Statement: Joint Budget Committee should invest big in clean air strategies

Media Contacts


On Tuesday, Colorado’s Joint Budget Committee heard public testimony on Colorado’s FY22-23 budget. 

CoPIRG Executive Director, Danny Katz, provided the following testimony:

Thank you members of the Joint Budget Committee for the opportunity to speak. I’m here to voice CoPIRG’s support for big investments in air quality measures related to our transportation system. 

We can’t afford the kind of air pollution we experienced along the Front Range last summer. The ozone pollution we produce locally is a major factor in the dirty air days that negatively impact our health and our Colorado outdoor way of life. 

Our dirty air problems warrant big investments from the legislature.  

One significant local contributor to ozone is that we too heavily rely on gas and diesel-powered vehicles to complete every trip. We need to ensure people have a lot more clean travel options. 

In his budget proposal, Governor Polis laid out a number of great air quality proposals. I’m here to show our support and to say you could go even bigger. 

There are five pieces I want to highlight:

  • Cleaner Trucks – In the Denver area, Medium and Heavy Duty Vehicles account for 2% of the vehicle miles-traveled but 24% of the NOx emissions. We support investing dollars to retire and replace older, diesel trucks, ideally with clean electric-powered vehicles. 
  • E-bikes – In the Denver metro region, nearly half the trips people complete are less than 3 miles. These trips are well within the range of electric-powered and electric-assist bikes and we support investments to expand access to e-bikes so more people can replace trips in their car with this cleaner option.
  • Main Streets – Our main streets are the heart of our communities. But too often people feel unsafe accessing them by walking, biking, rolling or transit. CDOT’s Main Streets program is tackling this main street by main street with targeted investments in infrastructure that makes streets safer and more people-friendly. We support investing dollars in the Main Streets program to expand the options that people have to access our main street without driving every time.
  • Electric School Buses – Diesel exhaust is a known carcinogen but everyday kids on school buses are exposed to dirty diesel emissions. Air pollution inside a school bus can be up to 12 times higher than ambient levels. We fully support the Governor’s proposed robust investment in electric school buses. Going big ensures we not only cut the diesel emission exposure for thousands of kids but it also gives us a chance to see economy of scale benefits in implementation as well as accelerate cost savings to school districts by cutting vehicle fuel and maintenance costs. 
  • Fare-Free Transit – During ozone alert days, which covered most of last summer, the air is so unhealthy that public health agencies ask the public to avoid trips via gas-powered vehicles. Without options, it is difficult for people to follow those recommendations. One option that holds a lot of potential is investing dollars to make transit fare free. That removes a barrier to try transit. A review of discounted transit fare programs in other regions found that for every 10% decrease in ticket prices, ridership grows by 2-5% in the short-term and 6-9% in the long-term, which for an agency as large as RTD, means a lot of trips. One key aspect of this proposal is that it must be consistent – not every other day. It also should be as long lasting as possible. We recommend at a minimum three months, which corresponds with the heart of the ozone season. We also recommend including support to expand transit service so buses come more frequently and provide a more reliable option. 

In this budget, please invest big in air quality measures. 

Thank you for your time and I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.