In a dramatic attempt to alleviate the choking smog that enveloped Paris last week, the Federal Government imposed an emergency ban on half of the expected traffic by implementing an odd-even license plate system for alternate days, commencing on March 17th. That day, 700 police manned the city issuing spot fines to any cars or motorbikes bearing even-numbered license plates.
Pollution caused by PM10 particulate matter had reached dangerous levels of 180mcg, more than twice the maximum allowable level of 80mcg, making the emergency ban a matter of public health. Parisians may have complained about the inconvenience, but smog levels like these are a matter of great concern, as reported in our August blog post.
According to The Guardian, the ban was actually called off after just one day, the Government citing the combination of reduced traffic and accommodating weather patterns, which allowed levels to return to safe limits the following day.
The ecology minister, Philippe Martin, thanked the public for its cooperation, estimating that 90% of Parisians had complied with the ban, many of which took up the free public transport offered for the day. Many of the complaints centred around the lack of notice, but even the perturbed residents had to admit that the pollution levels were making it difficult to breathe.
While this emergency ban had a successful outcome, results are questionable for cities using traffic bans as long-term solutions (e.g. Mexico City, Athens, Beijing). In cities where odd-even restrictions apply, reportedly, many residents just buy a second car with an alternate number plate to get around the ban. Often these are older less-efficient cars, so the overall effect can actually increase average pollution levels.
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