Opinion: Yes on 1C: Boulder County transportation tax is crucial for fighting climate change

Learn more about 1C: Transportation Sales and Use Tax Extension (non-opinion news article)

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Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022

By Ryan Bonick

This fall, voters will have a chance to extend the Boulder County Transportation sales tax of 0.1%. This tax has been put to great use in the 20 years it’s been around, and voters should choose to extend it. We face a climate emergency, which, frankly, not enough is being done about, and anything we can do to shift transportation away from single-occupancy gas vehicles is an improvement.

The tax was created in 2001 and extended to 2024 in 2007. It funds transit services, road improvements, regional commuter trails, and mobility programs. In its first 20 years, the tax funded nearly 100 miles of new road shoulders, making roads safer for vehicles with mechanical issues and cyclists alike. 23 miles of regional trails (like the LoBo trail connecting Boulder, Gunbarrel, Niwot and Longmont) have been added, allowing commuters to safely travel to work. Pedestrians are safer, too, with six new underpasses.

If we keep the transportation sales tax, we’ll be able to continue to add new trails and infrastructure, including bus rapid transit designs and bikeway designs for CO 119 (where planning is already underway), CO 7 and US 287. Work has also begun on planning for a U.S. 36 path between Boulder and Lyons (funded in part by Cyclists for Community). There are many more projects like these planned for the next 15 years of revenue.

In addition to creating trails and shoulders for cycling commuters, the tax also funds important transportation services like the FLEX bus running between Boulder and Fort Collins, peak commute hour buses between Lyons and Boulder, and the Gold Hill Climb service between Gold Hill and Boulder. It supports community mobility programs like Via that help people with mobility issues like disabilities or chronic diseases maintain self-sufficiency.

The tax is leveraged, so money Boulder County contributes is used to obtain grants at the state or federal level. It’s estimated that for the $121 million the tax extension would collect, Boulder County would receive an additional $269 million. It’s free money!

So what if we don’t extend the tax? Well, in case the recent Left Hand, Marshall and East Troublesome wildfires haven’t reminded you, we’re currently living through a climate emergency. The IPCC 6th assessment reports that “it is only possible to avoid warming of 1.5 C if massive and immediate cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are made.” 

We’re currently only at 1C, so imagine the disasters and death that will unfold if we reach 2C or even further. We need to stop greenhouse gas emissions, and we need to stop them yesterday. Providing better alternatives to single occupancy vehicles, like bus rapid transit and connected bike trails, will go a long way towards reducing vehicle emissions.

Boulder County estimates that the next 15 years of their transportation plan, funded by this tax, will reduce emissions by approximately 475 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. 

That’s great, but it’s not enough. In 2019, the city of Boulder alone emitted 426,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent. We need to do more, much more. But funding this tax is a start, and the bare minimum we can do.

Ryan Bonick is a Boulder renter and bicycle commuter who is terrified of climate change’s future. He is a member of the Boulder Beat Opinion Panel.

Elections Opinion

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