In the run up to the Beijing Olympics, all nations sending athletes to the games were concerned about the city’s air quality.  Beijing was one of the most polluted cities in the world, and many athletes would be performing outdoors.
Concern for Olympic athletes’ health put Beijing’s pollution at the forefront of an international discussion.  Chinese officials had to find solutions in a hurry.  And they did -- from July 20 through September 20, vehicles with odd numbered license plates were only allowed on the roads every other day, with “even numbered cars” operating on those alternate days.   
This mandate, supplemented by instructions that Beijing's public workers use only public transit to get to work, took 800,000 cars off Beijing’s streets, increased the average speed during rush hour by 25.8%, and reduced vehicular emissions by 63%.  In the end, 120,000 tons of vehicle-born pollutants were kept out of the air.
While these measures are draconian by western standards, they serve to demonstrate how significantly pollution can be curbed and traffic congestions can be relieved if all city residents play a role by adjusting their driving habits.

Los Angeles is a long way from Beijing, both geographically and philosophically.  We are, however, capable of collectively chipping in to clean up our air and unclog our roadways.  Beijing stands as a prime example of just how quickly change can be attained.

The RAND Report (view online now)

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