Colorado lawmakers try again to reduce traffic emissions with a ‘clean commute’ bill that favors incentives over penalties

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
A not insignificant number of SUVs are trapped in I-70 traffic through north Denver. Sept. 24, 2021.

After state health officials last year gutted, then killed, a proposed rule that would have required large employers to encourage non-car commuting, two key state lawmakers will introduce a bill this session with largely the same goal.

“To meet our climate goals in Colorado, we cannot just rely on electrification,” said state Sen. Faith Winter, a Westminster Democrat, referring to the state’s push for electric vehicles. “We also have to reduce vehicle miles traveled and reduce the number of single-occupancy vehicle trips. And this is one of the many ways we can do that.”

The bill, which Winter said she is drafting with state Rep. Matt Gray, D-Broomfield, will take a different approach. The state rule would have penalized employers that did not meet certain targets, which led to pushback from business groups. Winter’s bill will instead incentivize shifts toward carpooling, telecommuting, and public transit.

“We want to partner with the business community,” Winter said at an event this week hosted by Louisville-based Commuting Solutions.

Winter said the bill isn’t yet written, and she doesn’t yet know if it will raise its own funding stream for the incentives — or exactly how those incentives could be structured. It will also cover state employees, Winter said, and will consider the needs of low-income workers.

Winter and Gray are also carrying a bill that would allow cyclists to roll through stop signs. Gov. Jared Polis’ budget proposal includes money to make public transit free during the 2022 ozone season. And the state Transportation Commission in December approved a rule that could divert billions of dollars to clean transportation in the coming decades.

The legislative session starts Jan. 12.