Asthma, heart disease, reduced lung capacity – just a few of the joys that can be brought about by excessive exposure to air pollution. Every year in Los Angeles, the city experiences the equivalent of one month of unhealthy levels of particle pollution and two months of unhealthy levels of ozone pollution.
Proximate to both industrial sites and traffic, it is low income areas in Los Angeles that are the most vulnerable to greenhouse emissions. Moreover, without access to affordable transportation, inhabitants have an uphill task should they wish to travel in search of better jobs and education.
These traditionally underprivileged and underserved communities are, however, starting to turn the corner thanks to an electric car-sharing scheme that is helping to reduce pollution while encouraging both physical and social mobility.
The car-share project began in 2016 with the introduction of 100 electric vehicles and 200 charging stations into the poorest communities in Los Angeles, such as Downtown, Westlake, MacArthur Park, and Koreatown.
Electric vehicles are available at 24 hour self-service kiosks and can be rented by the minute or via a monthly subscription service. Depending on the income of an individual, up to 25 per cent discounts are offered for pay-as-your-drive users, while a 40 per cent discount is available for monthly subscribers to the scheme.
The program is a partnership between the State of California and French transportation company Bollorè. Based on the outskirts of Paris, Bollorè operates similar electric car-sharing schemes in the French capital as well as in Indianapolis; however, the Los Angeles initiative is the first in the world to focus exclusively on disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
Bollorè, through its subsidiary Blue California, invested $10 million to kick start the program, while California backed the scheme to the tune of almost $3.5 million via its Air Resources Board and state cap and trade funds.
At the launch of the sustainable car-sharing project, Los Angeles had hoped to install 1,000 electric vehicle charging stations in the city by 2017 but this figure has already been surpassed. What’s more, the program has become a major component of the Los Angeles Sustainable City Plan.
In three years’ time, it is hoped that 7,000 new users of the scheme will have been recruited, who, in turn, will sell or avoid purchasing some 1,000 private vehicles. When in top gear, the program is projected to result in 5.3 million fewer annual vehicle miles travelled in Los Angeles and more than 900,000 fewer annual litres of petrol used.
All this adds up to an estimated reduction of CO2 emissions by 2,200 metric tons a year. The resultant improvement in air quality in Los Angeles will help to diminish instances of illnesses associated with pollution.
Projections aside, the scheme is also having immediate impacts on the lives of those in the areas in which it is taking place. Low income communities now have easy access to much needed affordable transport, facilitating both travel for work and education. Crucially, reduced transportation costs mean greater disposable incomes for local inhabitants, boosting regional economies through increased spending.
The City of Angels has historically not been the greatest of guardians to its least affluent residents. However, with the introduction of the electric car-sharing scheme, people from the city’s disadvantaged communities are now being empowered to spread their wings.
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