A coalition of California business, labor and public leaders has honored MTC and its transit partners with its “Edmund G. ‘Pat’ Brown Award” for balancing environmental and economic principles.
The California Council for Environmental and Economic Balance (CCEEB) has recognized MTC, BART and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) for their innovative partnership in creating theSpare the Air Free Morning Commute program. CCEEB has been honoring individuals and organizations with the award named after its founder for the past 30 years.
MTC and its partners launched the transit ride campaign in 2004, giving a free morning commute to BART passengers on the first five Spare the Air weekdays during the summer. The Livermore-Amador Valley Transit Authority also participated that summer. MTC committed about $2 million to the program, with additional funding from the Air District. The idea was to encourage commuters to take BART instead of driving.
The pilot promotion drew 40,000 extra riders to BART over a two-day smog alert, and helped to avert violations of the federal ozone standard.
2005 saw the expansion of the Free Morning Commute program to include 20 other transit agencies, with MTC committing over $3 million to the promotion. On the one day where the free ride program was triggered, transit ridership rose by 6.7 percent across the region.
And in 2006, Spare the Air free commutes will expand once again, including not just free rides in the morning but all day, for the first three Spare the Air alerts during the summer ozone season. MTC has pledged nearly $7 million to support the program this year.
“It’s working,” said MTC Chair Jon Rubin. “Over two years, we’ve had three Spare the Air weekdays, and not once have ozone levels topped the federal eight-hour standard.”
“It serves as a model program,” said Jack Broadbent, Chief Executive Officer/Air Pollution Control Officer for the BAAQMD. “We truly think this effort can be duplicated elsewhere in the country.”