Topic Resources

Tools Used
Initiated By

The Greater Cincinnati Regional Ozone Coalition


The ROC includes:

  • American Lung Association
  • Butler County Chamber Caucus
  • Cinergy Corp.
  • City of Cincinnati
  • Cincinnati Bell Telephone
  • Clermont County Chamber of Commerce
  • Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce
  • Hamilton County Department of Environmental Services
  • Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
  • OKI Regional Council of Governments
  • The Metro Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky

Increased awareness of smog problem. Increased mass transit use.

Do Your Share for Cleaner Air

The region of Greater Cincinnati implemented an episode day program to deal with the problem of smog and air quality. When smog levels were particularly high, citizens were notified and encouraged to change their behaviours to less polluting ones. The focus was primarily on commuting, but includef other polluting activities as well. The campaign was known as "Do Your Share for Cleaner air".


This program was developed for the Greater Cincinnati area. This airshed includes Hamilton, Clermont, Butler and Warren Counties in Ohio and Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties in Kentucky. In 1991, the Clean Air Act Amendments defined levels of ozone that were considered acceptable for different types of areas. The seven counties in the study area were classified as moderate non-attainment areas. To be considered an attainment area, the region must not have exceeded the air standard for ozone more than three times at any one of the 10 ozone monitoring sites in the area in the most recent three year period. Several voluntary organizations formed the Regional Ozone Coalition in July, 1994, to deal with the continuing high readings at several of the monitoring sites. This group created a public information campaign to educate the public on ozones consequences and actions they could take to reduce the smog problem.

Setting Objectives

There were three primary objectives for this program.

The first objective was for the airshed to attain air quality (AQ) status. In order to accomplish this, they required public participation in ozone reduction practices, which became, in itself, a second objective. The third objective, which follows from the second, was to realize health benefits as a result of reducing ground-level ozone in the air.

In 1999, after the program had been in place for 5 years, the objectives were redefined as follows: The primary goal of the public outreach campaign is to improve the quality of the air in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky through the year 2001 by continuing to educate the general public about smog and their contributions to it.

  1. Continue to raise awareness of the ground-level ozone problem, educating the public and the media about the new ozone standard.
  2. Increase participation in ozone-reducing activities.
  3. Form 18 new vanpools to reduce SOV work trips while retaining the 17 operating vanpools.
  4. Increase the use of alternatively fueled vehicles.

Getting Informed

In 1990, the Environmental Protection Agency found that Greater Cincinnati had a smog problem that made the air unhealthy to breathe. Because a large part of the air pollution is generated by vehicle use, it was decided that reduction in driving and similar activities would be targeted. The program was the first in the region, and even nationally, there were not many similar programs. This was not built on an existing model, but rather it now serves as a model to other communities that wish to pursue the same objectives.

The major barrier that was anticipated was actually gaining public support and involvement. There were two steps in this. One was to first educate the public about smog, but the bigger challenge proved to be getting the public to actually take some sort of action on smog alert days. These were addressed through years of public education. With that education, people gained the understanding that every person in the area had a reason to do their share for cleaner air because they started to realize that everyone is affected by smog.

Delivering the Program

The Do Your Share For Cleaner Air campaign targeted four key groups: residents, media, local governments, and businesses. The program was in effect from June 1 to Labor Day each year. During that time, on a daily basis, a conference call was held between the County Department of Environmental Services, the National Weather Service, and several news stations. Based on the weather forecast and ozone readings, they determined whether or not the next day would be a Smog Alert day. If they declared a Smog Alert, OKI was notified. They immediately faxed out the alert, along with tips and information to approximately 800 businesses (using a fax service that allows simultaneous sending). This was done by 2:30pm of the day before the alert in order to allow people to pass along the message to employees. The information was also regularly broadcast in the news (TV, radio, papers). As well, the web site was updated. On the news, general ozone information was often broadcast along with the status.

The following activities were promoted:

  • Avoid driving at lunch time (take lunch to school or work).
  • Use alternative modes of transportation (car/vanpools, transit, etc) instead of driving alone.
  • Keep vehicle tuned-up.
  • Combine multiple auto trips throughout the day.
  • Work from home (telecommute).
  • Change work schedules to avoid the commute.
  • Avoid using gasoline-powered garden equipment (lawnmowers, blowers, etc).
  • Avoid household maintenance activities that produce emissions.
  • Postpone fleet refueling until the evening (i.e. after 6 pm).
  • Avoid maintenance activities such as painting, degreasing, tank cleaning (Stationary Sources).
  • Postpone landscaping activities such as lawn mowing (Stationary Sources).
  • Switch to cleaner burning fuels (Stationary Sources)

In order to encourage people to ride the bus, the two local transit systems (Metro and TANK) offered Clean Air Fare during the summer months. It cost only $.50 to ride anywhere. In the original design of the program, fares were only reduced on Smog Alert Days (to $.25) and kept at regular rates on all other days. (Financial Incentives.)

The media relations strategy included media education, the creation and distribution of news kits and backgrounders, editorial board meetings, work with local media meteorologists, business media relations and Smog Alert media notification. The media were closely involved with the program. Each year, there was a media kick-off, and they were reintroduced to the procedures for Smog Alerts. Having this participation almost guaranteed coverage in the weather reports. As well, News Directors and Editors received media kits. When there was a Smog Alert or an exceedence of the standard, the media were notified immediately, and this was then broadcast to the public during the drive-time news. In 1998, they started to also use the Artimis message boards on the interstate to send out the message. In 1998, the ROC began posting the information on the World Wide Web. This included an animated, computerized map showing the accumulation and movement of smog throughout the region. These maps were in a format suitable for presentation on TV. (Mass Media.) 

More than 800 businesses and local governments participated in the Smog Alert program. Once they received the faxes, they would notify their employees of the alert through voice mail, electronic notices, or bulletin boards. Some companies went beyond this and introduced voluntary measures to change operations to reduce smog. Tool: Work Programs that Influence the Home. CINERGY, the local utility company, pays up to $60 per employee (per month) for commute costs associated with transit or vanpool fees and takes advantage of the IRS tax incentive. They have challenged other companies to do the same. The ROC has also made numerous presentations to local businesses stressing the economic impacts of non-attainment. Both the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce have made the smog issue a regular feature in their publications. Tool: School Programs. Since 1995, the ROC has worked with Newspapers in Education (NIE) to educate children on the issue of smog. In 1998, educational games and contests promoting voluntary actions for children were introduced. As well, a Clean Air teachers guide was distributed to 370 Tri-State schools. At any time, clean air coloring books, bookmarks, fans and other educational material was available through the ROC for free. (Word of Mouth) 

Financing the Program

Funding came primarily from CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation Air Quality). The following outlines the funding request for the three year period of Fiscal 2000 Fiscal 2003, covering marketing and staff:


  • Print placement $66,000
  • Radio production and buy $125,000
  • Television production $75,000
  • Television buy $180,000
  • Two painted buses $28,000
  • Billboards $135,000

Collatoeral Materials

  • Printing $60,000+

Education Campaigns

  • Business Education $60,000
  • Youth Education $60,000
  • Video Production $26,000

Vanpool Incentive Program

  • Vanpool incentive $356,436
  • Recruitment incentive $18,000

Alternative  Fuel Vehicle Incentive Program $500,000

Storage Space $5,000

Evaluation $75,000

Freelance Services $180,000

Smog Alert Communication $30,000

Contingency (15% excluding incentive programs) $147,000

SUBTOTAL $1,770,750


Staff $229,760

Fringe $109,985

Overhead $236,836

TOTAL $2,703,017


Note: all values expressed in US Dollars.

Measuring Achievements


A survey was conducted within each county at the end of each season. It assessed the public's awareness and understanding of smog and questioned them on actions they had taken to reduce the problem.

Measuring pollution

There were several locations for which air quality readings were taken. The health limit established by the U.S. EPA was the Pollutant Standard Index of 124 parts per billion (ppb), measured as an average over a one hour period. Any day that measured over 100 ppb was considered a Smog Alert day. Any day that measured over 200 ppb was considered an Ozone Alert day (which had not occurred since the 1970s). The air quality in the 7 County area around Cincinnati was monitored by the local agencies at ten different locations for ozone pollution. The ozone concentrations in the air were recorded instantaneously and hourly averages were sent to the national air quality database after being checked by the local and State air agencies for accuracy. Moderate ozone nonattainment areas had until November 15, 1996 to attain the 0.12 parts per million (ppm) ozone health standard. Any day with hourly ozone concentrations higher than 0.12 was called an exceedance of the ozone standard. If more than 3 exceedance days over the most recent three year time period, were measured at any one monitor, this constituted a violation of the ozone standard.

Although the monitor at the Lebanon site recorded no exceedances during 1996, 2 exceedance days were recorded in both 1994 and 1995, resulting in a violation of the standard and a failure to attain the standard by 1996. Since that time, the Cincinnati area had received two extensions of the attainment date. The area had until November 15, 1998, to attain the standard. If the area averaged no more than 1 expected exceedance per year for each monitoring site, during the three year period of 1996-1998, then it would be attaining the 1 hour, 0.12 ppm public health standard for ozone. The maximum acceptable level for ozone was 0.12 parts per million, which is equal to an air quality index of 100.

Here are the national air quality index criteria: 0-50 Good 51-100 Moderate 101-200 Unhealthful.

To be considered an attainment area, the region must not exceed the air standard for ozone more than three times at any one of the 10 ozone monitoring sites in our area in the most recent three year period.


There was no formal feedback process in this program. Citizens did, however, receive a constant update through the news as to the levels of pollution and the impacts of their actions.


Air Quality

Ozone readings indicated that the air pollution levels dropped, particularly on peak days. This suggested that actions taken on Smog Alert days had a direct impact on lowering the concentration of ground-level ozone in the area. Most of the exceedences since 1994 were under 130 parts per billion (ppb), only slightly over the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for Ozone of 124 ppb. The program was credited for avoiding numerous exceedences, when high ozone levels were expected, but fell just below the standard.


By June of 2000, the area attained the one-hour 124 ppb standard for the first time. Before this, the Greater Cincinnati area failed to attain the ozone air quality standard by 1996 and was granted several extensions of the attainment date.

In the summer of 1999, the Gas Cap Replacement Program replaced a total of 13,000 leaking gas caps, preventing 4 tons of gasoline fumes from being released into the air every day. As a result of the on-site gas cap testing of employees’ vehicles at participating businesses, 1455 leaky gas caps were replaced and 150 tons of annual emissions avoided. Gas caps sent to the owners of 1971-1973 vehicles were estimated to prevent 2 tons of emissions per day.


The campaign succeeded in encouraging residents to change their behaviours. The 1997 survey showed that 51% of respondents took smog-reducing actions on Smog Alert days.

The reduced fare program was credited with having a significant impact on the quality of the air. Ridership rates were 18% higher when they continued the fare reduction throughout the entire summer (not just during Smog Alert days) and remained high into the fall. In 1998, Metro (Cincinnati’s transit system) recorded 400,000 more rides under the summer fare structure than would have been taken under the regular fare structure. During the1994-1998 period, the reduced fare program resulted in:

  • 1.8 million fewer car trips in the region
  • 7.7 million fewer vehicle-miles-traveled in the region
  • 27.7 fewer tons of hydrocarbons
  • 158.85 fewer tons of carbon monoxide
  • 15.2 fewer tons of nitrogen oxides.

The contribution of businesses was impressive. Over 800 businesses, local governments, and community groups were involved in the notification system. 93% of those surveyed immediately notified employees when an Alert was issued. Close to 40% of businesses postponed lawn maintenance, and 30% reduced electricity consumption on Smog Alert days. Many companies offered other incentives for employees to car pool or take the bus.

Kids’ program results were not tracked, but 300 kids participated in one weeklong program.


Public surveys showed that the program was successful in educating the public. In 1997, 57% of respondents were familiar with the Smog Alert program, 53% felt that smog had an extreme effect on public health, and people were increasingly aware of the impact of cars and trucks. Every year, the survey indicated increases in awareness and participation. They have completed surveys (last year) to estimate effectiveness of the program. In 1999, the spring survey indicated that 17% knew about the program; in the fall, that number had increased to 65%. New survey results were expected to be available at the end of October 2000.

Before the campaign began, survey respondents believed that industry was the main contributor to smog, but in subsequent surveys, they increasingly identified cars as the main contributor.

The program organizers were also successful in engaging the local media. Local newspapers carried close to 100 stories on smog, and the four TV stations carried 143 smog related items.

“Do Your Share for Cleaner Air” was recognized nationally for its success. It was used by the U.S. EPA as a model for a pilot program for implementing voluntary measures. 


Sarah Woller
Public Relations Coordinator, OKI Regional Council of Governments
801-B W. Eighth St., Suite 400
Cincinnati, OH 45203
Phone: (513) 621-6300 fax: (513) 621-9325


This case study was written in 2001 by Jay Kassirer.

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