The Climate Action Task Force released its report to “propel Denver forward in climate action equitably” in early July. The task force outlined an ambitious sets of goals, along with recommended actions and revenue sources over the next decade. Among the possible revenue sources are a 0.25% sales and use tax (to be voted on by City Council Monday), vehicle efficiency fee, commercial parking lot fee, and increased parking meter fee.
Here is the full report.
Read more about about the task force report, the decision before City Council on Monday, and my reactions below.
The 0.25% sales and use tax would account for nearly half of the annual funding needed to implement the task force’s phase 1 (2021-2022) recommended actions. If City Council or Denver residents vote against it, the task force’s recommendations would be weakened severely if not nullified. If the sales and use tax is passed (as I hope), there must be careful oversight of the $56 million annually directed toward individual and business incentives in phase 1. Those funds must be allocated purposefully to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create a more equitable Denver.
The task force does not allocate funding for transportation infrastructure in phase 1. This is disappointing but understandable given current economic realities and the scope of the task (it remains to be seen whether these revenue sources will be sufficient to pay for infrastructure in the subsequent phases - I am doubtful). Federal funding of transit needs to be more robust. Likewise, the state should eliminate the restrictions it has placed on RTD’s ability to generate additional revenue.
Despite the lack of infrastructure funding, public transit stands to benefit from the task force’s phase 1 recommendations:
Updating the zoning code to allow for increased affordable housing and density and adjustments to parking restrictions could put more residents near transit.
The revenue-generating mechanisms could encourage alternative mobility options to single-occupancy vehicles. Current pricing incentivizes frequent car usage while failing to account for the real costs of driving, but right-sizing it would make walking, biking, and riding transit more appealing because they would be lower cost options. Of course, these benefits will only be realized if RTD provides frequent service. It is necessary now, and it will be necessary then.
Reallocating street spaces was identified as a low-cost, high-impact solution. What does this mean for transit? More transit-only lanes and priority signals that allow for faster service. This is an achievable goal even without additional infrastructure funding.
If the city is decisive in implementing the task force’s suggestions, it would be a major win for Denver residents. Doing so could also set the stage for enhanced public transit in the region. How? It would model transit-beneficial policies and stress the importance of local financial investment. Yes, RTD needs to run more frequent service, but there also must be demand; municipalities can create the conditions for higher demand.