Reduced Vehicle Miles from FasTracks Will Benefit Health and Environment of Colorado

Environment Colorado

DENVER—Leaders from both the conservation and public health communities met today to highlight the wide range of benefits that FasTracks will bring to the Denver Metro area. A comprehensive transit system is a key component to achieving a more livable, sustainable Denver Metro area as the region adds nearly a million more people over the next 20 years. FasTracks will encourage development concentrated around transit stations, promote the conservation of open space, reduce congestion on our roads and benefit air quality by reducing the number of cars on the road.

“There is a compelling new argument in favor of FasTracks as studies have shown time spent in traffic may increase the risk of heart attacks among susceptible individuals and that particulate pollution may be the trigger,” said Barbara Laing, Executive Director of the Colorado Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

“The average adult takes 20,000 breaths per day. The air we breathe should matter,” said Manisha Blair, Air Quality Coordinator for the American Lung Association of Colorado.

FasTracks will play an important role in protecting the public health from the harmful effects of air pollution from mobile sources. Next week commences the wintertime pollution season where particulate matter is the pollutant of concern for air quality. Particle pollution causes serious cardiovascular and respiratory risks as it can penetrate the body’s natural defenses and also contributes to wintertime visibility problems (i.e. brown cloud). In the summer months the Denver Metro area is most concerned with summertime smog pollution, or ground level ozone, which is associated with a number of respiratory problems, including asthma attacks, increased susceptibility to respiratory infections, and decreased lung function. As recently as the summer of 2003, the Denver area exceeded the health-based standard for ozone 50 times, including several times in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Denver’s air pollution problems will only be magnified by the area’s expected growth in population over the next 20 years. Along with this increase in population will be an increase in the number of cars on the road, a major source of the air pollution that threatens our health. FasTracks will not only provide alternative transportation options for the Denver area but will also encourage transit oriented development (TOD), which is the creation of compact, walkable communities centered around high quality transit allowing people to ride, walk or bike to work, entertainment and shopping. A recent study released by Environment Colorado and Livable Communities Support Center projected that FasTracks combined with TOD would reduce the number of vehicle miles driven by at least 2.5 million miles each day. This is five times the Denver Regional Council of Governments’ earlier estimate that only focused on direct replacement of cars on the road by trips on transit.

“Not only will FasTracks reduce the number of cars on the road as more people choose transit, but it will also encourage development around transit stations where people will not always have to get into their car to get to work, go out to eat or to shop,” said Environment Colorado Clean Air Advocate Sarah Niess.

“The Fastracks plan will help the environment in so many ways, including reducing sprawl, cleaning the air, reducing the need for oil development and helping global warming. This is a single program with many benefits for both our families’ health and the health of Colorado,” said Susan LeFever, Chapter Director for the Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter.

Research from other cities implementing similar transit systems indicate that rail service is a key component to increasing ridership and decreasing the number of miles people drive in their cars. A recent report by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute shows that cities with rail transit systems had 400 percent higher per capita transit ridership than cities with bus services only and had 21 percent lower per capita motor vehicle mileage.

“Experience from around the country proves that investments in public transportation, particularly rail systems like FasTracks, take cars off the road and reduce smog and particulate air pollution that harms the health of children, the elderly, and those with respiratory disease,” said Tim Sullivan, Regional Director with Environmental Defense.

FasTracks is a 12-year comprehensive transit plan that will build and operate 119 miles of high-speed rail lines and expand and improve bus service throughout the Denver Metro area. FasTracks will be Referendum 4A on the November 2 ballot.

Additional contacts:

Tim Sullivan, Environmental Defense, 303-440-4901
Manisha Blair, American Lung Association of Colorado, 303.388.4327
Susan LeFever, Sierra Club, 303-861-8819
Barbara Laing, Colorado Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, 303-298-8001