A weekend day has never been covered by the $13.6 million free smog-day transit program. And Friday was the last of six days with money available to reimburse subway, bus and ferry operators.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Los Angeles, inspired by the apparent success of Spare the Air in the Bay Area, has asked his city's transit agency to consider giving Angelenos a free-transit week each summer.
The Bay Area forecast is for "dangerously hot weather" over the weekend. It will be especially hot in the inland valleys, where temperatures are expected to reach 105. The heat, along with low winds and high pressure, conspires to create ozone out of car exhaust and other pollutants.
By declaring the summer's seventh Spare the Air Day, Bay Area Air Quality Management District officials hope residents won't help smog develop by driving their cars or releasing other toxic smog ingredients.
"If you're planning to stain your deck tomorrow, please put it off," implored Luna Salaver, spokeswoman for the air district. "Staining and painting, using lighter fluid or aerosol cans, all of those contain volatile organic chemicals, which evaporate quickly and combine with automobile exhaust to create ground-level ozonein the presence of sunlight and heat."
Such consumer products, which also include cleaning chemicals, "are responsible for 47 tons of air pollutants every summer day in the Bay Area," Salaver added.
The summer has already proven to be particularly smoggy, thanks in large part to the hot weather. As of Thursday, monitoring stations showed ozone above the federal standard on seven days, starting with June 21, which was also not declared a Spare the Air Day.
On Thursday, the air was, in fact, spared excessive ozone levels, although it will be difficult to determine whether that was due to people heeding the anti-smog program or better-than-expected atmospheric conditions.
There was little doubt that Bay Area commuters used the apparent final day of free transit rides. BART officials estimated a 6 percent increase in Friday's ridership, based on morning head counts. Other transit
agencies have seen consistent increases in their ridership on free Spare the Air Days, with ferry services seeing passengers increase several-fold over normal paid days.
In Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa cited the Bay Area's Spare the Air program as a model for a free-transit offering in his city.
In a letter to the L.A.-area Metropolitan Transportation Agency's chief executive officer, Villaraigosa proposed a week of free bus, subway and light rail service, said mayoral aide Darryl Ryan. The program would aim to reduce smog as well as cut congestion.
"He wants to kind of work together to change the way people move throughout the region," Ryan said. "A lot of people are really reluctant to get out of their cars. You have people getting into their cars to go a block away to get groceries."