Even as population explodes, local air quality improves

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As Austin’s population continues to grow rapidly, the region’s air quality is actually improving.

Since the year 2000, the population of the Austin metropolitan area has grown by 46 percent, but every measure of air quality has gotten better.

Air quality experts credit the improvement to more efficient construction equipment, successful public transportation programs, and big changes in federal emissions standards for vehicles.

A measure of traffic called “vehicle miles traveled” has shown a 43 percent increase in the Austin area since 2000. Yet pollution from vehicles is the category that’s shown the biggest decrease.

“Cars today are something like 95 percent cleaner than they were fifteen years ago or so,” CAPCOG Air Quality Program Manager Andrew Hoekzema said. “Same thing with trucks.”

Strict vehicle inspection maintenance is just one of the programs in place that won the Central Texas Clean Air Coalition a “Clean Air Excellence Award” from the Environmental Protection Agency in February.

Even though the area is still within federal limits for ozone pollution, Austin is teetering on the edge of federal noncompliance for the pollutant. Noncompliance would lead to major impacts on federal funding, ability for the area to attract businesses, and potentially public health.

Ozone pollution is worst during hot, sunny summer months. In the event of an ‘Ozone Action Day’, it’s important to drive less, carpool, and reduce electricity usage – all steps that help reduce pollution.

Learn more about ozone and how you can help reduce the ground-level pollutant with Ozone Advance from the Capital Area Council of Governments.

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