Free transit during smog alerts

The city will try a new policy to reduce car traffic

Public transit in Prague will be free during declared smog emergencies, in the hope that commuters will leave cars at home. Automobile emissions are a large factor in smog.

Some city employees would also be able to work from home to reduce traffic.

Efforts last year to change the law to forbid certain kinds of traffic during smog alerts were not successful.

“Even though the Regulatory Code as such was not approved in Prague, we do not want to sit with our hands in our lap. That is why we will introduce at least one of the proposed measures and we will offer transit free of charge in the event of smog,” Deputy Mayor Petr Hlubuček (United Force for Prague / STAN), told daily Mladá fronta Dnes.

“Currently, during February and March 2019, when smog is most likely to emerge, we will communicate with the public through an information campaign that will call for minimizing activities that can cause smog in Prague," Hlubuček said.

The campaign will also outline the health effects caused by smog.

The city in the past encouraged people to leave cars at home but did not offer any incentive such as free transit so the idea had little effect.

Other proposals made by a City Hall working group last year included allowing traffic on odd and even days according to license numbers, and limiting truck traffic.

These proposals met objections from the Transport Ministry, the Czech Police, the Municipal Police and the Central Bohemia region.

The last new regulations for smog were passed in 2012.

The most problematic component of pollution of the Prague air is dust particles, which act as carriers of carcinogenic substances. Carbon monoxide blocks the transfer of oxygen in the blood, nitrogen oxides increase the likelihood of respiratory diseases, aldehydes increase the risk of cancer, and precursors of ground-level ozone cause respiratory complications for children and elderly people.

Smog can be especially harmful to senior citizens, children, and people with heart and lung conditions such as emphysema, bronchitis, and asthma.

Under the current regulations, a smog situation is declared when airborne particles of a size designated as PM10 exceed the limit of 100 micrograms per cubic meter for 12 hours and are not expected to drop below that threshold for 24 hours.

A regulation limiting some industry takes effect if at least half of the stations in a region over 12 hours show average concentrations of airborne particles exceeding a limit of 150 micrograms per cubic meter, and the situation is not expected to change for 24 hours.

A smog situation can be caused by cold temperatures, inversion and lack of wind. A temperature inversion is an increase in temperature with height, which creates an inversion layer. An inversion can lead to pollution being trapped close to the ground.

In the summer, the city launched a short-lived promotion to have people leave their cars home one day a week and instead take time for a beer with co-workers, but it was more of a public relations move than a practical solution.

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