'Carmageddon' dramatically improved L.A.'s air quality

Closing L.A.'s busiest interstate improved air quality by 83 percent.

Remember last year when Los Angeles freaked out over the two-day closure of the 405 freeway for construction? Many residents opted to stay at home that weekend to avoid "Carmageddon" and the closure ended up not being the catastrophe that everyone envisioned. But it wasn't just a success because traffic was calm. Briefly closing the major interstate also proved that less traffic on the interstate (even for a short time) can make a dramatic impact on air quality.

Researchers at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability found that air quality near 405, when it was closed, was 83 percent better than during a typical weekend. What's even more amazing is that Carmageddon, in just two days, made the air cleaner in surrounding regions. Parts of West Los Angeles and Santa Monica saw air quality improve by as much as 75 percent.

"Seeing such a dramatic reduction [in pollutants] in West L.A. was really quite surprising," said Suzanne Paulson, a researcher at UCLA, told the Los Angeles Times. "It gives a very dramatic view of how clean the air could be."

It's doubtful that this news will prompt Angelenos to stop driving. We all know that cars pollute the air and we still drive. But it's amazing to see just how much of an impact not driving can have on air quality. Or, more likely than giving up driving, this is the future that Angelenos can look forward to when electric cars and other low-emissions vehicles rule the road.

[Via Los Angeles Times]

Photo: Flickr/cbucka21

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com