OPEN Scientific reports | 6 Feb 2017
Policymakers around the world are turning to license-plate based driving restrictions in an effort to address urban air pollution. The format differs across cities, but most programs restrict driving once or twice a week during weekdays. This paper focuses on Mexico City, home to one of the oldest and best-known driving restriction policies. For almost two decades Mexico City’s driving restrictions applied during weekdays only. This changed recently, however, when the program was expanded to include Saturdays. This paper uses hourly data from pollution monitoring stations to measure the effect of the Saturday expansion on air quality. Overall, there is little evidence that the program expansion improved air quality. Across eight major pollutants, the program expansion had virtually no discernible effect on pollution levels. These disappointing results stand in sharp contrast to estimates made before the expansion which predicted a 15%+ decrease in vehicle emissions on Saturdays. To understand why the program has been less effective than expected, the paper then turns to evidence from subway, bus, and light rail ridership, finding no evidence that the expansion was successful in getting drivers to switch to lower-emitting forms of transportation.
* Data courtesy of Altmetric.com