Lone Tree City Council unanimously approved a resolution in support of zero fare transit in August for the Regional Transportation District (RTD) during its July 19 meeting, and city staff and …
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Lone Tree City Council unanimously approved a resolution in support of zero fare transit in August for the Regional Transportation District (RTD) during its July 19 meeting, and city staff and council members spoke about the need to get the word out to residents.
“This is a really exciting program. It’s something that I hope we can communicate out and really start to see a lot of this transit use come back, and I know this resolution was something of interest,” said Justin Schmitz, the director of public works and mobility who presented the resolution.
An RTD bus at the Adams County Justice Center parking lot, when the bus service went to the stop in 2020.
For the month of August, residents do not have to pay fares to ride the RTD as part of the statewide initiative, “Zero Fare for Better Air,” that aims to reduce ground level ozone by increasing use of public transit, according to RTD’s website.
The initiative was made possible through Senate Bill 22-180, “Programs to Reduce Ozone Through Increased Transit,” which passed in May.
The bill created an ozone season transit grant program, that is funded at $28 million, in the Colorado Energy Office. The office can provide grants of up to $3 million to transit associations and $11 million to the RTD each year. The program is set to repeal July 1, 2024.
RTD can use the grant funding to replace farebox revenue, to pay for other program expenses and to cover up to 80% of the costs of providing at least 30 days of free transit on all RTD services, according to the bill.
A goal of the grant program is for the RTD and transit associations to provide free transit services for at least 30 days during ozone season in an effort to reduce the level of ozone pollution in Colorado. Ozone season runs from June 1 through August 31 each year, as defined in the bill.
Ozone pollution continues to be an issue in Colorado. The American Lung Association, which analyzes data from official air quality monitors to create a “State of the Air” report, gave Douglas County an “F” grade on its 2022 report card for high ozone days and a “D” for particle pollution.
On July 22, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Regional Air Quality Council issued an “Ozone Action Day Alert” for the Front Range Urban Corridor from Douglas County north to Larimer and Weld counties, including the Denver to Boulder area, Fort Collins and Greeley, according to the department’s website. Hot and stagnant conditions allowed ozone concentrations to reach levels that are unhealthy for sensitive groups, according to the website.
The EPA looks at three-year averages when deciding if a metro area is "out of attainment" for its air pollution standards, and Colorado's ozone …
According to the Colorado Energy Office’s website, “Reducing vehicle traffic by encouraging the use of public transit is one key strategy to help reduce ozone-forming emissions and ground level ozone during the summer months.”
However, transit ridership has yet to return to its pre-pandemic levels. “Encouraging more people to ride transit is one essential strategy to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution,” the office’s website stated.
“Obviously, there's a lot of great goals here. Some of the big ones that they talked about in the community is this will allow people to save money, improve air quality, and most importantly, save money on gas, which I think we’d all like to do right now,” Schmitz said.
Councilmember Marissa Harmon said she wants to make sure the city is advertising the program to residents as much as possible.
Mayor Jackie Millet agreed, saying, “It is an important issue, and I’m going to challenge all of us to do something on transit.”
Millet said a challenge could be taking public transit to Greenwood Village for lunch, prompting some at the meeting to laugh.
Laughter from council members and others in the room continued as she said she thinks the City of Lone Tree should challenge the City of Greenwood Village to do an exchange program and see how many people they can get on the light rail to visit the other city for lunch.
Millet also said she shared information about the program with a number of the city’s large employers, such as at Sky Ridge Medical Center and Kiewit.
“Any creative way that any of you in this room, in any capacity that you serve this region, because we all are servants of this region — getting this word out and through your various channels would be greatly appreciated,” Millet said.
Those interested in learning more about the RTD zero fare program can visit: bit.ly/ZeroFareRTD.
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