The implementation of the program Hoy No Circula (No Drive Day) from April until June 30, continues to be applied across the board to vehicles of all ages in Mexico City. To recap for the few readers that remain oblivious: the capital previously used a hologram system to identify older, and thus less environmentally friendly engines, but the federal government has introduced temporary limitations to all cars, regardless of age or level of contaminants generated by their use. The lack of rain and wind in Mexico City‘s dry season produce higher ozone concentration, justifying the No Drive Day measure. By several accounts said measure, aimed at improving the air quality levels, has had next to no effect on pollution. The main effect has been on the quality of life of the megalopolis’ inhabitants, who are now simply more annoyed than usual.
Outrage among drivers who had to find a last minute alternative transport for work today, followed the government’s announcement of yet another double No Drive Day. Owners of cars with both pink and green number plates were told not to use their vehicles this morning, in response to particularly high pollution levels yesterday. In response, some taxi bases have reduced their starting rates and the Cabify private driver application has offered discounts on their service. In response to the duplication of commuters who depend on their cars to get to work, Uber even offers free Uber Pool rides with a code: POOLporAYUDAR, just for today. Evidently, this reflects the fact that few commuters are finding alternate, non-polluting, modes of transport such as walking or cycling, but rather paying for someone else’s car with a luckier number plate. This also speaks volumes about the quality of public transport, that citizens point blank refuse to take the bus to work, despite the Trolleybus, Tram, and RTP options being free to use for the duration of the program.
As vehicles must be off the road one day a week and one Saturday a month, depending on the vehicle’s number plate, the government supposedly hoped to reduce pollution and encourage the use of public transport and non-polluting means for commuting. The Center for Atmospheric Sciences at the UNAM, has condemned the Hoy No Circula, stating that smog levels are predicted to continue rising. Climatological forecasts suggest that the program has not influenced the air quality enough to remove the need for future measures, which will include the closure of particularly un-green industrial activities.
The Center for Atmospheric Sciences also reported that the heart of the problem does not lie in automobiles (cue applause from the drivers among us), but rather the urban sprawl resulting from overpopulation in the city affecting both the air quality and the protected natural areas, agriculture, and water sources in Mexico.
Statements from the authorities representing the State of Mexico and Mexico City say that the measures indiscriminately removing vehicles from legal use could increase ozone formation, as the decrease in the vehicle fleet in use every day will have a positive effect on reducing levels of primary pollutants. However, the program neglects to stipulate methods to limit industries or services that produce various pollutants. These authorities also admit that this No Drive Day program favors the acquisition of additional vehicles, regardless of their age or fuel efficiency. This will only result in an increase of the vehicle fleet occupying an already saturated parking situation, rather than vehicle renewal.
While electric vehicles are exempt from the No Drive Day program, the cost and lack of infrastructure remain deterrents to buying a car that uses anything other that gasoline. Mexico’s total of charging points is only 119, including those that Nissan and BMW set up themselves, in 15 cities. In several of these cities, one lonely charging point exists and the largest city of all only has 47 locations in total.
Needless to say, the effect of capital dwellers buying fewer new carson the booming automotive industry will not be positive. As used car sales rocket, new cars, produced by Mexican industry and an important driver in the country’s export balance and GDP, will be acquired less frequently as citizens shift their focus to simply moving around the city, rather than the benefits of owning newer, more efficient vehicles.
Source: Excelsior, El Universal, Publimetro
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