The climate crisis is here. And transportation is a huge player.

This piece is by Naomi Amaha (@njamaha) and Piep van Heuven (@00piep), steering committee members for the Denver Streets Partnership and members of the Climate Action Task Force. 

On July 6th, the City of Denver’s Climate Action Task Force (Task Force) released its recommendations on how the City of Denver can lead the country in adopting policies, strategies, and funding sources to achieve zero emissions by 2040.  

The recommendations were presented to the Safety Committee on Wednesday, July 15 by various members of the Task Force. The presentation also included an ask to send the voters in Denver a .25% sales and use tax increase to fund the recommendations. 

The report culminates a five-month process of research, assessment, community engagement, and consensus-building. The Denver Streets Partnership and Bicycle Colorado were two of the 25 organizations represented on the Task Force, including representatives from sectors such as real estate, transportation, energy, environment, youth, and community. 

Over 1000 hours, we developed, sought feedback, refined the recommendations, and presented it to the broader Task Force for consensus. 

As the co-leads of the Transportation workgroup within the Task Force, our charge was clear: work with leaders and subject matter experts to identify policy, program and incentive opportunities to meet the overarching goal of the task force: 

Denver will be a model for the nation and world by working urgently to create, pass, and implement bold policies that achieve 40% greenhouse gas emission decrease communitywide by 2025, 60% by 2030, and 100% by 2040, using a 2005 baseline, centering and investing in frontline communities, and inspiring people in our city to embrace sustainability as a value.

What we learned throughout the process was a game-changer: transportation is a huge player in the fight against climate change. To date, transportation is the second-largest source of emissions in Denver, behind buildings and homes. Additionally, nearly 3 out of 4 Denverites drive alone to work. Denver has one of the highest single occupancy vehicle (SOV) commute rates in the nation (73%). These stats are top of mind for many transportation advocates, however, when connecting these facts back to the notion of transportation’s role in climate change, we knew we had to be bold, double down on investing in a green transportation system, and design the framework to do so by 2030.

We also knew there were solutions that advocates have championed that could help guide our approach, especially as we developed a framework centered in equity and addressing the inequities in the existing transportation system. 

To achieve the goals outlined by the Task Force, Denver must make green transportation options the easy, obvious, and accessible choice. The recommendations below capture the overarching framework of how to do so: 

  • Prioritize transit. Frequent, affordable citywide bus service and a Bus Rapid Transit system to move more people efficiently, paired with congestion mitigation and market-rate parking. 
  • Fewer polluting trips. Citywide electric vehicle charging network and electric fleets paired with more telecommuting, developer and employer TDM plans and incentives, and density in housing.
  • Smaller and smarter. Citywide micromobility options paired with off-peak freight delivery and smaller delivery vehicles. 
  • Completed, connected no-carbon networks. Fully built out bike/ped and car-free street networks for next generation mobility devices paired with free citywide bikeshare and e-bike incentives. 

We also have a suite of recommendations aimed at building electric vehicle infrastructure and moving Denverites toward using zero-emission vehicles. 

Embedded in this overarching framework are numerous strategies, policy changes, and ideas for incentives and programs that will reduce emissions, expand access and opportunity, lower barriers to engage in society, and increase workforce opportunities. 

The recommendations also outline opportunities to raise the revenue needed to fund this work while also driving the behavior changes required to reduce the number of single-occupancy trips taken in Denver.  The Task Force noted the equity consideration that must be addressed when assessing and implementing such revenue sources. 

Lastly, the recommendations speak to opportunities to invest in approaches to address climate change while providing recovery opportunities due to the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on the community. 

Taking the bold steps outlined within the Task Force’s report’s Denver has the potential not only to turn the tide of climate change but to impact the lives of people in Denver through increased opportunity for jobs, education, and recreation. But action must happen and must happen quickly. 

We invite you to read the executive and full report, which can be found here, and follow the work of Denver’s new Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency (CASR). The CASR office will lead efforts to combat climate change through policy and planning efforts as well as programs and services that reduce our carbon footprint and advance sustainability in business and residential communities.  

We also encourage you to reach out to your City Council member to let them know you support immediate, substantive action to alleviate Denver’s climate change impacts. Lastly, we encourage you to support the proposed sales tax measure that is being considered for referral by the Denver City Council to the November ballot. 

The Climate Crisis is here, but we have the opportunity to be informed and act and lend our voices to this movement. 

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