Clean Air in LA County & SoCal: Now or Never?


Over the next few months LA Metro Board members will be debating whether to submit a new ballot measure to LA County voters in November and what this measure should fund. Move LA believes this offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to remedy the single most severe and persistent air pollution problem in Los Angeles County—diesel emissions from heavy-duty trucks. Southern California will never have clean air unless we address this source of pollution, and we could be the first metro area in the U.S. to succeed in doing so.

Here are the facts: Diesel emissions from trucks and other goods movement activity are the largest remaining source of air pollution in Southern California. Diesel vehicles contribute 42% of the region’s NOx, a key ingredient of smog, and more than 70% of particulate matter. Diesel emissions are the most toxic of all air contaminants, a major cause of lung cancer, asthma, heart disease and other health problems.

Vigorous deployment of zero- and near-zero-emission buses and trucks—including advanced natural gas, electric and hybrid-electric trucks—is the single most important clean air measure we could undertake. The challenge is ensuring widespread deployment and facilitating the development of fueling and power infrastructure. 

Because trucks that employ new technologies are very expensive, and because trucks are long-lived (they can last 40 years), manufacturers and fleet operators must feel confident that there will be ongoing support over the long period of design, development, demonstration and deployment—and as production is ramped up to gain the economies of scale that will bring down the price. Fleet operators must also feel certain that there will be fueling infrastructure, trained mechanics, and parts for repair.

A commitment of 5% of the revenue from a ½-cent sales tax, equal to about $40 million per year initially, could be co-invested with the private sector in these zero- and near-zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles. This would help manufacturers and fleet operators believe there is a commitment that helps ensure the market for this technology will continue to develop.

There may be a unique opportunity to achieve this objective if Metro places a 40-year or longer sales tax measure on the November ballot because this sales tax investment program will be long-term—as opposed to a funding program from the state or the federal government, where a commitment over the long term is far less certain because of politics.

Move LA believes that devoting a share of the new measure to the deployment of zero- and near-zero-emission buses and heavy duty trucks would provide us with a singular opportunity to finally attain clean air in LA County and Southern California.

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