The latest salvo in the war on smog has been aimed at thousands of Southern California employers, who have been told to submit ride-sharing plans to cut down on the number of employee vehicles on the road.
Beginning in November, 240 of Southern California's largest employers were required to file plans with the South Coast Air Quality Management District outlining company programs to increase the average employee ridership to 1.5 passengers per vehicle during the critical commute time of 6 to 10 a.m.
The agency estimates that the average ridership in its jurisdiction--Los Angeles and Orange counties and parts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties--is just 1.13 people per vehicle.
The agency will ultimately notify all 8,000 companies with 100 or more employees at a single site that they must comply with the reporting requirement, known as Regulation 15.
According to AQMD, increasing the average ridership to 1.5 per vehicle will reduce commuter traffic by 14.8 million vehicle miles per day and result in a 25% reduction in commute-hour traffic and 740,000 fewer daily vehicle trips between home and work.
Companies can be fined up to $25,000 a day for not filing a plan, but the program contains no sanctions for employees--nothing to make workers give up their personal cars for van pools or car pools. Many companies filed for extensions; some are late in filing their plans.
Of the 240 companies notified to file reports last month, 125 companies have submitted plans, 75 have received extensions--largely to accommodate personnel training and data processing delays--and five had not submitted a plan or requested an extension.
Those five firms were sent non-compliance letters and will be contacted in person by AQMD officials.
"What we are looking for is a good-faith effort to resolve the problem," said Jacqueline Switzer, AQMD spokeswoman.
The agency has the legal option of seeking up to $25,000 a day in fines for failure to submit a plan, she said. But AQMD officials are stressing cooperation, rather than heavy-handed enforcement.
"Our goal is to work with the companies, not seek enforcement action," Switzer said, adding that it is "doubtful at this point" that legal action will result.
The Federal Clean Air Act sets its ozone level standard at 0.12 parts per million; the state sets a more stringent standard of 0.10 p.p.m. The table below charts how many days ozone levels exceeded the federal and state standards in 1987 for the five Orange County air monitoring locations and selected other stations.
OZONE Location Federal State Anaheim 25 48 La Habra 41 77 El Toro 16 36 Los Alamitos 4 15 Costa Mesa 2 23 Los Angeles 36 91 Azusa 111 163 San Bernardino 117 166 Palm Springs 33 74 Crestline 119 156