All Mexico City vehicles will be subject to no-drive days once a week beginning next Tuesday regardless of their emission levels.
The new rules were announced yesterday by the Environmental Commission of the Megalopolis (Came) and come after a three-day pollution alert earlier this month. They will remain in effect until June 30.
Introduced in 1989 as a winter-only program, Hoy No Circula (No Circulation Today) has been in effect year-round in the capital since 1990. Vehicles that passed emissions tests, identified with “00” and “01” holographic stickers, were exempt and could hit the streets any day of the week.
Those that had to stay off the road one day a week were identified by the last two digits on the license plate.
The new restrictions cover Mexico City’s 16 boroughs and 18 neighboring State of México municipalities.
Beginning Tuesday, cars with license plates ending in 7 and 8 will remain parked. Those ending with 3 and 4 will do so on Wednesdays, those ending with 1 and 2 on Thursdays, 9 and 0 on Fridays and those with 5 and 6 on Mondays.
Vehicles will also be barred from the roads one Saturday a month on an alternating basis.
Came timed the exemption-free period to end when summer rains typically arrive, and the Valley of México’s air quality improves.
Came also decided, in coordination with the federal Environment Secretariat, to modify the pollution alert system, discarding what were called pre-contingencies. Now, a Phase 1 alert will be raised when air pollutants reach 150 points, and Phase 2 when the 200-point mark is reached.
Motorists are not the only ones affected by restrictions.
When a Phase 1 alert is declared, factories located in the valley are required to reduce their emissions by 30 to 40%. At Phase 2, industrial activity must be cut back 60%.
Air pollution dropped significantly during Holy Week as many capitalinos left the city. But yesterday afternoon the pollution index reached 108 points, officially described as “bad,” although it was about half the level recorded at the peak of the recent Phase 1 alert.
The environmental commission said that starting July 1 more modern technology will be put in place at smog-check centers. Vehicles are supposed to be tested for emissions every six months, but it is common knowledge among drivers that for a bribe of about 350 pesos drivers can ensure a car comes out “clean.”