Organization: Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG)
Location: Denver, CO
*Note: The following answers have been summarized from an interview with Robert Spotts from DRCOG
What sparked your interest in getting involved with Clean Cities?
Clean Cities appealed to me both professionally and personally regarding clean transportation. Vehicles and transportation are a major source of air pollution, and the best strategy, in my opinion, is to create and adopt cleaner vehicles to reduce emissions. At DRCOG, we do a lot to provide alternative modes of transportation, whether that be walking, biking, transit, or others, but we don’t focus much on vehicle side of transportation. While we are more in-tune with the built-in environment and providing transportation demand options, we do support the funding of clean fleets through the Regional Air Quality Council (RAQC) and the Charge Ahead Colorado Grant and the Alt Fuels Colorado Grant. Our lack of vehicle knowledge is one of the reasons why DMCC is such a great resource and partner because you focus on EVs and other alternative fuel vehicles to transition people away from their combustion engine vehicles. Being involved with DMCC has been a great two-way street that keeps me connected to other board members more directly involved in the vehicle side of transportation. It has been very educational for me and has helped me stay up to date in the transportation field.
Metro Vision seems to be an important guiding force for DRCOG, can you elaborate on what its purpose is? How does Metro Vision align with DRCOG’s mission?
The Denver region is very large and diverse. It stretches from the mountains to the eastern plains and contains over 50 communities, resulting in a wide spectrum of people and opinions. Metro Vision is a shared goal between these communities for the future of the Denver region and was brainstormed as a collaborative effort and voted on unanimously. At its most basic level, Metro Vision is a list of priorities, goals, and things we want to happen – lots of these focus on cleaner air and reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. DRCOG focuses on land use for transportation options, carpooling resources, and making bike and pedestrian facilities better and more accessible.
DRCOG’s mission is to provide support and funding for transportation and mobility to aid growth and development of communities, but we also have lots of federal requirements built into our work. In terms of air quality, we have an ozone issue here in Denver and part of our job is to prove we aren’t exceeding emissions budgets or making ozone worse with transportation. As a council of governments, people come to the table to bridge cross-jurisdictional issues and effectively dissolve borders. GHG emissions are not regional problems, they’re global, and we need communities and governments to work together if we want to solve them.
How is DRCOG helping to advance the clean transportation space in Colorado? What is your favorite accomplishment from 2020?
DRCOG has been supporting RAQC programs involving clean fuels for a decade now, and that’s in context of having limited transportation funds. The transportation sector hasn’t had large increases in funding, and as the population grows and more users fill the region, there are limited resources available to deal with mobility issues that arise. The DRCOG board has carved off a chunk of money to support transportation programs for cleaner vehicles in the Denver region with our new long-range transportation plan. The plan took 2 years to develop and is a big partnership between all our member governments and larger partners like the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Regional Transportation District (RTD). The effort has taken the clean transportation horizon all the way out to 2050 in order to focus on implementation of all our ideas. As a shared aspirational plan through Metro Vision, the 2050 transportation plan goes one step further toward implementing our vision and is a great accomplishment. It is the most progressive, thoughtful plan we have ever produced and is a culmination of a lot of hard work from DRCOG and our partners. The plan includes and promotes bus rapid transit (BRT) corridors and active transportation, and the goal is to provide alternate modes of transportation to get people out of single occupancy vehicles, reduce miles traveled, and hopefully improve quality of life.
What are DRCOG’s sustainability goals for 2021? What can DMCC do to support your efforts?
Right now, we are focused on the work of the State’s greenhouse gas reduction goals and how we can support those. The plan outlines extremely aggressive and challenging goals that will be difficult to achieve and will require outside the box, creative thinking. As we focus on providing transportation mobility options, we also need to figure out how to get more vehicles off the road and reduce total regional miles traveled. It’s challenging to figure out how to meaningfully cut into and reduce vehicle miles traveled – our approach is to chip away at it bit by bit. For this to work, we need alternative fuel vehicles, and DMCC is a key partner for facilitating this transition. As someone who has shopped for an EV myself, I have experienced dealers who had no idea what they had in stock, what the benefits of the vehicles were or how EVs worked in comparison to internal combustion vehicles. Educating consumers and dealers and providing opportunities for people to physically experience alternative fuel vehicles to understand their benefits is critical to reducing emissions and realizing our goals.
Is there anything we haven’t touched on that you would like to talk about?
I just wanted to say how proud I am of the work DMCC has done over the last couple years. It’s been amazing to see the organization grow and have such a professional and effective fulfillment of your mission. The way you have all communicated with the board has been improved leaps and bounds from what it’s been in the past. I’m in awe of the work that’s being done and am grateful to be allowed to serve on this board because the work is so important. It’s an honor and I really appreciate it.