Cuyahoga County Takes Action to Better Air Quality and Lower Transportation-related Greenhouse Gas Emissions

by Stephanie Choi , Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellow

man holding a card wearing a bike helmetEvery day, hundreds of thousands of trips are taken across roads, bridges, and highways within Cuyahoga County – unsurprisingly, almost all these trips are taken by cars. We jump in our cars to commute to work, run errands, attend meetings and events across town, and to do just about everything else. Our cars are an efficient and convenient form of transportation to get us where we need to go; however, our cars also emit pollutants that negatively affect our air quality and contribute to climate change.

Northeast Ohio is currently failing three of the six criteria pollutants for the National Ambient Air Quality Standards under the Clean Air Act. Studies show that vehicle emissions are one of the main drivers of the noncompliance. According to one 2013 study, air pollution from the transportation sector was responsible for an estimated 384 premature deaths in Greater Cleveland, and our region had the second highest mortality rate from mobile emissions. In addition to air pollutants, vehicles also emit greenhouse gasses (Carbon Dioxide, Nitrous Oxide, and Methane) that contribute to global warming and climate change. A recent study, conducted with Brendle Group, measured community-wide greenhouse gasses emissions for our County and showed a 9% increase in transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions from 2010-17.

blue background with word gohio in white and word commute in greenHere in the Department of Sustainability, we work to reduce our County’s impact on air pollutants and greenhouse gasses, both internally and community-wide. We know that encouraging alternative forms of transportation (riding transit, biking, walking, carpooling) is necessary to create positive change for our County’s health and environmental outcomes. In 2016, we helped launch the UH bikeshare system, and last year, we became one of the first employers to join NOACA’s gOhio commute platform, an interactive, mobile-friendly website that provides comprehensive information on any trip from point A to point B. Users can see the travel costs/savings, calories burned, carbon emissions reduced, and time associated with each transportation option.

Any resident can sign up and use the platform, and the County is encouraging County employees to sign up and join our Cuyahoga County employer subsite network. All NEO companies are encouraged to join in the effort by creating their own network and encouraging their employees to sign up. By joining their employer’s network, employees can search for other employees to potentially carpool with and compete against other employees to see who is the most sustainable commuter! In addition, every gOhio commute member can compete in monthly challenges for various prizes. In the May Bike Challenge, our very own Jordan Abbott won a $25 giftcard to Century Cycles. During the month of June, the County is competing against other NEO employers for points towards NOACA’s Commuter Choice Awards. The more employees we have sign up and log rides, the higher we will appear on the NEO Clean Air Challenge leaderboard and the more points we will achieve towards the 2018 Commuter Choice Awards. We won a silver award in 2017, so we are going for gold this year!

We hope all County employees and residents can work together to better air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our region. For more information on UH bikes, gOhio commute, and our other programs, please visit our website. You can also contact me at with any questions, concerns, comments, and ideas! And, remember to think global and act local!!