American Lung Association puts NYC at No. 2 for cities to most benefit from going electric

Heavy traffic – and emissions – on Canal Street during rush hour in late August 2020. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

New York City is second only to Los Angeles for cities in the United States where surface transportation is impacting the health of its residents and the American Lung Association is prescribing a full transition to electric vehicles by 2050.

In a new report titled “The Road to Clean Air,” the AMA claims the despite having the largest public transportation system in the nation, New York City is not far behind other more car-dependent cities in conditions affecting the lungs such as asthma. AMA President Harold Wimmer says prioritizing this mid-century goal could prevent up to 6,300 premature deaths, 93,000 asthma attacks and 416,000 lost workdays every year based on emissions projections in 2050.

“Everyone deserves to breathe clean, healthy air where they live, work and play. The transition to electric vehicles will benefit everyone, from children riding school buses, daily commuters and transit riders to truck drivers and residents near busy roads, warehouse distribution centers and other diesel hotspots,” Wimmer said. “Low-income communities and communities of color often face greater exposures to transportation pollution, not just from tailpipes, but from the whole process of extraction, refining and transport of fossil fuels. By moving away from this system to electric vehicles powered by clean energy, we can transform our nation’s health and future.”

Other conditions that could be circumvented by this switch are lung cancer, heart attacks and strokes which disproportionately impact low income communities of color, as can be viewed through the AMA’s annual report on the “State of the Air.” This is a searchable database which depicts air quality by zip code giving each an A through F grade.

The top ten metro regions listed in the report are as follows:

  1. Los Angeles, Calif.
  2. New York City, NY
  3. San Francisco, Calif.
  4. Chicago, Ill.
  5. Dallas, Texas
  6. Washington, D.C.
  7. San Diego, Calif.
  8. Houston, Texas
  9. Miami, Fla
  10. Philadelphia, PA

New Yorkers got a taste of the city with cleaner air while Governor Andrew Cuomo’s PAUSE orders were at their strictest levels. 

An annual study measuring quality in New York City found that between January and May 2020, particulate matter had been reduces by 36% and nitrogen dioxide had been cut by 51%. This, however, was on trend with every year prior going back to 2019 despite far fewer road miles being driven daily in the city.

Vehicle miles traveled by borough was been reduced from between 78% in the Bronx to about 92% in Manhattan during in April, according to statistics available at the time from StreetLight Data.

This did not last.

More recent figures from the city Department of Transportation show that vehicular traffic is largely back to pre-pandemic levels. Cycling, however, is up by 57%, according to their estimates.

More from around NYC