Can carpooling help congestion on I-70?
Apps launched in late November, and interest is growing
When Erwin Germain moved six years ago to Colorado from his native France, he looked around for carpool apps. He didn’t find any.
Germain was familiar with Europe’s BlaBlaCar, a carpooling and transit app used by millions of people. Using that as a model, Germain and some partners created Treadshare, a carpooling app that matches drivers and riders.
Those trips aren’t free or up to a passengers’ conscience. There are set fees for specific trips — Denver to Breckenridge is $16, and Frisco to Vail is $5.
The app offers to match drivers and riders both on the Front Range and to and from mountain resorts.
The fees aren’t expensive, but Treadshare isn’t supposed to make a profit right now. The company takes a 16% cut on fares to handle credit card processing and other expenses. Instead, Germain said that rates are set just below Internal Revenue Service per-mile rates for business driving: 56 cents per mile. If the company made a profit, that would put it into competition with ride-sharing services including Uber and Lyft. Germain and his partners aren’t drawing any pay from the app as the service gets started.
Vetting drivers, passengers
Drivers all must complete background checks for a criminal record, sex-offender status and driving record.
On the other side of the equation, drivers and riders message each other to set up a specific trip. Drivers can reject a rider.
Drivers also tell passengers how many seats are available, and how much gear they can haul
Wayne Graham lives in the Denver area. After seeing a story about the apps that first appeared in the Vail Daily, Graham emailed questions about the services, specifically how the apps handle parking charges at the resorts. Those charges aren’t factored into ride costs.
Treadshare replied to that email — and to an email for this story. Caravan apparently didn’t respond to Graham or a request Monday from the Vail Daily for more information.
Germain replied that parking costs aren’t included in charges for a handful of reasons. The main one is due to simplicity. Germain’s email noted that parking charges can vary even in a destination depending on the parking facility used and the time of day. In Vail, charges can be quite different between public and private parking facilities.
Factoring in all those differences would make the app more complex, Germain wrote.
Graham said he and his wife a few years ago used BlaBlaCar a few times on a trip to France and found it useful.
Graham asked Germain if perhaps drivers and riders could discuss parking costs via messaging. That could work, Germain replied, adding that isn’t an ideal solution.
“They’re trying to simplify it, and that probably makes sense,” Graham said. “Gas is already included (in the fee), but parking is a wild card.”
This could be useful
Graham said he tries not to drive too much, especially on skiing trips. Graham said he’s used the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Bustang service a few times, and had several times used a service called SkiCarpool.com. That website is apparently inactive.
While Germain said the Treadshare app has already been downloaded more than 700 times since its late-November launch, Graham said he doesn’t expect the carpool apps to do much to cut weekend traffic on Interstate 70.
Still, he said, he likes the idea of letting someone else drive from the Front Range to the Mountains.
Margaret Bowes, executive director of the I-70 Coalition, a nonprofit group of businesses and local governments, said she’s excited about Treadshare’s early days.
Beyond the number of people who have downloaded the app, Bowes noted that a number of those people have expressed interest in driving. That’s essential for the project to work.
While a few hundred users aren’t likely to make much of a dent in I-70 traffic, Bowes said she could see that dent grow larger in, say, five years.
Bowes said carpooling alone won’t solve I-70 congestion. But, she added, “It can be a key strategy to reducing the number of vehicles on the interstate.”