Air quality district offers $4 million to promote decreased vehicle use

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the regional government agency that regulates sources of air pollution, is offering $4 million for ride sharing or shuttle services that promote decreased vehicle use.

As part of its efforts to diminish local air pollution, the air district will review applications and distribute the money on a first-come-first-serve basis beginning Thursday. Only public agencies are eligible.

“These are ride sharing projects that are meant to fill in existing needs … to make it more convenient so you can get on other buses, ferries and make it to a route station,” said air district spokesperson Ralph Borrmann.

Funding is made available through the district’s Transportation Fund for Clean Air, a grant program sustained by a $4 surcharge on vehicles in the Bay Area. The program generates about $22 million in revenue each year.

Berkeley does not have any projects that would be eligible for the funds, according to Farid Javandel, the city’s transportation manager.

The same goes for BART, which does not have the resources to manage shuttle services, according to BART spokesperson Luna Salaver.

“Instead, we are working with other entities to encourage them to apply for these grants,” Salaver said. “Once a grant is established, then we help promote the connections.”

One program that may be eligible for a portion of the $4 million offered by the district is the Emery Go Round, a free shuttle that connects Emeryville passengers to the MacArthur BART station in Oakland.

But Roni Hattrup, executive assistant for the Emeryville Transit Management Association, which manages the shuttle, said the association has yet to identify what projects it would seek to fund through the program.

“We have some ideas of what we want, but we have to determine if we’re asking for money for new buses or if we’re asking for money for bus shelters or something like that,” Hattrup said.

Even if Emery Go Round does decide to apply for the funds, it may not pan out because the association is a nonprofit, not a public agency. Still, Hattrup said the program may try to contract with the city of Emeryville, which she said would likely act as a “pastor agency” in order to gain eligibility.

Last year, when the district provided similar grants, it funded about 11 projects in another attempt to cut down on vehicle use — which accounts for over half of the Bay Area’s air pollution, according to Borrmann.

“The overall goal is to reduce air pollution and to encourage people to take transit by filling in the needs where they exist so people can make it to major buses, trains and ferries,” Borrmann said. “It makes it easier for residents to shift to transit and ride share and reduces the number of vehicles on the road.”

J.D. Morris is the lead environment reporter.