Earth Day is approaching on April 22 and, since transportation is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution in the Denver metro area, we talked to Sloan’s Lake resident Travis Madsen, Transportation Program Director from the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), to get some tips to make transportation choices more environmentally friendly.
Before talking about individual transportation choices, however, Madsen counseled that being engaged politically is one of the most important things residents can do to change transportation options on a systemic scale. Madsen suggests “voting for candidates for office that promise to take action to improve our clean transportation options. That includes everything from increasing the frequency and quality of transit service, building more bike lanes, particularly protected bike lanes, and supporting the expansion of more clean mobility options. Micromobility, EV bike shares, and more places for people to plug in electric vehicles. A lot of the stuff we need to do is the responsibility of candidates for office, city council, mayor, state legislature, governor. People should take a look at what their representatives stand for and vote for people that are going to do good things. And tell your elected officials what you want.”
In terms of individual choices, Madsen mentioned that Northside residents are lucky to live close to a lot of places that people want to visit and we have more options to get around, as compared to people that live farther out in the suburbs. As an example, Madsen used his electric bike and took the Cherry Creek trail to a meeting on the other side of town. His family recently sold their second car and replaced it with an e-bike. With more bike lanes becoming accessible, biking is a transportation option he likes.
Madsen encourages residents to experiment with different sustainable transportation options to see what might be a fit. For example, you can rent e-bikes from the Lime or Lyft apps. There is also a car sharing platform called Turo where you can rent an electric vehicle for a day or longer. To experiment with the car-lite lifestyle, car sharing platforms like Free2Move are great as well, and the ride hailing service Lyft has started deploying a fleet of electric Kia Niros. Madsen also said that mass transit is a great option, and there is currently a bill in the state legislature that would make transit fares free for the month of August, which would make it a great time to try out RTD for those who haven’t before.
Madsen’s family recently purchased a Nissan Leaf, a fully electric vehicle, as their primary car. They have not only appreciated the environmental benefits, but it’s also saving them an average of about $1000 a year versus their former gas powered car. “Reasons to buy an EV are reducing air pollution and reducing climate change, but I think people really notice the money saving benefits too.” With car manufacturers coming out with more electric models, consumers shopping for a new car will only have more EV options in the future.
With regards to charging options when driving, Madsen noted that things will only get better, with a lot of federal and state dollars allocated toward installing more charging stations throughout Denver and the rest of the state. He also mentioned EV owners can use alternatives like the train to Glenwood Springs, CDOT “Bustang” buses, or renting a car for long distance trips.
When asked about the most environmentally friendly way to get around, Madsen said that “walking is at the top of the list.” He spends a lot of time thinking about how we can build our city to “make it easy for people to live close to places they want to go and get there on foot. You can see how expensive it is to buy a residence close to downtown. Those options are in really high demand. One of the things I see elected officials as being responsible for is improving the availability of affordable housing that is in locations where you can go to places like restaurants, or coffee shops without having to travel a long way.” Madsen mentioned that lots of people want to walk to places like 32nd and Lowell. He said that building more housing that lets people walk and take short bike rides to the places they need and want is the greenest thing we can do for transportation. He mentioned the increase in gentle density, like the recent zoning changes allowing ADUs in more North Denver neighborhoods, is a great start. He’d love to see the giant and often empty parking lots around some of the stadiums turned into more dense neighborhoods, and also mentioned that some of the mid-rise and high rise residential buildings with commercial use on the bottom such as those in the RiNo neighborhood are a good example of more environmentally friendly land use.