Carmageddon II : Did You Breathe Better Last Weekend?

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October 4, 2012 in Environment

Carmageddon's Coming! (From "Zombieland")

We survived Carmageddon II last weekend, so pat yourself on the back now for having made it! Or as I’ve heard others call Carmageddon, the “Rampture.” The I-405 Freeway, from the I-10 to Highway 101, was closed for the second time in 14 months for the Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project, which will add desperately needed carpool lanes to the 405 Freeway. (Though what we really need is better public transit, but I digress)

Metro and elected officials warned us for months—“It’s coming!”

They pleaded with the public—leave your cars at home, stay away from the area, shop, play, and dine locally. As an L.A. native, I’ve had my fair share of moments of being stuck in dreadful traffic, so when they asked that I leave my car at home, I sure did—both last year and this past weekend. And almost every day of the year—for my own sanity and because our city can use one less car on the road. After all, the South Coast Air Basin has the worst air quality in the nation.

Findings from a study from UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability found that when the 405 was closed last year (Carmageddon I), air quality near the 10-mile portion of the freeway reached levels that were 83 percent better than on a typical L.A. weekend. Air quality improvements were noticed beyond the stretch of the closure and, overall, it improved by 25 percent. In just ONE weekend! The study’s authors also found that PM 2.5 (fine particulate matter) that comes from car and truck exhausts and whose exposure can lead to respiratory illnesses and heart disease, dropped by a whopping 36 percent.

The remarkable results of this study should compel our elected officials, and really, all Angelenos, to think about how much better our quality of life can be when we can drive less, and when we can have the adequate transportation infrastructure so that Carmageddon isn’t the only time we have blue skies.

So when you are out shopping, dining and playing locally this weekend, stop and ask yourself–Am I breathing better?

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Jackie Cornejo
Jackie Cornejo is the Director of the Don’t Waste LA Project. She previously worked on the Construction Careers Project as Research Analyst and later as Project Director. Born and raised in Los Angeles, her interest in social justice work sprung...
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