Colorado tackles record-breaking air pollution with big public transit investments

Media Contacts
Alexandra Simon

Former Public Health Advocate, CoPIRG

DENVER – Following one of the worst summers for air pollution in the past decade, Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill on Thursday that expands statewide regional bus service and offers a free month of public transportation statewide during ozone season, among other ambitious clean transportation policies. Colorado is enacting legislation to address transportation-related ozone pollution after the EPA downgraded the state’s highly populated North Front Range region’s ozone problem from “serious” to “severe” in April 2022.

“Once known for wide open skies and crystal clear views, Colorado residents today face hazy and polluted summer air. Transportation is the leading reason for our state’s air pollution crisis, so it’s critical we find solutions within this sector. Better public transportation options reduce the need for individual car trips, and that can make a real difference in the quality of the air — and quality of life — for everyone in our state,” said CoPIRG advocate Alex Simon.  

Seeking to improve service and build ridership on public transportation, SB22-180 initiates two significant investments in public transit. First, the bill will spend $30 million to improve service on Bustang, a regional bus system that connects cities and towns across the Front Range, mountains and plains. The additional funding will expand services – up to hourly for popular routes — through busy corridors along Interstate 25 and I-70, providing residents with additional transportation options. 

Additionally, the bill uses $28 million to fund a month of fare-free transit on RTD public transit and other transportation agencies across the state. By eliminating fares for the whole month of August in 2022 and 2023, the bill aims to increase bus and train ridership, reducing the need for individual car trips and the associated tailpipe emissions.  

The bill also seeks to reduce car dependency through a $10 million investment in the Main Streets program, which has already leveraged over $100 million for safety and quality-of-life improvements, making it easier for people to walk and bike along arterial streets, and leave their cars at home. 

“Colorado is a state that prides itself on a healthy, outdoor lifestyle. As air pollution continues to worsen, we feel the impacts on our health, economy and ability to recreate outside and enjoy our breathtaking state,” said Simon. “By investing in public transportation service and increasing ridership, this bill can both improve Colorado’s air quality while creating more and better travel options for all Coloradoans.”