Air Quality

Cleaner Air Improves Public Health and Quality of Life

The quality of the Atlanta region’s air impacts public health and overall quality of life. Because vehicle emissions are a significant contributor to air pollution, air quality is a major consideration in the region’s transportation planning.

The Atlanta region must meet air quality standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that increase over time. These standards focus on two primary pollutants: ozone, a gas that forms in the atmosphere from tailpipe emissions, smokestacks and other sources; and particulate matter, tiny bits of particles in the air produced by car and truck exhaust, power plants, manufacturing facilities and other sources.

Air Quality and Transportation Planning

The Atlanta Regional Commission and its transportation planning partners are charged with developing a Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) that meets state and federal air quality standards. This is achieved by prioritizing transportation projects that improve congestion or provide alternative commuting options, such as transit or bike lanes.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, along with the EPA, reviews the region’s transportation plan to determine whether it conforms to air quality standards. If it does not, federal transportation funds could be withheld from the region.

The Atlanta Region’s Plan is the latest iteration of the regional plan prepared by ARC. Whenever major changes are made to transportation projects and programs, the associated RTP requires a new conformity determination. The current Conformity Determination Report documentation for the Atlanta Region’s Plan is provided in the link below. 

Metro Atlanta’s Air Quality is Improving

While there is always room for improvement, the Atlanta region’s air quality has been moving in the right direction over the last decade. By 2013, all nine of the region’s monitoring stations had met the more stringent 2012 particulate matter standard. Particulate matter pollution has been declining since 2007. The EPA in 2016 determined that all of the region’s counties met the standard for particulate matter pollution.

Chart: Particulate Matter pollution in the Atlanta region
Chart: Particulate Matter pollution in the Atlanta region

Currently, seven counties are not  meeting the 2015 ozone standard. ARC is working with the state to meet all requirements to improve air quality and attain the 2015 standard as expeditiously as possible.

Chart: Ozone pollution in the Atlanta region
Chart: Ozone pollution in the Atlanta region

Atlanta Roadside Emissions Exposure Study (AREES)

ARC and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division have developed a sophisticated tool that enables fine particulate matter pollution to be measured at the neighborhood level. The groundbreaking project, known as the Atlanta Roadside Emissions Exposure Study, or AREES, found that air quality is generally worse in and around highly congested roads and freeways.

ARC has created an interactive map that depicts air quality throughout the 20-county Atlanta region, based on the concentration of fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

Transportation & Air Quality Committee

The Transportation & Air Quality Committee meets monthly at 9:30 a.m. at the Atlanta Regional Commission. Please note that all meeting times and places are subject to change.

View upcoming Transportation & Air Quality Committee meetings.