OKLAHOMA CITY – As summer begins, officials in central Oklahoma will be closely monitoring air quality to try and maintain compliance with the Clean Air Act. Hot temperatures, calm winds and sunshine with no cloud cover are the ingredients for an ozone alert day in which citizens are asked to do their part to keep pollution down.
Motor vehicles are a prime contributor to air pollution. One of the best ways to improve air quality is to get people out of their single-passenger cars and into carpools and public transportation.
In lieu of offering bus rides free on ozone alert days, this year Metro Transit will be offering free rides on the third Friday of each month during ozone alert season, June through September. Any time on June 17, July 15, August 19 or September 16, on any route in Oklahoma City, METRO Transit bus rides are free for everyone.
Last year, central Oklahoma had four ozone alert and free ride days. With four free ride days planned during ozone season this year, METRO Transit doesn’t think the switch to once monthly should significantly impact the number of free ride days.
“Ozone alert days are not declared until the day before and that doesn’t allow citizens much advance notification to plan their bus trip,” said Michael Scroggins, public information manager for METRO Transit. “We hope that by advance scheduling the free ride days during ozone alert season, more people can plan ahead and better understand air quality issues facing Oklahomans.“
Each METRO Transit bus has the potential to take 35 cars off the road, greatly reducing carbon dioxide emissions. According to the American Public Transportation Association, for every mile traveled on public transit, riders will produce 95 percent less carbon dioxide than driving.
Under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to set air quality standards. The ozone standard provides protection for children and at-risk populations from pollution and ozone related health effects such as asthma and emphysema. Right now, Oklahoma is within those guidelines, but only marginally.
Compliance with the Clean Air standards is not only beneficial for the health of the community, it also has a positive impact on businesses and economic development. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, consequences of non attainment can result in increased gas prices, mandatory emissions offsetting, more strict building permits and loss of federal transportation funding.
“We don’t expect people who drive their own vehicle every day to quit cold turkey,” said Scroggins. “We know the current bus system won’t work for everyone’s needs. But if people try it, even if it’s just taking their family on a trip to the zoo, they’ll think differently about public transportation in Oklahoma City. Research shows that people who have tried Metro Transit have a better perception of the bus than people who haven’t. It’s safe, reliable and clean. If we can introduce more people to the bus and start to change perceptions now, in the future, we will have a cleaner environment and a more robust system.”
In addition to free rides on the third Friday, METRO Transit will be partnering with local businesses and organizations to offer incentives for people who ride the bus such as free passes to the YMCA, discounts to Habitat for Humanity’s Renovation Station, coupons to Buy For Less and discounts to local attractions and restaurants.
“Not only is public transportation beneficial for the environment, it’s good for your wallet,” said Scroggins. “The bus is an economical alternative to the expense of owning and operating a car. And with gas prices on the rise, now is a perfect time to try the bus.”
AAA recently released a report revealing a 3.4 percent rise in the yearly costs to own and operate a vehicle in the U.S. According to the report, notable increases in gas, tires and depreciation drove up the average costs for sedans to $8,776 yearly. An unlimited 30-day pass on METRO Transit costs $50.
To learn more about METRO Transit and view bus schedules and routes, visit gometro.org or call (405) 235-RIDE (7433) for personal assistance from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. To learn more about carpooling or to be matched with someone in your area, visit www.getaroundok.com.