Transportation Measures Could Clear the Air in DC Region

Nineteen groups call for smart transportation


Cat Lazaroff 202-667-4500 x213

American Lung Association of DC · American Lung Association of Virginia · Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation · The Audubon Naturalist Society · Chesapeake Bay Foundation · Chesapeake Climate Action Network · Coalition for Smarter Growth · Earthjustice · Environmental Defense · Eyes of Paint Branch · Friends of the Earth · Norbeck Conservation Society · Piedmont Environmental Council · Sierra Club · Southern Environmental Law Center · Sustainable Montgomery · Virginia Bicycling Federation · Washington Area Bicyclist Association · Washington Regional Network for Livable Communities

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WASHINGTON, DC – Nineteen environmental, health and public interest groups today called for an array of “smart transportation” measures to help fight dirty air in the Washington DC area.

The measures include expanded bus service, eliminating free parking for federal employees, and financial incentives for people to use transit. The coalition also advocates a crackdown on dirty diesel engines, expanded bike paths, and boosted fuel efficiency for government fleets.

The groups are asking the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments to include these and other transportation controls in upcoming revisions to Clean Air Act implementation regulations for Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC. The regulations, known as State Implementation Plans or SIPs, are required by law to include all “reasonably available” measures for reducing air pollution, including transportation control measures (TCMs).

“A number of the measures we advocate in this letter were first proposed by the Council of Governments itself in 1979,” said Jennifer Kefer, an attorney at Earthjustice, a nonprofit public interest law firm that is urging support for TCMs. “The DC Region is more than two decades behind schedule in upgrading its transit system to fight dirty air.”

Michael Replogle, Transportation Director of the conservation group Environmental Defense, noted that, “The Washington DC region has demonstrated that it can cut traffic and pollution with best practice incentives, like employer-supported transit benefit programs, which today take tens of thousands of cars off area highways every workday. It’s time to make these incentives standard practice to better protect the health of our children from hazardous air pollution.”

“Air pollution is a serious health risk for all Washington-area residents,” said Melanie Mayock, Conservation Organizer with Sierra Club. ” We can make major air quality improvements by reforming our transportation system so more people can walk, bicycle, and take transit to work or errands.”

Cleaner air will also lead to cleaner water, said Robert M. Ferris, Vice President for Environmental Protection and Restoration at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

“Air pollution’s impact on water quality is all about gravity,” said Ferris. ” What goes up must come down and what’s coming down is a major contributor to the nitrogen pollution literally choking the life out of our streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.”

Nitrogen oxides are a major component of ground-level ozone or smog. Neal Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of the Audubon Naturalist Society, noted that figures from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency do not show any consistent signs of improvement in levels of ground-level ozone or smog over the past eight years. “It’s time for elected officials to take meaningful action to protect public health,” Fitzpatrick said.

“This effort will go a long way toward helping to reduce ground-level ozone in the District,” added Rolando Andrewn, Chief Executive Officer at the American Lung Association of DC.

Air pollution can be particularly damaging for people who exercise outdoors, noted Allen Muchnick, President of the Virginia Bicycling Federation. “Ironically, bicyclists, joggers, and skaters, whose travel generates no air pollution, are the most susceptible to the toxic emissions of motor vehicles,” said Muchnick.

Meanwhile, the potential to increase bicycle transportation in the Washington region is “enormous,” said Ellen Jones, Executive Director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. “About half of all trips to work or school can be biked in 40 minutes or less, and bike access to public transportation and ride-sharing lots takes less than 15 minutes for nearly everyone,” Jones said.

For those who prefer to take mass transit, the groups are urging the adoption of newer and better transportation alternatives, along with steps to reverse the decline in some sectors, such as bus service in the District.

“We could have better bus service today by reinstating dedicated bus lanes in DC and elsewhere,” said Cheryl Cort, Executive Director of the Washington Regional Network for Livable Communities. “Exclusive bus lanes, and investment in new buses and better service, is what will make more people want to ride the bus and immediately address our air quality crisis.”

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The nineteen groups that have signed on to the letter include:

American Lung Association of DC (Contact Rolando Andrewn, Chief Executive Officer, 202-682-5864)

American Lung Association of VA (Contact Donna Reynolds, Director of Community Relations, 804-267-1900 x 125)

Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation (Contact John Bennett, President, 703-522-4318)

Audubon Naturalist Society (Contact Neal Fitzpatrick, Executive Director, 301-652-9188 x 34)

Chesapeake Bay Foundation (Contact Lee Epstein, 410-268-8816 x 2161 or 301-261-2350)

Chesapeake Climate Action Network (Contact Mike Tidwell, Executive Director, 301-920-1644)

Coalition for Smarter Growth (Contact Stewart Schwartz, executive director, 202-588-5570)

Earthjustice (Contact Jennifer Kefer, 202-667-4500 x 208)

Environmental Defense (Contact Michael Replogle, Transportation Director, 202-387-3500)

Eyes of Paint Branch (Contact Robert Ferraro, President, 301-890-1998)

Friends of the Earth (Contact Chris Weiss, Director, D.C. Programs, 202-783-7400 x120)

Norbeck Conservation Society (Contact David Hamod, President, 301-924-4999)

Piedmont Environmental Council (Contact Christopher Miller, President, 540-347-2334)

Sierra Club (Contact Melanie Mayock, Conservation Organizer, 703-312-0533 x110)

Southern Environmental Law Center (Contact Trip Pollard, Land and Community Project Leader, 434-977-4090)

Sustainable Montgomery (Contact Jim Fary, Coordinator, 301.460.1561)

Virginia Bicycling Federation (Contact Allen Muchnick, President, 703-271-0895)

Washington Area Bicyclist Association (Contact Ellen Jones, Executive Director, 202-628-2500)

Washington Regional Network for Livable Communities (Contact Cheryl Cort, Executive Director, 202-667-5445)

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