Emissions from diesel engines are the single most pernicious source of air pollution in Southern California — of both NOx (oxides of nitrogen), the precursor to ozone, and fine particulate matter, which next to cigarettes is one of the most significant causes of lung cancer. Diesel emissions are also a major environmental justice problem because they are concentrated along the 710 freeway corridor that runs through low income communities in southeast LA County, from the ports up through the San Gabriel Valley and on into San Bernardino County.
If we truly want to solve our air quality problem the path leads straight to diesel engines, so an investment strategy that helps us incentivize and roll out the cleanest possible technology is clearly the way to reduce air pollution-induced health problems like asthma and lung cancer. And that path leads us straight to LA Metro’s Long Range Transportation Plan, which will determine what will get funded through a future transportation ballot measure.
Move LA urges LA Metro to take on the challenge of reducing emissions from diesel trucks with a strategy that would incentivize the roll-out of zero- and near-zero emissions technologies. There is already funding for research and development. But we need money to incentivize the deployment of the new clean technologies by subsidizing the incremental cost difference between the purchase price of a standard new vehicle and the higher cost of a super-clean one.
This is a proven strategy that the Carl Moyer Memorial Air Quality Standards Attainment program — which provides grant funding from the state for cleaner-than-required engines and equipment — has already shown to work. The Carl Moyer Program, created by legislation authored by Antonio Villaraigosa, the 41st mayor of Los Angeles, when he was speaker of the California Assembly, provides some funding but it is insufficient to truly scale up the effort. But a significant and reliable long-term source of funding is a proven strategy to incentivize deployment.
Moreover, this is a two-fer: The heavy duty diesel trucks that haul the lion’s share of goods from the port up the 710 corridor are not only the greatest source of emissions but also a major source of traffic congestion. Planning for truck-only lanes has gone on for years but no funding source has been identified.
For these two reasons Move LA is proposing that LA County’s Long Range Transportation address the twin strategies of reducing emissions and traffic congestion by dedicating 5% of any new funding measure for transportation, such as the new sales tax measure for transportation that LA Metro may put on the ballot in 2016. For example, one strategy that could be included in the LRTP is truck-only lanes on our freeways that would only be accessible to clean trucks.
Why should we do this? Because we must reduce air pollution, GHG emissions and traffic congestion for reasons that include overall public health and climate concerns as well as the traffic congestion that constrains our economy. If we can help solve this problem, and we can, then we must.