Vail Valley commuters still mostly travel in their cars | VailDaily.com
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Vail Valley commuters still mostly travel in their cars

Leaving cars home twice a week would cut county's carbon emissions by 17%

Eagle County's ECO Transit, and systems in Vail and Avon, are working on winter operation plans while waiting for word from the state about possible COVID-19 occupancy cutbacks.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com |
By the numbers
  • 80%: Eagle County Climate Action Collaborative goal of reducing local greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
  • 90%: Employers who say they’re more willing to allow working at home in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 86%: Survey respondents who have free parking available to them.
  • 88%: Survey respondents who would be “somewhat,” “very” or “extremely” willing to leave their cars home twice a week.
Source: Eagle County Climate Action Collaborative

Would you — or could you — leave your car at home twice a week?

That’s one of the questions the Eagle County Climate Action Collaborative asked in a recent survey. That commitment to not driving would result in a 17% reduction in the county’s carbon emissions. That reduction would be a key element of the group’s goal to reduce Eagle County’s emissions by 80% by 2050.

Collaborative manager Kim Schlaepfer Tuesday shared the results of the commuter survey with the Vail Town Council.

Included in those results was data about commuters’ views about how they get to work and what they see as alternatives to commuting to work alone.

Of the 1,600 people who responded to the survey, 30% said owning an e-bike could be the most impactful way to cut vehicle use, with 26% saying working from home could have the most impact.

There seems to be growing support for working from home, especially in the wake of this year’s COVID-19 pandemic.

Of the employers surveyed, 90% said they’re now more willing to allow employees to work from home. But surveyed employers say they still have questions about employee productivity.

We can’t all do that

Given the valley’s tourism-heavy economy, a lot of people have to work in specific locations. Of those people, 86% said they have free parking available.

The efficiency of the valley’s transit system may play a role in how many people drive to work.

Survey respondents said timing, the length of trips and the location of stops all play a role in choosing cars over the bus.

On the county’s ECO Transit service, only 4% of all summer commuter trips are on the bus. The bus carries 9% of all winter commuter trips.

The story is different in Vail, where the winter bus ridership is 43% of workers.

But those numbers have fallen in the wake of the pandemic.

According to Joyce Rihanek in the Vail Public Works Department and ECO Transit director Tanya Allen, ridership on both those systems is down about 40% compared to 2019.

Schlaepfer noted that Vail’s transit system and recreation paths provide “adequate infrastructure” to get people out of their cars, with many residents already leaving their cars home twice a week or more.

Outside of Vail, though, “the best option is driving alone,” Schlaepfer said.

Survey: More e-bikes needed

The answers to alternatives to single-occupant vehicle commuiting is the same in and out of Vail: e-bikes, followed by the ability to work from home.

There are barriers to cycling, though, particularly in the winter. Even outside winter, though, most people don’t own, or have access to, e-bikes.

Schlaepfer recommended that Vail pursue an e-bike sharing program. The town had a trial this year of such a program. There’s likely to be another trial in 2021.

Vail Environmental Sustainability Coordinator Beth Markham said results from this year have been positive, and said councilmembers will soon receive a report about future efforts.

Councilmember Brian Stockmar said “e-bikes are fantastic.” But, he added, safe storage and charging is essential to make those cycles more useful and used.

Stockmar, who owns an electric car, also encouraged more availability of charging stations for those vehicles.

Councilmember Kim Langmaid, a member of the collaborative board, said that group is asking communities to adopt building standards that require including the basics of electric-vehicle charging in new homes.

“Adoption of (electric vehicles) is the No. 1 way to reduce greenhouse emissions,” Langmaid said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com.


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