Allen: ECO Transit to creatively expand public transit options
During my prior career as a diplomat in the foreign service, I learned a lot about finding common ground. Diplomacy is the art of listening to different perspectives, identifying shared interests, and building consensus around solutions that will ultimately benefit the greater good. These are also vital skills in the field of transportation planning.
While we all agree that providing accessible, reliable transportation options is critical to maintaining Eagle County’s healthy economy and high quality of life, we often disagree about the best path forward. Diverse user groups and limited resources mean differing visions for how public transportation, in particular, should look. My goal as director of ECO Transit is to listen to all of those voices and formulate a plan to make public transit the best possible value and the preferred option for a wider range of people and trips.
I came to Colorado in 2016 to become the transportation manager for the City of Glenwood Springs, where I managed bus, bike and pedestrian programs. I was also a core member of the transportation demand management team for the Grand Avenue bridge project. The keys to our successful efforts to reduce peak-hour traffic during that project were looking at all of the available tools — including biking, walking, carpooling, and transit — as part of a system, and empowering the community to propose and implement grassroots solutions.
While moving from a small city to a region of almost 1,700 square miles brings an array of new challenges, I will be applying the same collaborative mindset and systems-driven problem solving to my new role with Eagle County. ECO is the connective tissue between the various transit options in local communities, with the potential to play an even greater role in facilitating regional transportation and mobility conversations.
As our population and transportation needs grow, ECO is uniquely positioned to maximize community mobility, mitigate traffic congestion, and reduce climate impacts. To be successful, we will need to do what we already do even better. In addition, we will need to identify new partners and resources to help us plan for and get to that next level.
How can we improve coordination among existing transit providers to make better use of our current resources? What additional resources will we need in order to provide the service the community wants, and where can we find them? We will have to be creative, proactive, and unified to meet the challenges of the future.
We are already making ECO more environmentally friendly and easier to use. ECO will be acquiring three new zero-emission battery-electric buses in mid-2020. In addition, we will be launching our new app, Transit Hub, in the coming weeks.
Transit Hub is a collaborative effort among Eagle County, the town of Avon, the town of Vail and Vail Resorts to produce a mobile-friendly, one-stop shop for Eagle County transit information. The initial version of Transit Hub will include route and schedule information for all area transit providers, as well as a customizable trip-planning function. We’ll be adding real-time information sharing from buses, mobile fare purchasing options, and information about bike share and other first/last mile travel options with future updates.
Better first- and last-mile connections are a critical part of improving ECO Transit. To this end, ECO is assisting with expansion of bike share in the county for the 2020 season. Strengthening our ties with regional transit service is also important. This will include better coordination with CDOT’s Bustang service and neighboring transit agencies, as well as support for ECO Trails’ efforts to complete missing trail links throughout the county.
My ultimate goal as the new ECO transit director is to make public transit the best choice for almost any trip. We are privileged to be able to work and play in such a wonderful area. A robust public transportation system with supporting bike, pedestrian, and trail infrastructure can take us almost anywhere we want to go safely, affordably, and comfortably, while minimizing the impact on the natural environment we love.
Tanya Allen is the ECO Transit Director. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.