March 17, 2014, as did the free public transportation. It is important to note, however, that the free public transportation probably saved those who need to commute farther than one can walk or bike in a decent amount of time. A partial driving ban in Paris was possible because the public transportation system could handle that – financially, not for an extended time period, but in capacity and density of stations around the City, yes. Free public transportation is an extra incentive, but access to public transportation is always available in this City.
So think about the San Joaquin Valley for a moment. We generally don’t have AQI levels above 100, but they can get close. What if we had a spike like Paris, or we constantly had AQIs above 150 like Beijing? How would we handle a (partial) driving ban??
The good news is that the SJVCEO and other community partners are developing and expanding the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle (ARFV) Technology industry here in the Valley with the Workforce Investment Board Regional Industry Clusters of Opportunity (WIB RICO II) grant from the Energy Commission. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District also has some funding for carpooling services, but how many people will actually take advantage? I hope the answer is all that are eligible. We have such great opportunity here in the Valley. Why not take advantage of it?