CoPIRG launches #CleanAirColorado campaign to push for more action to tackle dirty air days

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Local, state and federal decision makers need to collaborate more closely to significantly expand clean travel options.


DENVER: From singers to athletes, businesses to churches, CoPIRG launched the #CleanAirColorado campaign to elevate support for more action to ensure the Front Range does not see a repeat of this summer’s record-breaking harmful air days. 

At the event, CoPIRG called on local, state, and federal decision makers to work more closely together to significantly expand clean travel options, which would tackle one of the largest contributing factors to our dirty air days – gas and diesel-powered vehicles.

“Another day, another ozone alert, and another set of warnings to find alternatives to driving a gas or diesel vehicle,” said Danny Katz, executive director of CoPIRG. “But those warnings won’t be effective and we won’t be able to avoid another summer like this, if we don’t significantly expand the options people have to get around without a gas car. We need to make it easier to switch to a cleaner electric-powered car, truck or bike, or complete more trips by walking, biking, rolling, riding transit or via telework.”  

On Thursday, the Denver Region and North Front Range set a record for most ozone action alerts in a single season. Ground-level ozone pollution is a particularly harmful form of pollution that not only damages lungs but can also exacerbate cardiovascular diseases and stroke. 

Transportation is one of the two largest contributors to ozone pollution in the Front Range, as well as the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, which fuel the hotter, drier, more extreme fire seasons that adds additional smoke to our already ozone polluted skies.  

In July, the region missed an EPA deadline for reducing ozone pollution, an air quality deadline the region has failed to meet for over a decade. 

“As Coloradans, we cannot afford another summer like this. We cannot continue to miss air quality standards. When the smoke alarm is going off, we have to act. We have to give people better travel options and we need to make big strides before next summer,” said Katz.   

At the event, CoPIRG unveiled a set of strategies over the next nine months that could significantly expand clean travel options for Coloradans along the Front Range. A more detailed breakdown of each option below can be found here. 

Actions that could have an impact headed into the summer of 2022:

  • Increase transit service so more routes come every 15 minutes or less. 
  • Give people an e-bike in exchange for their gas-powered vehicle.
  • Expand electric vehicle car share programs. 
  • Upgrade every main street to be walkable and people friendly.
  • Expand micromobility programs like bike share and e-scooters to every city in the region.
  • Mail everyone living in a nonattainment area a bus pass.
  • Build it right the first time so every neighborhood has travel options including new developments that are built “EV ready” and have clean travel options to complete trips. 
  • Focus transit support and additional options on the largest employers in the region. 
  • Add broadband and wifi capabilities in large buildings across the region to expand teleworking.
  • Convert arterial lanes in population centers to bus only lanes leading up to and during ozone alerts.

Actions that need to be taken now but would have an important impact in the longer-term: 

  • Speed up the roll-out of daily bus rapid transit.
  • Adopt clean truck standards.
  • Adopt new transportation guidelines to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

CoPIRG highlighted that Colorado has made some meaningful progress toward expanding clean travel options:

“In the last few years, we’ve seen good policies approved and pilot projects rolled out. But the urgency of our air pollution problem requires a significant increase in the clean travel options people have soon. That is going to take all levels of government to work more closely to weave together a set of strategies that fuel each other. No one entity or policy will solve this problem. We need unprecedented collaboration and focus to clean up our air,” said Katz. 

Transit highlights the importance of collaboration. RTD and other transit agencies need to use the COVID money they have to ramp up service. But these dollars are limited and local, state, and federal governments need to find additional money to see big improvements. In addition, CDOT, local governments and regional planning entities like DRCOG need to accelerate development and construction of bus rapid transit so the increased service is fast and reliable and they need to ramp up the Main Streets program and support sidewalks, crossings and bike infrastructure that can safely get people to and from transit stops and their final destinations. Local governments also need to do a better job of ensuring developments support transit and have clean travel options not barriers.   

CoPIRG’s new campaign website is CoPIRG staff will be working in the coming weeks and months to mobilize the public via social media using the hashtag #CleanAirColorado as well as writing and calling their decision makers.