Public transportation systems bring many benefits to the urban community – from reducing air pollution and traffic congestion to increasing fuel efficiency and mobility. By 2017, there were metros in 178 cities in 56 countries, carrying approximately 168 million passengers daily. However, despite these advantages of mass transportation, there are unintended health issues. One of them concerns air pollution. People travelling on subway systems, as studies show, are being exposed to high levels of air pollution, which poses risks for adverse cardiovascular and respiratory effects.
As early as 2014, it was reported that the black carbon (BC) and PM2.5 concentrations were considerably higher in NYC subway stations than ambient urban street levels. It was not until six years later, however, that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) finally took action and approved the acquisition of 25 hybrid maintenance trains. They replaced the aging diesel engines that were built between 1966 and 1977, the main contributor of BC in the subways.
In 2021, a new study from New York University Langone Health showed that the transit system in NYC exposes riders to the highest levels of inhaled pollutants among any other metropolitan subways in the Northeastern United States. The study measured air quality samples in 71 stations during rush hours in Philadelphia, Boston, New York City and Washington DC. Notably, the PM2.5 concentrations were generally 2 to 7 times the U.S. EPA safety standard. In the high-exposure scenario, a typical commuter on the subway would face an 11% increased risk for cardiovascular mortality.
In District 32, about one third of our community commutes everyday by subway. By estimation, they have 30% higher daily PM 2.5 exposure because of the poor air quality in MTA according to the previous studies. Our campaign is committed to putting people first as our top priority and we are deeply concerned with their health impacted by this situation. In order to protect our community, we propose to mitigate the air pollution in MTA by implementing effective measures such as improved fresh air ventilation and enhanced subway air filtration systems.
This is an important health issue facing our community, which the Alamarie for Council campaign genuinely cares about and prioritizes. Instead of waiting any longer, we step in and confront the problem.