Despite the fact that air quality improves with the help of environmental initiatives and laws that directly focus on reducing emission rates, American population and its use of vehicles and other sources of emission continue to grow (EPA, 2016). Different sources produce different types of emissions, and it is impossible to considerably restrict the use of these sources since they directly affect the life of the population. Nevertheless, air pollutants have a hugely negative impact on nation’s health, causing worsened lung function, reducing lifespan, and triggering cancer.
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Six interventions are to be suggested in this initiative. A ban that will prohibit residents from using their vehicle(s) in the city center should reduce dangerous emissions significantly; furthermore, some cities are currently testing similar initiatives (Garfield, 2017). Trams, electric buses, and trains should replace public transport operating on diesel to reduce pollution. The city is in dire need of new green zones; besides park and squares, green rooftops are also a valid option. Online and offline programs that will educate the public about the impact of emissions on their lives, fairs and presentations dedicated to environmental initiatives, and researches focusing on environmental problems in the city will increase citizens’ awareness of the issue. Plus, citywide support of electric cars and small public initiatives (e.g., efficient burning of wood, walking instead of driving, etc.) should be considered as well.
First Intervention: Car-Free Center and Days
To ensure that the city’s center is car-free, it is suggested to renovate the urban space by building more places for pedestrians and bike lanes, which would be inaccessible for cars. Parking lots can remain in the center at first, but they will be expensive for non-electric cars. The global car-free day is on September 22; the city can introduce additional car-free days (for example, in April). Cars will not be prohibited per se, but citizens are to be actively encouraged or advised to use bikes or public transport. Serious fees ($600-1000) for car usage in a car-free environment will ensure citizens are unwilling to break the rule.
Second Intervention: Green Public Transport
To decrease the level of emissions in the city, the town council should consider using e-trams and e-buses; this will not only improve the air quality but also make transportation more sustainable and less costly due to the impact diesel cars have on the environment. Hybrid locomotives are a common solution to the problem as well since they maintain the same speed as non-hybrid vehicles but are safer for citizens and the city. Hybrid buses with batteries reduce not only emissions but also the negative impact of plants generating electricity since such buses operate autonomously. A change in public transport schedule (more trains and trams, new routes to suburbs and neighboring cities) can show citizens that such trips are more cost-effective and sustainable compared to car driving.
Third Intervention: Green Zones
Green zones are crucial for community wellbeing. As Wolch, Byrne, and Newell (2014) point out, parks and other green cover support residents in their physical activities by providing them with space where they reduce stress or have a sense of tranquility. At the same time, green zones often tend to be located in wealthy, well-maintained neighborhoods, while citizens with a lower socioeconomic background do not have access to them. The council’s aim is to build green spaces that promote physical activity and are accessible to all residents. To maintain their positive influence on health, these zones have to be built in low-emission areas.
Fourth Intervention: Education of Citizens
To increase citizens’ awareness of the emission problem, the city can start a campaign that will consist of several steps. First, universities and schools will have lessons/lectures dedicated to air quality, where students will demonstrate their knowledge. Second, environmental campaigns dedicated to the sustainable use of vehicles can involve volunteers who will promote the intervention among residents. Some environmental organizations launch websites with educational materials, videos, and games about the issue, which encourage citizens to explore more. At last, local professionals and professors with a degree in Environmental Studies can take part in free/donation-supported lectures.
Fifth Intervention: Electric Cars
Although not so many citizens use pure electric vehicles today, even hybrid vehicles (plug-in cars) can improve air quality. The problem is that the city does not have enough spaces for owners to charge their cars. Furthermore, there are not enough stores to purchase an e-vehicle. If the city is capable of transforming the infrastructure to meet the needs of e-vehicles, more residents will consider the benefits of such purchase.
Sixth Intervention: Small Private Initiatives
Small interventions can have an enormous impact too. It is advisable not to burn plastic and other household trash at home, as it does not only worsen air quality but can also be dangerous (EPA, n.d.). Carpool is also an excellent way to reduce emissions and spending on fuel. It is often fun as well. When possible, citizens should encourage their children and relatives to bike (or learn to bike) to school/work. At last, there is no need to leave the computer or lights on if they are not in use. Power plants remain to be one of the primary sources of emissions.
Examples of Successful Initiatives
The authorities in Copenhagen began their bike and pedestrian-centered politics in the 1960s; today, almost half of the citizens ride bikes to school or work (Garfield, 2017). In 2016, Paris banned all cars made before 1997 from entering and driving within the city limits during weekdays (from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.) (Badger, 2016). The congestion charge in London charges a fee (£11.50) on all vehicles operating in charging zones on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. (Transport for London, n.d.). At last, in Vancouver the city was able to support bikers by redesigning urban areas and providing more bike lanes; one car-free day every June is hosted in the city as well. As can be seen, suggested interventions are used actively in other cities and successfully reduce emissions, thus making a positive change in local air quality.
The city might experience difficulties in redesigning infrastructure as it requires significant financial investments and can cause inconvenience to residents. It is necessary to explain the importance of the redesign to car owners, ensuring that they are aware of the negative impact of emissions. This can only be done with the help of programs that can increase awareness of the issue among residents (lectures, online portals, advertisements, small private initiatives, etc.). If environmental changes are only made in communities where residents with higher income live, low-income neighborhoods will still suffer from bad air quality and inequity. If the city is unable to control violators, the efficiency of the initiative will decrease significantly, as others might want to break the newly introduced rules as well. Police officers and volunteers need to be trained accordingly to supervise the implementation of the program in the city’s streets.
Benefits of Implementation
A multi-pollutant reduction is possible if citizens will use e-vehicles, exploit home electricity and related devices more efficiently, and care about private contribution. Better air quality will result in fewer incidents of lung disorders, fatigue, respiratory distresses, and even cancer. Residents’ involvement and work on the issue can create communities and improve neighborhood relationships. The presence of multiple bike lanes reduces the chance of accidents involving cars; if cars are banned from the center, pedestrian zones will also become safer.
Both citywide and local efforts need support from the council to attract the attention of citizens to the problem; volunteers and not-for-profit organizations can be involved together with policymakers. Reorganization of public transport and utilization of e-vehicles are inevitable if the main aim is to improve air quality. Education of citizens by volunteers and professionals in the field will become a base for future project implementation, as it relies on a civil society that cares about local issues and is willing to resolve them. To ensure success, policymakers should use examples and findings of other projects to outline the steps for the project launch.
Badger, E. (2016). Paris just banned all cars made before 1997. Web.
EPA. (2016). Our nation’s air.
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EPA. (n.d.). Burn wise. Best burn practices.
Garfield, L. (2017). 12 major cities that are starting to go car-free.
Transport for London. (n.d.). Congestion charge.
Wolch, J. R., Byrne, J., & Newell, J. P. (2014). Urban green space, public health, and environmental justice: The challenge of making cities ‘just green enough’. Landscape and Urban Planning, 125(2), 234-244.