Environment

MTC and Bay Area Air Quality Management District: working for cleaner air

Clean air
Joey Kotfica

Have you noticed the amazing winter sunsets? Those beautiful colors come from light bouncing off particles in the atmosphere, often caused by pollution from vehicles and fires.

MTC partners with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (Air District) on solutions that fight air pollution in the Bay Area. One of these tools is called “Spare the Air Days.”

What Are Spare the Air Days?

In the winter, when the Air District expects weather conditions to trap particles in the atmosphere, a Spare the Air Alert is issued for the Bay Area. During the alert, it is illegal to have campfires or use wood-burning fireplaces – see the full set of wood burning rules.

What Can I Do to Help?

  • Know when there will be a Spare the Air Day – see notifications at sparetheair.org.
  • In general, avoid the use of wood burning fireplaces and campfires – wood smoke can be a big contributor to poor air quality.
  • Drive less: Carpool, take public transit, walk or bike. Limit driving alone.

I Thought Spare the Air Days Only Happen in the Summer?

On cold days, Pacific breezes usually move air through the Bay Area. On the days without wind, smoke and particles can get trapped by warm air above it. This “inversion layer” allows pollution to stay low to the ground where it negatively affects people with certain health conditions.

Spare the Air Days in non-winter months are usually triggered by emissions from vehicles and factories. Carpooling, public transit and active modes like walking and biking help to keep the air cleaner throughout the year.

Visit the sparetheair.org website to learn more.

MTC Climate Initiatives

In addition to working closely with the Air District, MTC funds programs that support the climate, including the Active Transportation Program and Safe Routes to School programs. Since 2009, MTC has invested over $100 million for innovative solutions to reducing transportation-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Plan Bay Area 2050, the region’s long-range transportation and land use plan, outlines strategies to help protect the environment. Learn more about MTC’s climate protection programs.