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Commuter to Watch: Brianna Connelly

Brianna lives in Wheat Ridge and commutes to Broomfield using the Flatiron Flyer and her bicycle. Her employer made it easy to hop on board with an EcoPass. One day, her bus driver pulled over unexpectedly to re-secure her bicycle on the bus rack – a thoughtful move that kept her bike from becoming road kill. Brianna adds, “When I ride the bus I can read, relax, and crochet. Best of all, there’s no road rage!”

Breaking Down Barriers: Taking Steps Toward Building a Commute That Works for You

While Flatiron Flyer ridership is up significantly, over 70 percent of US 36 residents still use a single-occupancy vehicle for their commute and solo drives to downtown Denver are at a five-year high. As population in the wider Denver metro region continues to swell, we wonder: what could be causing this many commuters to drive solo?

The largest determining factor to choosing to drive is not convenience of car over transit, it’s actually having access to cheap, abundant parking (on the other hand, employees who are provided with an EcoPass are seven times more likely to take transit.) Combine this with much needed improvements to transit service and suburban sprawl that is built for vehicles, and you have a recipe for one big barrier to walking, biking and taking transit.

While certain issues, such as suburban sprawl and improving transit service, are too big of an issue for an individual to tackle, updating your commute in bite-size pieces is not.

Here are a few simple tips you are try; even one time a week makes a difference!

  1. Our first, and favorite tip, is to try My Way to Go. This app will show you the many ways you can travel including sharing a ride with one or two other commuters, biking to work or taking transit. It will even show the health and sustainability conscious how proposed routes and modes stack up.
  2. Is there a goal you have set for yourself as an individual in 2017? Is it to be healthier or to do something good for your community? If so, think of the impact your commute has. By biking three miles to a transit station, you can burn over 100 calories and save 1,233 g/CO2.
  3. Don’t shy away from the multi-modal commute! Even driving to a transit station or biking part of the way is an accomplishment. Just think, you can load your bike up in your car, drive to a long-term parking lot and the bike the remaining few miles to your office and then reverse your commute in the afternoon.
  4. When we say commute options, we mean options. You can still drive to work, especially when it’s needed, but on days that are especially nice, try taking a commute option.
  5. Take baby steps. Just one day a week, challenge yourself to commute using an option other than driving solo.
  6. If you’re exploring a transit commute, think of what you can accomplish. This is a great opportunity to catch up on emails, read the news and even listen to audio books.
  7. Calculate your savings. While taking transit may seem pricey, driving solo actually costs on average 57.1 cents/mile to drive!
  8. Still need help? Email Commuting Solutions and we will help you understand how a commute for you can work.

Your commute matters, both for your health and for the tone it sets for our region. There are barriers to overcome when it comes to commuting, but by taking small steps and setting goals that work for you, you can overcome these barriers and improve stress, health and savings.

Learn more about the Flatiron Flyer, US 36 Bikeway, Way to Go and getting started with a new commute.

Commuter to Watch: Tyler Beam

Tyler joined an existing vanpool because it was easy and it helps him save money on his commute from Denver to Broomfield. If he needs to stay late or leave early from work, he has flexible options both ways. So what’s it like for him to cruise with his van mates in the US 36 Express Lane? “You know that feeling you get when you put socks on that just came out of the dryer? It’s like that.” Tyler invites you to van up and get that same warm and fuzzy feeling.

Prioritizing 2017 as the Year for Transportation

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Governor Hickenlooper delivers keynote address at 8th Legislative Breakfast

As Governor Hickenlooper stated at the 8th Legislative Breakfast, transportation is an economic driver. It determines the movement of our state’s goods and the movement of people to tourist destinations and employment centers.

Funding for this vital aspect of our state’s economy is at an all-time low and is a key focus for elected officials entering the 2017 legislative session. And it is not just elected officials who are focused on transportation funding, the private sector is raising their collective voice in support of developing new mechanisms for transportation funding. Accessibility (meaning an effective multi-modal system and roads that are well maintained) ensures that new businesses invest in Colorado and that our workforce remains strong.

Colorado is a growing state, but maintains a healthy competition against our neighbor to the west—Utah. Compared to Colorado, Utah has half of the population, more than 700 miles of lanes and similar outdoor offerings. Without an effective transportation system that is well maintained, Colorado could face losing revenue as young entrepreneurs look to Utah (currently Colorado has a $9 billion transportation funding deficit). Both elected officials and private-sector leaders understand that to keep Colorado competitive transportation needs to come first—the question is, where does the money come from?

Building a sustainable, reliable multi-modal system is a priority for our state’s elected officials and so is developing a stable funding mechanism. At the 8th Legislative Breakfast, Senator John Cooke presented two possibilities for increasing transportation funding: an increased gas tax or a sales tax. To ensure that sales tax is applied to transportation, safeguards would need to be in place and the public would need to be involved in the conversation. As Representative Diane Mitsch Bush noted, the public needs to understand issues as well as the legislators working on them. For transportation funding to go into effect, the public needs to understand the significance of transportation and the investment that their tax dollars make.

Learn more about the policies Commuting Solutions and the US 36 Mayors & Commissioners Coalition support, and stay in touch with Commuting Solutions as we prioritize 2017 as the year for transportation!

Commuting Solutions is a shining example of multi-modal success, showing clearly how we can reduce congestion , improve economic opportunity for all, protect and improve our environment, and help make our communities more resilient.  – Representative Diane Mitsch Bush

Commuter to Watch: Brandon Smith

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Brandon chose where he lives today, the Harvest Station Apartments in Broomfield, specifically for its proximity to the bus. “I’m a bus man all the way, and have been since I moved here from Chicago in 2012.” Brandon listens to Chance the Rapper, Kanye West, reads and surfs his phone during his rides.  He once met a Swedish Au Pair on a bus trip to Boulder whose favorite show as a kid also took place in Chicago – Biker Mice from Mars. Adds Brandon, “You can’t make this stuff up!”

2016: A Year of Accomplishments and Progress

Cyclists celebrating the opening of the US 36 Bikeway from Louisville/Superior to Boulder.
Cyclists celebrating the opening of the US 36 Bikeway from Louisville/Superior to Boulder.

When Commuting Solutions was formed in 1998, our first effort was to assemble the public and private sectors around transforming the US 36 corridor into an epicenter for business, life and recreation. Our role as a convener involved building consensus with multiple stakeholders and businesses and developing an effective transportation plan to meet our region’s needs. That initial project (later to be known as the US 36 Express Lanes Project) came to near completion in 2016 and marks a significant milestone for our organization.

Progress, such as the first segment of rail to Westminster, was abundant this year and demonstrates what we, as a region, can achieve when we band together. Looking back, here are our top five accomplishments of 2016:

  1. The Near Completion of the US 36 Express Lanes Project. The 18-mile US 36 Bikeway was completed, Flatiron Flyer Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service launched and the US 36 Express Lanes opened.
  1. The B Line to Westminster. The first segment of commuter rail in the Northwest corridor opened on July 25 and sees over 1,400 riders each day (800 more riders per day than originally projected!).
  1. Bus Rapid Transit on Highways 119 and 7. Highway 119 and Highway 7 were identified in the Northwest Mobility Study (NAMS) as being prime corridors for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service. This year, studies to assess the feasibility of establishing BRT service on both highways moved forward.
  1. Inspiring Commute Behavior Change. We launched (and continued) a number of programs aimed at inspiring commuters to change the way they travel. Our efforts resulted in providing incentives to over 190 solo drivers who opted to car/vanpool or take transit, motivating 65 individuals to try biking, hosting six community bike rides and providing over 700 employees with RTD Master EcoPasses for the second year in a row.
  1. First-and-Final Mile Improvements. This year we initiated work on the Northwest Corridor Wayfinding Design and Implementation Plan, opened discussions on a regional bike share program, and secured funding for five of the twelve planned Bike-n-Ride shelters.

This is just a glimpse into the progress we made this year and highlights the most impactful projects of 2016. Stay tuned for our 2016 annual review, which will include a comprehensive overview of our regional impact and progress.

Stay in the know by signing up for Commuting Solutions monthly newsletter.

Commuter to watch: Martha Brown

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Once or twice a week, Martha commutes to Boulder from Arvada by carpooling with a neighbor and co-worker. With access to the Express Lane, her carpool can bypass traffic, saving about 30 minutes each way. Adds Martha, “A few weeks ago there were a lot of accidents on the road and traffic was horrendous. It was really great to be able to bypass it all and still get to work on time!” Martha invites you to become a fellow carpooling co-worker hero.

Bridging Colorado’s Transportation Funding Gap

Did you know that Colorado’s state gas tax has not been raised in 25 years and that a crucial $100 million could be cut from the state’s 2017 transportation budget? While it may seem as though our state is flourishing, and it is in many areas, there are serious decreases in our state’s main transportation funding source (the gas tax) and our ability to comprehensively fund transportation.  With insolvency of the federally operated Highway Trust Fund projected for 2021, Colorado is not the only state looking to new funding sources as a way to maintain and expand transportation growth. (According to Colorado 2040 Statewide Transportation Plan,  the insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund will result in a $1B annual funding gap for the state over the next 25 years.)

Colorado’s population and vehicle miles traveled will nearly double by 2040, which means the strain on our transportation system and the need for expansion will also increase. Much of the state’s transportation funding comes from a gas tax, but more fuel-efficient vehicles, a reduction in driving and a 25-year-old gas tax are contributing to significant funding shortfalls. Looking ahead, it is imperative that state officials implement a long-term funding solution to secure our transportation future.

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In Utah, we see that a minute sales tax and recently adjusted gas tax make a significant contribution to a state’s annual transportation budget. According to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), Utah has a comparable DOT budget ($1.3B to Colorado’s $1.4B), but has 2 million fewer residents and around 8,000 fewer miles of road to maintain. While Utah has achieved their own success, Colorado must look at creative funding mechanisms and the possibility of an increased gas tax to bridge our funding gap.

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In lieu of a permanent and sustainable funding source, Colorado has embraced public-private partnerships (P3s) to ensure that infrastructure is built, while recognizing that additional funding will be needed for future maintenance, transit, bicycling and congestion management. CDOT’s move to High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) 3 on Express Lanes is another way our transportation department is looking to generate revenue while maintaining clear roads for transit, carpools and individuals who choose to pay a toll. CDOT is also launching the Road Usage Charge Pilot Program, a pilot program that will assess charges based on vehicle miles traveled and could one day replace the gas tax. Along with an increased gas tax, new sources of revenue are needed to meet anticipated demands and address the state’s face-paced growth.

As part of Commuting Solutions’ ongoing commitment to enhance the economic vitality of the Northwest region, we will represent the private sector in our 2017 legislative agenda and provide opportunities for the public and private sectors to engage with one another. Our 8th Legislative Breakfast will be held on Thursday, January 5 and will provide employers, governments and residents with an opportunity to engage with one another and set the tone for making regional progress in 2017.

Carpool Buddies Wanted.

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Are you driving solo during your daily commute and watching in envy as carpoolers cruise by in the US 36 Express Lanes?

Sure, you’ve considered carpooling–it  saves time, money and you can enjoy being a passenger every once in a while. But where do you start? Commuting Solutions is your trusted transportation resource, and we’ve helped hundreds of local employees find their carpool matches.

With the HOV (that’s High Occupancy Vehicle) rules changing on January 1, 2017, current twosome carpoolers will soon be searching for another buddy. The new HOV 3 rules mean that in order to travel for free in the US 36 Express Lanes, there must be at least three passengers in the vehicle.

Whether you’re looking to make your carpool a threesome or you want to just get started, here are a few ways other carpoolers have found their match:

1. Recruit from your network
This may be obvious, but you’d be surprised at who you’ll meet by just putting the word out there. Let your co-workers and friends know you’re looking for a carpool buddy – email or post within your company, post on Facebook, LinkedIn or Nextdoor.

2. Register your trip on MyWayToGo.org
MyWaytoGo.org can help you find registered users who are either part of an existing pool or are looking for a buddy. When you register on MyWaytoGo.org, you become part of a regional database with over 10,000 users. To post your interest in carpooling, enter your starting location, ending location and the details for when you would want to meet. The site will then show you existing carpools and potential carpool buddies you can contact. And, when you “favorite” your trip, others searching for a buddy can find you.

And, better yet, from now until the end of January 2017, Commuting Solutions is offering cash incentives for new carpools. Yes, you can earn up to $75 just for carpooling! Incentives are also available for vanpooling and transit. To receive your incentive, fill out this short application and track eight carpool trips using MyWayToGo.org.

Short of hitchhiking, there are many ways to find a buddy or three and make for a more enjoyable commute. The more solo drivers we can get into carpools, the less congestion we’ll have on our highway, and that’s good for us and our environment.

Still need help? Feel free to drop us a line at info@commutingsolutions.org.

Happy Travels!

Commuter to watch: Pietro Simonetti

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Pietro lives in Westminster and commutes to Superior, riding the US 36 Bikeway three to four times a week. When the cars on US 36 are backed up and he’s going faster than all of them, you can bet he’s got an ear-to-ear, bugs-on-teeth grin as he pedals ferociously. Adds Pietro, “There’s nothing better than riding to work on a crisp day with the sun over the horizon and the white mountains in the distance. Everyone should join in!”