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Cuenca air quality improves as new, less polluting buses go into service

Cuenca’s air quality showed strong improvement in 2018 over 2017 and the city’s Transportation Monitoring Network says that the improvement continued through the first half of 2019.

Cuenca’s public bus companies are replacing older models with newer ones.

The monitoring network, a division of the city transportation department, says that the replacement of older city buses with newer, less polluting models is the primary reason for the improvement. Through June, 52 percent of the public bus fleet has been replaced since 2017, with newer models generating as much as 80 percent less air pollutants than older models.

The city monitors 20 testing stations for concentrations of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, fine particulate material and ozone. Overall, Claudia Espinoza, monitoring network technician, says that air pollution was down 10 percent in 2018 from 2017.

“Because the buses create 70 percent of Cuenca’s carbon monoxide emissions, the change to newer models makes a huge difference for air quality,” Espinoza says. “Because more new buses will go into service the remainder of this year and next year too, we expect the improvement to continue.” She added that electric models scheduled to begin service in 2022 and 2023 will continue the trend of cleaner air.

After buses, Espinoza says that heavy trucks and private automobiles are the biggest producers of pollution in Cuenca. She adds that several industries also contribute to pollution but their impact is small.

Monitoring results show that the locations with the highest air pollution readings in the city are the terminal terrestre on Av. Espana and Calle Presidente Cordova near San Francisco Plaza.

According to a 2016 World Health Organization study, Cuenca ranks in the top 10 percent of South American cities of over 250,000 population for air quality. For both North and South America, the city ranks in the top 20 percent.