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Leave the car in the garage

Kelly Coffey

Ruth Moran may become a trendsetter.

Since 1997, the Gypsum resident and owner of The Stitchery alteration shop in Vail has been commuting to work by bus. That was the first year ECO Transit began running routes between Gypsum and Vail.

“For me it’s just much handier,” said Moran, adding that she prefers to leave her car at home. “It’s really nice in the wintertime when you don’t have to fight the ice and snow.”

Moran is likely saving quite a bit of money on fuel and car repairs, too. ECO Transit is trying to attract more people like Moran. Offering a $60 monthly bus pass, ECO Transit claims that you can save $300 or more per month on gas costs alone by ditching the car and jumping on the bus.

“We’re targeting the people who are driving the trucks and SUVs, the ones that are getting 15 miles per gallon and making the long commutes,” said David Johnson, Transit Planner for ECO Transit. “Those folks are the ones that will really feel the sticker shock with these higher gas prices.”

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA) publication “Your Driving Costs 2005,” the average cost of owning and driving a car boils down to 56.1 cents per mile. That number is based on the late 2004 national gasoline price average of $1.94 per gallon. That makes a round-trip drive between Gypsum and Vail at least $45. The average price of gas in Vail on Sept, 7 was $3.28 for a gallon of regular unleaded fuel.

Riding the bus every day might not be feasible to everyone, Johnson said. However, limiting your driving even once a week can have an effect, he said.

“Even if you rode the bus one day a week, you’re reducing your commuting fuel consumption by 20 percent,” Johnson said. “That’s also one less car on the road, and one more parking space available.”

ECO Transit sells a 20-ride ticket booklet for $50. That offer might be the best for those once-a-week riders since the tickets have no expiration date. A single trip on any bus is $3.00.

Though the rising gas prices are affecting ECO Transit’s operating costs, they are not planning on raising prices any time soon, Johnson said.

A few Town of Vail employees find carpooling fits their schedules better. Bill Carlson, the environmental health officer and planner for the Town of Vail, is among a group that car-pools from Eagle to Vail every day. They’ve been doing it for over a year now, he said.

His group formed because they wanted to reduce their contribution to air pollution, cut down on the cost of gas, and on all the secondary expenses that go along with driving cars: oil changes, tire replacements, and general wear and tear.

“When you have three or more people living in the same area and commuting separately to the same place, it just doesn’t make sense,” said Carlson.

Carpooling may be a better alternative for those unwilling to tag onto their daily commute the extra time it takes to ride the bus.

“You have a little more flexibility,” said Carlson, adding that the carpool group is not tied to a fixed schedule. Carlson estimated that he saves an hour a day by carpooling over taking the bus.

Moran, on the otherhand, likes to spend the hour-long bus commute reading. Though she admitted one of the perks of bus riding is meeting new people, she said she doesn’t do all that much talking. “I’d rather sit and enjoy the ride.”

Both Carlson and Moran listed the environmental and social benefits of leaving their cars at home. The economical benefits don’t go unnoticed, either.

“I save a lot of money,” said Moran. VT


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