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Advocacy in Action: Standing Up For Transportation

Audrey DeBarros, executive director of Commuting Solutions, advocates for commuter options in the northwest metro region.

Whether we are advocating for transportation funding at the Capitol, convening coalitions to explore new avenues of revenue or working with local stakeholders to bring innovative commuter options to the region, advocating for our community is part of the fabric of Commuting Solutions.

Advocating for Our Partners

At the beginning of this month, Governor Hickenlooper called a special session to address a bill-drafting error with Senate Bill 267 which caused the Regional Transportation District (RTD) to lose roughly $560,000 in revenue each month since the legislation took effect in July 2017. In a demonstration of support for one of our longstanding partners, the Commuting Solutions Board of Directors and US 36 Mayors & Commissioners signed a resolution to encourage state legislators to fix the errors made. While we are disappointed by the outcome of the special session, we’ve been working with coalitions in the region to seek out new funding opportunities to improve the access and economic vitality of the Northwest metro region

Building Transit-Oriented Communities

The US 36 Mayors & Commissioners, Commuting Solutions, Boulder County, Broomfield, City of Boulder, Longmont and Louisville have been hard at work developing an application to compete for federal funding through the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. The proposal our coalition submitted focuses on implementing railroad safety improvements throughout the Northwest corridor to create quiet zones at critical railroad crossings. Communities throughout the region grew up around the railroad tracks, but as the train horn noise levels now reach 96 to 110 decibels due to the Federal Transportation Administration’s (FRA) train horn rule, many residents and businesses find the noise creates unlivable conditions. The current noise levels pose a threat to existing and future transit-oriented development districts.

Rendering of downtown longmont
Rendering of transit-oriented community in Longmont.

The requested TIGER funding will close the gap in funding needed to complete the remaining safety improvements at 28 railroad crossings. The funding and implementation of railroad crossing improvements will help ensure the livability and economic vitality for the northwest corridor for today and the future, and leverage pedestrian and transit investments for years to come. In addition to submitting a proposal for safety improvements at railroad crossings in the region, Commuting Solutions also signed a letter of support for a project submitted by Westminster that would construct a grade separation along the US 36 Bikeway to allow cyclists to safely connect to RTD Park-n-Ride stations near Sheridan Station and 88th Avenue.

Helping Progress Move Forward

Commuting Solutions Executive Director, Audrey DeBarros gives public comment at RTD meeting.

As we explore transportation funding opportunities with our partners to accommodate the implementation of a modal rich environment, we also remain committed to advocating for progress on current initiatives identified through the Northwest Area Mobility Study. Recently, Audrey DeBarros, executive director of Commuting Solutions provided public comments at an RTD meeting pushing for continued support for the SH 119 Bus Rapid Transit project. Recently, the RTD Finance Committee recommended retaining $30 million in the strategic business plan for SH 119, which will go before the Board of Directors for approval on October 24.

From advocating for our community at the state level to submitting a competitive proposal for federal funding, Commuting Solutions is committed to leading the way for innovative solutions to increase the quality of life and economic vitality of the region. If you are interested in engaging in the transportation conversation, join us during our 9th Annual Legislative Breakfast.

The Fight for Transportation Funding for the Northwest Region

 

At Commuting Solutions, we are proud to be a part of a community that cares for our environment, makes conscious efforts to improve the air quality for all and frequently takes advantage of multimodal commute options. Not only is the northwest metro region a leader in transportation initiatives in the state, but also the nation. This summer, we shared the success of CDOT’s US 36 Express Lanes Project and continue to celebrate the record number of cyclists who use the US 36 Bikeway, commuters who have found a stress-free commute on the Flatiron Flyer and drivers who have enjoyed faster commute times due to the US 36 Express Lanes and a record number of riders are traveling by rail on the B Line. While these multi-modal projects have been a smashing success, significant regional transportation funding needs remain.

RTD Representative shares insights into RTD’s strategic business plan.

One of the hardest questions we are frequently asked is surrounding the unfulfilled promise of RTD FasTracks’ Northwest Rail and the Northwest Area Mobility Study’s arterial Bus Rapid Transit funding. Recently, we had the pleasure of hosting Heather McKillop, RTD Chief Financial Officer at our September Membership Meeting. To put things bluntly, there simply is not enough funding for the needs of our community, nor will there be for many years. During McKillop’s presentation, she shared that currently the FasTracks Internal Savings Accounts will be depleted by 2023 and there is no funding available to replenish the account for our region. In addition to a lack of available monetary resources, the projects face additional roadblocks:

Construction and operation of currently unfunded corridors
Completion of on-going projects
Sales and use tax volatility
Financing capacity and funding constraints

While the prognosis for funding is dim, Commuting Solutions will continue to fight for transportation investments in the northwest metro region, advocate for projects agreed upon and supported by RTD in the Northwest Area Mobility Study and investigate new sources of funding to help meet the needs of our growing communities.

Our Summer Vacation: Creating Lasting Community Connections

Palisade peaches, warm weather, and countless biking adventures aren’t the only reason why we love summer at Commuting Solutions! From farmers markets to office picnics to RTD Rider Appreciation – our summer is filled with opportunities to connect with communities throughout the northwest metro region.

With fall right around the corner, we wanted to say farewell to summer by sharing some of our favorite memories from the past few months and give a sneak peek at what is on the horizon for Commuting Solutions!

RTD Rider Appreciation Events

From early mornings to evenings after work, we celebrated all our transit riders that have chosen a stress-free commute through our RTD Rider Appreciation events!

RTD Rider Appreciation events not only help us show our transit riders how much we care, but also provide an opportunity for our bus riders to meet their local RTD representatives and share feedback on their transit trips. So far, we have hosted four RTD Rider Appreciation events, passed out over 2,500 snacks, connected with over 5,000 commuters and have had countless positive conversations.

We aren’t done with RTD Rider Appreciation events! Don’t miss one of our three remaining events at an RTD station near you! Learn more by clicking here.

 

MyRide Distribution Events

In an effort to encourage residents in Louisville and Lafayette to try the bus as a simple step for cleaner air, we joined Boulder County in distributing RTD MyRide cards preloaded with $50 in transit fare. Over the course of five MyRide distribution events, we helped to distribute over 1,500 MyRide cards! The popularity of the program exceeded everyone’s expectations, with hundreds of residents and employee’s attendance at each MyRide distribution event. Due to such high demand of the program, the City of Louisville elected to distribute an additional 200 pre-loaded MyRide cards.

We wanted to say thank you to Boulder County, City of Lafayette and the City of Louisville for providing the $50 MyRide cards and increasing access for residents in Louisville and Lafayette to multimodal transportation options.

While summer may be coming to an end, we still have a handful of events on our calendar! In the coming months, you can spot us at Broomfield Days, Chili Fest and our upcoming Membership meeting. In addition to creating lasting connections in our community, we’ve also been hard at work this summer to keep the momentum going this fall.

Sponsorship

Commuting Solutions is excited to share that we currently have sponsorship opportunities available for 2018! Why should your organization consider a Commuting Solutions Sponsorship?

  • You’ll be recognized as a leader in the transportation conversation and a champion for providing commuter options to the northwest metro region
  • Our sponsors receive premium brand exposure at all of our 2018 Signature events – allowing them to reach a larger audience
  • Gain exclusive access to industry experts, elected officials and local thought leaders

To learn more about our Sponsorship opportunities click here.

Quarterly Membership Meeting

Join us on September 12 from 7:15 – 9:00 AM at the 1st BANK Center for our upcoming Membership Meeting. Transportation experts and business leaders will share an inside look at what the future holds for transportation in the northwest metro region.

Our quarterly Membership Meetings, in partnership with the Northwest Chamber Alliance, provide a unique opportunity for stakeholders from across the northwest metro region to connect and learn more about initiatives that will continue to increase the economic vitality and commute options of our region.

Membership Meetings are complimentary for members of Commuting Solutions and the Northwest Chamber Alliance. Save your seat today by clicking here.

Thank you to our community members, partners, and commuters that made this summer one for the books! Keep an eye out for us this fall at community events and stay tuned for information on about exciting new programs that are underway.

Commuting Solutions is Hiring a Fall Intern!

Marketing and Community Outreach Intern

About Commuting Solutions:

Commuting Solutions is dedicated to delivering innovative transportation options that connect commuters to their workplaces, businesses to their employees, and residents to their communities. Through advocacy for infrastructure and transportation improvements, partnerships and education, we create progressive, flexible transportation solutions.

Position Description:

Commuting Solutions is seeking an undergraduate student, graduate student, or entry-level professional preparing for a career in marketing, community outreach or transportation management to join our team as a fall intern. The ideal candidate will be asked to work 10-12 hours per week, with the exact schedule to be mutually decided upon.

The primary goal of the Commuting Solutions internship is to provide the individual with experience in day-to-day marketing and outreach activities and to assist with specific projects aimed to increase awareness of Commuting Solutions.

This is an outstanding entry level opportunity for candidates looking to enter the marketing, TDM or transportation sector. Compensation is $10 per hour, in addition to class credit.

 Areas of Responsibility

Social Media

  • Draft engaging and compelling social media content for Commuting Solutions’ Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages
  • Schedule approved social media content
  • Assist Marketing Coordinator with ad hoc social media posts
  • Assist with developing social media graphics

Content Creation

  • Assist with drafting content for monthly and quarterly newsletters
  • Assist with developing blog content
  • Draft press releases, media alerts, and editorial content
  • Assist with developing additional marketing materials, as needed
  • Maintain databases in Constant Contact

Event Marketing

  • Assist marketing coordinator in implementing event marketing campaigns
  • Work with marketing coordinator to develop new ideas to increase attendance and awareness of Commuting Solutions’ signature events

Outreach

  • Represent Commuting Solutions at public events in the community
  • Organize exhibitor materials and supplies.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

  • Excellent organizational, verbal and writing skills
  • Knowledge of AP Style preferred
  • Advanced writing skills
  • Reliable, dependable, flexible and responsive
  • Strong computer skills required
  • Proficiency using MS Office Suite
  • Must possess excellent customer service skills
  • Ability and desire to work independently and as a part of a team
  • Ability to prioritize and manage multiple tasks
  • Ability to work outside normal business hours, as needed
  • Strong interpersonal skills, good judgment and ability to communicate professionally with diverse audiences
  • Knowledge of Adobe Create Suites a plus

Please submit cover letter, resume, and a writing sample by Friday, August 11 to Taylor Broderick, marketing coordinator at taylor@commutingsolutions.org.

 

 

 

Happy Anniversary to CDOT’s US 36 Express Lanes Project

This time last year, we were celebrating the completion of CDOT’s US 36 Express Lanes Project, one of the largest construction projects in Colorado! This summer, we are pleased to share that the efforts and patience of the traveling public during construction has paid off. A model for the nation, the US 36 Express Lanes Project took an innovative approach to traffic congestion along US 36 and incorporates multimodal transportation that increases commuter options, in addition to an innovative financing mechanism through CDOT’s first Public-Private Partnership (P3). CDOT’s US 36 Express Lanes Project gives travelers in the northwest metro region a choice to zip past traffic in the US Express Lanes, Bus Rapid Transit services or along the US 36 Bikeway for today and into the future.

We are proud to share that RTD’s Flatiron Flyer has played a critical role in increasing bus ridership. With stations serviced every 15 minutes and the regional bus route transporting 14,500 riders every day, it is no surprise that ridership is up by nearly 50 percent. While the Flatiron Flyer is transporting a record number of commuters every day, the US 36 Express Lanes are playing a critical role in keeping people moving, whether on the bus or in a car. Since the opening of the US 36 Express Lanes, CDOT has seen lane speeds increase on certain days by as much as 29 percent faster than ever before! Not only are a record number of commuters reaching their final destinations, but they are getting there quicker. In addition to RTD Flatiron Flyer and US 36 Express Lanes ridership growth, the cycling community along the US 36 Bikeway is rapidly expanding! Since the Bikeway has opened, 175,707 cyclists and pedestrians have traveled along the bikeway to make an important transit connection and connect to new communities in our region.

While commuters and residents in the northwest metro region travel easily to their destinations, our work to increase mobility and connect the communities in our region is not over yet! We are continuing to work closely with our partners to find the sweet spot between transportation options, public-private partnerships, and technology.

An example of the intersect between transit and technology is the emergence of real-time transit apps. In three simple steps, commuters in our region can download Transit on their Apple or Android device to receive real-time transit updates, compare commute options and locate bike shelters and bike share stations nearby. To learn more about Transit please visit the Boulder County website.

At Commuting Solutions, we are proud of the innovation and collaboration that continues to propel our region into the future. We want to say thank you to our partners who played a critical role in CDOT’s US 36 Express Lanes Project and continue to advance multimodal transportation in our community. Without Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT); Denver Regional Councils of Governments (DRCOG); High Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE); Plenary Roads Denver and the Regional Transportation District (RTD), we would not be able to continue to bring commuter options to the northwest metro region. In the coming months, we hope to see the implementation of a regional bike share program, consistent wayfinding signage installed throughout the region and increased ridership of our transit services.

The Future of Transportation Funding in the Northwest Region

Congested Roads

The conversation surrounding sustainable transportation funding has transcended beyond the walls of the Capitol. In the last days of the 2017 legislative session, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 17-267 (SB17-267), commonly known as the Hospital Provider Fee bill. On May 30, Governor Hickenlooper signed SB17-267 into law.

Senate Bill 17-267 is a sweeping measure that focuses on three aspects of state government: health care, taxes, and transportation. SB 17-267 authorizes the execution of lease agreements on state facilities beginning in the fall of 2018-2019. Currently, it is anticipated that SB17-267 will generate about $1.8 billion for transportation funding. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) will allocate these funds to projects across the state that are on the Tier One project list, with ten percent dedicated for transit projects. While many projects are being considered, Commuting Solutions does not anticipate that this funding will meet the needs of the northwest metro region today nor is it a reliable funding source for the future.

As stated by Tony Milo, executive director of Colorado Contractors Association “SB17-267 is a great down payment on a bigger problem.” Currently, sustainable transportation advocates are working together to ensure that a policy put in front of voters makes sense for the state of Colorado and addresses our multimodal transportation needs. While residents in the northwest metro region most likely will not see a ballot measure this November, there is a possibility for an initiated measure to be on the 2018 ballot.

Commuting Solutions would like to thank our legislators who tirelessly advocated for sustainable transportation funding for our region. Moving forward, we will be working closely with public and private sector stakeholders to continue to create solutions that increase commuter options and connectivity in the northwest metro region.

E-Bikes to Extend Access to US 36 Bikeway and Beyond

 

Electronic bikes (e-bikes) are positively impacting the ability for commuters to cycle to work every day. At the beginning of 2016, Commuting Solutions convened government staff from Boulder, Boulder County, Louisville, Superior, Broomfield and Westminster to encourage local communities to adopt electronic bike ordinances that would enable e-bikes to be used along the US 36 Bikeway and other local cycling facilities. Commuting Solutions supports e-bikes due to the ability to ride further, tackle tougher terrain and increase accessibility to the US 36 Bikeway for all ages and abilities.

The US 36 Bikeway is 18 miles long and connects communities throughout the northwest metro region. Not only does it connect businesses to their employees, but makes cycling to work a safe commute option. E-bikes allow cyclists to travel farther than they normally would and eventually play a leading role in encouraging more commuters to try commuting by e-bike along the US 36 Bikeway, creating another viable commute option.

E-bikes not only help commuters travel further, it also increases a rider’s ability to travel across challenging terrain that would otherwise be too difficult. To put this into perspective, the US 36 Bikeway has a 700-foot elevation gain when riding Davidson Mesa going in and out of Boulder. This can be a challenging climb for an experienced rider and daunting task for a novice cyclist. E-bikes allows cyclists to decide when they want to pedal and when they need an extra power boost.

Expanding city ordinances along the US 36 Bikeway to allow e-bikes would mean increasing access to cycling for all ages and abilities. The northwest metro region is nationally recognized for the progress along the US 36 Corridor and this includes the US 36 Bikeway. The US 36 Bikeway is an incredible treasure for our communities. Commuting Solutions is committed to increasing access to the bikeway so more people can not only enjoy their ride, but connect to our communities along the way.

We are pleased that Louisville city council recently approved an e-bike ordinance and the jurisdictions of Broomfield, Westminster and Boulder County are in the process of doing the same.  In addition, a state bill passed the legislature this session which enables e-bike usage unless a community opposes it.  This is exciting progress for the state and for the cycling industry to make Colorado more accessible for all users.

For more information about the US 36 Bikeway and to view our online map, visit commutingsolutions.org.  The 2017 Bike Northwest print map will be available in June; email us at info@commutingsolutions.org to have a map mailed to you.  Ride on!

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.