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North Front Range Transportation and Air Quality Planning Council Meeting 11/2/23

by Matthew Liberati

For more information see the full notes document here.*


View the meeting agenda and packet.


A video recording of the meeting is available here.


The North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization covers 15 local governments in Northern Colorado. Each participating local government chooses an elected official to serve as its representative on the Planning Council. In addition, there is a representative from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Air Pollution Control Division and the Transportation Commission of Colorado. The Council allows local officials to respond more effectively to regional and state transportation and transportation-related air quality issues and needs. (Source https://nfrmpo.org/planning-council/MPO)


The Executive Committee has three members: the Chair, Vice Chair, and Past Chair. The Executive Committee is responsible for direct guidance to the Executive Director, sets agendas and speaks for the entire Planning Council on specific issues/direction with consensus from the Council.


Public Comment


A commenter said there is not being enough done to combat ozone pollution and had questions about local air quality monitoring.


Regional Air Quality Council (RAQC) Lawn and Garden Equipment Electrification receives funds

$2 million is available for local governments in 2023/24 to purchase equipment. Most of the money has been allocated. For 2024, on the commercial side $3,000 is available per operator and $120,000 is available in total. The residential program has been allocated $150,000 and individuals can be given $75–150 vouchers. The state is offering 30% point-of-sale discounts during 2024-2026.


Commissioner James of Weld County asked about enforcement of potential bans on gas-powered, small (under 10 HP) lawn equipment. The RAQC is interested in educating vs. punishing violators.


A letter will be sent to Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC)


A letter has been drafted from the group to the AQCC. Major points include:

  • Alternative proposals should not be addressed without adequate engagement.

  • Any Motor Vehicle Emission Budget changes should allow for 45 days of evaluation and comment.

  • How are larger contributions to ozone levels from background levels, natural sources and other sources outside of Coloardo’s authority and ability to control going to be addressed?

  • Clarifications are needed around entities impacted, point of sale implementing authority, and realistic timeline adjustments around proposals to regulate lawn and garden equipment.


Chair James asked and received a general head nod of support to the letter.


RideNoCo Update aims for one source for riders

The vision of RideNoCo is to develop a single coordinated system that schedules rides across multiple providers with seamless and accessible options for users. So far, a website www.rideno.co and call center 970-514-3636 have been developed and trip discovery has been improved. The next phase is to have a single trip scheduling platform combining data from multiple transportation providers for users.


Common transportation gap comments from users include:

  • Transportation between major regions (Windsor, Greeley, Fort Collins, Loveland)

  • Transportation to medical appointments in Denver

  • Availability and affordability in rural areas

  • Affordable and reliable wheelchair accessible transportation


Johnstown Mayor Troy Mellon questioned whether Via Mobility fully connects into this service. Fort Collins Council Member Canonico asked about transportation gaps for wheelchair users. There are some programs available but cost, availability and reliability continue to be issues.


Colorado Department of Transportation Bustang (Bus) aims to double available trips between Denver and Fort Collins; Overall presentation given by Paul DesRocher Director Division of Transit and Rail CDOT


Senate Bill 180 provided funding to expand bus routes. In 2021 service on the Bustang bus route between Denver and Fort Collins consisted of 6 daily round trips on weekdays and 2 daily round trips on weekends. By 2024 the plans are to have 12-13 daily round trips on weekdays and 6 daily round trips on weekends.


During the month of September 360 total Bustang trips were scheduled between Fort Collins and Denver. Driver shortages caused 60 of those trips (over 16%} to be canceled. Industry standards are to have 98% of scheduled trips actually operate.


What is being done to combat the driver shortage and route cancellation issues? https://youtu.be/GdGdU2eaTg4?feature=shared&t=3952


Paul explained that there is no immediate solution. The interim solution is to reduce trips via the 603 and 611 – the earliest (5:40 a.m.) and latest (10:30 a.m.) departing trip from Fort Collins, and the 616 leaving Denver to Fort Collins at 7:30 p.m. To help recruit drivers, the driver hourly rate is being increased by $3, which will make it the second highest rate in Colorado. The marketing budget is being increased to help with advertising positions.


Bus service alerts https://ridebustang.com/transport-bus-alerts/ are being publicized in greater detail. A passenger needs to sign up to receive the alert. Information is also being pushed to the passenger info display systems (PIDS). The new Request for Proposal for service, starting Oct. 1, 2024, will include incentives to operate the routes at the expected 98% operational trip level with penalties for failing to meet operational expectations. Finally, bus operational training programs are being developed internally at CDOT based on the successful snow plow operator program which helped to increase the pipeline of operators.


Johnstown Mayor Troy Mellon asked why the North line was the only line that had service disruptions in September. CDOT reps said their contractor explained that different lines are serviced by different garages. Mayor Mellon also asked about a guaranteed ride home program. No such program exists across the entire route area. CDOT reps said the agency is committed to investigating the issue. Fort Collins Council Member Canonico asked if the morning routes are being staffed by individuals local to the Northern Colorado area. CDOT will work with the contractor to find out an answer to the question. A council member asked about adding QR codes to stations with updated route information. CDOT commented that is something they are working on in combination with having QR codes on routes and at stations for customers to give feedback.


Vehicle funded for Weld County 60+ Ride

A vehicle purchase was proposed for the Weld County 60+ Ride Program with $50,000 in regional funding and $12,000 in local Weld county funding from FY24 funds. Johnstown Mayor Troy Mellon asked about the long-term efficiency of having mobility services from multiple providers in the region. The motion to fund the vehicle purchase passed unanimously.

Other items

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will require reformulated gasoline standard fuel to be used in the summer months starting in 2024. This will increase gas costs during the summer months.

  • Route 14 between I-25 and Ault will have a safety study due to increased accidents and fatalities along the corridor.


Questions

Will there be long term passenger impacts from the route cancellations with staffing shortages on Bustang?


How much will the cost for fuel increase during the summer months when reformulated gasoline must be used?

Next meeting

December 7 at 6 p.m. Eaton, CO



*Citizen Observers further the commitment of the League of Women Voters to its principle of Citizens Right to Know, however, we are not acting as journalists. Omissions and errors are possible. It is assumed that users of this information are responsible for their own fact-checking. This could include contacting a government clerk, conversing with an elected official or staff, and/or asking us to speak to the Observer who attended.

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