Local News

Chapel Hill Tackles Ozone Alert with Free Rides

Posted July 8, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Too many cars, too much pollution, too much heat. The Triangle has spent many summer days this year underozone warnings. Now one town is fighting back. The clean air plan calls for free rides.

Thursday is anorange ozone alertday. That means if you live or work in Chapel Hill, you can ride the bus for free.

"I think the town's really showing leadership in doing that," says Dale Crisp, Director of Public Utilities.

The town council adopted the measure as part of the state's new air quality awareness program. The goal is to encourage more people to use mass transit.

"If you can get those cars and trucks off the road, then there's less pollution in the air, which is causing the ozone levels to get high," explains Tom Mather of the local air quality division.

The state issues an orange ozone alert when the air quality is deemed unhealthy for sensitive people, like the elderly or those who have asthma. A red ozone alert is when the air is unhealthy for everyone. Chapel Hill is counting on about 18 of the red or orange days for the remainder of July and August.

It's estimated that the free bus fares will result in $20,000 dollars in lost revenue for the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, as well as the University. Chapel Hill stands to lose the most, about $9,300 dollars.

Town officials say that's a small price to pay to help reduce air pollution. And many commuters agree.

"I think it's a good idea," says an unidentified resident. "I think it's a very good idea."

State officials say 2/3 of the triangle's air pollution is caused by cars and trucks. They're hoping that more towns and cities will follow Chapel Hill's lead and adopt a similar measure.