Mayors, officials tout bus ridership to combat rising ozone level -
Published Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 11:41 am / Updated at 11:52 am
Mayors, officials tout bus ridership to combat rising ozone level

Riders can take advantage of reduced fares on Metro buses for several days this month and in August.

And if the riders needed inspiration to climb aboard a bus, they found it Thursday courtesy of several Omaha-area mayors and officials.

The price reduction — from Monday through July 18 and Aug. 12 to 15 — is part of the Metro Area Planning Agency’s Ozone Awareness Days campaign, “Little Steps. Big Impact.” Riders will pay 50 cents for rides, plus 25 cents for a transfer, on those days. A regular adult fare is $1.25.

During four days in June, reduced fares as part of the campaign nudged bus ridership to 70,000, up from the usual 59,000 riders.

It was an 18 percent jump in ridership, said Sarah Skarka of MAPA.

Omaha-area mayors and other local officials met Thursday morning at downtown Omaha’s City-County Building in support of Ozone Awareness Days.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert was joined by Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan, La Vista Mayor Doug Kindig, Bellevue Mayor Rita Sanders, as well as Dr. Adi Pour, director of the Douglas County Health Department; Greg Youell, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency; and Metro chief Curt Simon. At a press conference plugging the reduced bus rates, officials also used the occasion to tout efforts to combat a rising ozone level during summer months.

Mayors Stothert, Kindig and Hanafan and the other officials rode Metro buses to the press conference. Sanders, who runs marathons and competes in triathlons, rode her Trek bicycle 11 miles from Bellevue.

“I try to ride as much as I can,’’ said Sanders, 55. “And I run/walk to work occasionally, too.’’

She carries her business clothes in a backpack while biking, said Sanders, who added that her family history includes heart issues.

The Little Steps. Big Impact campaign aims to increase awareness about air quality in the Omaha area.
Ground-level ozone is a primary component of smog. Sources include industrial facility and electric utility emissions, vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors and chemical solvents.

Pour said asthma sufferers are heavily affected by a high ozone level during hot, humid summer months. She said Tuesday, when Omaha’s temperature climbed to 95 degrees, was particularly tough.

“The quality of air affects the quality of life’’ in Omaha, Stothert said, and companies looking to expand in the area consider ozone levels. Stothert encouraged Omahans to take measures to reduce the ozone level, such as turning down thermostats and washing clothes in cold water.

Other steps to decrease ground-level ozone:

» Don’t top off a gas tank when filling up. It harms the vehicle’s vapor recovery system and releases ozone-forming fumes.

» Delay refueling vehicles until dusk or nighttime.

» Turn the car off when idling for 30 seconds or more.

» Keep a lid on paints, solvents and cleaners. Leaving them uncapped for long periods of time releases ozone-forming fumes.

» Don’t mow the lawn during the hottest part of the day.

Contact the writer: Lizzie Johnson    |   402-444-1037    |  

Lizzie is a breaking news reporter, which basically means all things weather- or crime-related.

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