Despite cleaner gasoline, carpooling, public transportation and electric vehicles, urban sprawl in California, and especially Los Angeles, has resulted in rising tailpipe pollution in the Sunshine State. KTLA photo.

Tailpipe pollution will not lessen unless California residents radically transform their driving habits

Despite policies to promote cleaner gasoline, carpooling, public transportation and electric vehicles, California is losing the battle against tailpipe pollution, according to a Reuters report.

Decades-old urban planning made residents of California, and especially Los Angeles, dependent on long commutes which appear to have nullified efforts by one of the most environmentally progressive governments worldwide.

“The strategies that we’ve used up until now just haven’t been effective,” Mary Nichols, the head of the California Air Resources Board, told Reuters.

Since 2013, California’s tailpipe pollution has risen by 5 per cent, according to CARB data.  Rising population, urban sprawl and the love-of-the-automobile have increased average commutes and choked already busy roadways in the Sunshine State.

The government of California set a goal of 5 million electric vehicles in the state by 2030; since 2011, there have been 1.18 million sales of EVs in California.  But, according to CARB, even if California hits its 2030 goals, it won’t be enough to allow the state to meet its carbon reduction objectives.

CARB says the only way to achieve the lofty ambitions is for California’s drivers to cut per capita miles traveled by 25 per cent.

In an effort to boost public transit, the state increased spending on transit by about 60 per cent in the past decade, however, new transit options are poorly suited to California’s suburban-style neighbourhoods.

“If we keep thinking we are going to overcome a 1950s system overnight, that’s wrong,” Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the San Diego Association of Governments told Reuters.

And California is not alone.  In Houston, tailpipe emissions are up by 46 per cent and there are no state greenhouse-gas reduction goals.  Over two-thirds of new vehicles registered in Houston last year were pickups or SUVs.  In Los Angeles, less than half the new vehicles registered were trucks and SUVs, according to IHS Markit.

EV sales in Texas amount to just 1 per cent of new vehicle sales, according to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.

Atlanta, Philadelphia and San Antonio have also reported rising tailpipe pollution.  The EPA reports transportation emissions are up nationwide by 21 per cent since 1990.

California officials are looking for ways to battle urban sprawl.  In Los Angeles, the city is looking at a proposal that would see drivers being charged during rush hour and using the money gained to make public transit free by 2028.

Other possible solutions include waiving fees for pooled rides to and from airports and adding scooter and bike lanes. The State of California is also in talks to control emissions via city planning which could see lower-cost housing in urban centres.  This would bring people closer to work.

As well, in these lower-cost housing facilities, building codes for parking spots for residents would be eliminated in the hopes that more drop-off car pooling would be encouraged.