Smog-Alert Car Ban Jams Metro, Buses in Mexico City

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Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 4:45 AM

Below new regulations imposed after the capital recently experienced its worst air-quality crisis in over a decade, forty % of cars were ordered off the road after smog levels hit 1½ times acceptable limits Tuesday.

Mexico City residents packed buses and subway trains and many walked or biked to work Wednesday as authorities barred millions of vehicles from the streets due to a pollution alert.

Below new regulations imposed after the capital recently experienced its worst air-quality crisis in over a decade, forty % of cars were ordered off the road after smog levels hit 1½ times acceptable limits Tuesday.

Pollution levels went down somewhat Wednesday, and the Environmental Commission of the Megalopolis said only about half that quantity of vehicles would be kept off the streets Thursday.

On any given day a fifth of all cars are supposed to stay home, but that doubles during a Phase one alert. Until recently, newer and cleaner cars were exempt from the driving ban.

With two million of the capital'south cars ordered out of circulation Wednesday, fares were temporarily waved for some public transportation. Buses crawling along the central Reforma Blvd were crowded during the morning rush hour.

"Public transport isn't sufficient," said Martin Colin, a 53-year-old taxi driver, pointing to a bus jammed front-to-back with standing commuters. "They see love tiny sardines. The buses are full, full."

Traffic was noticeably lighter in some parts of the sprawling capital. But Colin, whose morning fares had already taken him to diverse parts of the city, said many of the normal bottlenecks were as horrible as ever.

"It'south the same," he said.

The vehicle ban doesn't apply to public or private buses — something that's drawn criticism since many privately operated minibuses are notorious for belching thick black smoke.

A truck drivers' protest against the "number circulation" regulation partially blocked two major highways on the periphery of Mexico City, snarling traffic. The truckers are upset that the regulation keeps them from making deliveries.

Other, unrelated political protests temporarily clogged central avenues in a city that's known for constant demonstrations.

Taxis prowled the streets in visibly greater numbers, and finding an unoccupied cab to hail was more challenging than usual. Dispatchers reported increased demand, and Uber users complained of surge pricing several times higher than normal.

Many residents turned to Mexico City'south expanding bicycle-share program for the commute.

Rosa Torres carpooled with friends and then used one of the loaner bikes to obtain the rest of the way to work. But when she arrived the bike Sta was full, and she'd to wait behind five others for a spot to open up so she could drop the bike off.

"I'm leaving time to obtain from one space to another," Torres said of the "number circulation" rules.

Luis Arturo Garcia also had to leave his car at residence and was inspired to sign up for the bike-share program after his normal 10-minute commute stretched to thirty.

"It affects me a lot because I work in the morning and study in the afternoon," he said. "They're beautiful long trips, and public transportation doesn't work for me."

He said authorities necessity to make better public transportation and also suggested that increased telecommuting could assistance reduce pollution.

Factories across greater Mexico City were ordered to slice emissions by 30 % to forty percent, and gas stations without vapor recovery systems were ordered to close.

The anti-pollution measures announced latest mo running through the finish of June, when the rainy season begins. Authorities declare they're working on longer-term policies to be announced in the future.

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Peter Orsi on Twitter: www. twitter. com/Peter—Orsi

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