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Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Driving Bans in a Car-Dependent World
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.
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.
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.