It’s early Saturday morning, bluebird sky, a foot of fresh snow fell overnight in the mountains. You’re in Denver, or Boulder, or Aurora, or Fort Collins and your gear’s packed, the car’s gassed up, you grab some coffee and get on I-25 and cruise towards I-70 dreaming of first tracks at one of the 25 world-class ski resorts along the corridor…
Only by the time you shoot out of the Eisenhower Tunnel, you’ve already been in traffic for who knows how long, everything’s already tracked out (your Summit County friends have been tweeting out photos of epic powder turns and the +20 pristine jumps at Breck), and you’re thinking, there’s got to be a better way, right?
Enter Margaret Bowes, a lifelong skier who for the past eight years has served as Director for the I-70 Coalition (i70Solutions.org)--a great cause, and a potential model for effective activism and change for the snow industry. Recently, we caught up with Margaret to find out more about that better way, and she broke down the Coalition's mission, programs, and operations for us.
"The I-70 Coalition is a non-profit, member-supported organization whose mission is to improve mobility and accessibility along the I-70 corridor and to help grow the Colorado state economy."
Margaret and the Coalition work on Transportation Demand Management strategies. The i70 Solutions site lends some insight into these strategies:
“Long term solutions for the I-70 corridor are a major focus for the I-70 Coalition, but identifying and implementing short term strategies that can positively impact congestion in the near term are critical. Transportation Demand Management (TDM) actions will target the I-70 traveler and result in decreased traffic volume during peak travel times. The 2014 TDM Work Plan of the I-70 Coalition TDM Committee can be viewed here.”
We learned that the Coalition’s long-term projects are geared towards large infrastructure overhauls and are typically in partnership with government agencies. Recent long-term projects include the expansion of the Veterans Memorial Tunnels and the implementation of Advanced Guideway Systems. Future plans include the build out of Auxiliary Lanes and Peak Period Shoulder Lanes.
More immediate, short-term solutions are in the pipeline too. “We actively seek to create partnerships with cities, towns, counties and resorts,” Margaret says. “And immediate impact projects are high on the agenda.”
Recently, the Colorado Department of Transportation unveiled plans to construct a new toll lane along the eastbound edge of the I-70. Experts predict that this project will reduce Sunday afternoon travel times by as much as 48%. But while the toll lane may be an effective short-term solution, the proposed $30 maximum toll charge would make I-70 the most expensive toll road in the country.
Another short-term project, and what brought us to Margaret and the Coalition, is the Coalition’s voice to the public, GoI70.com. GoI70.com “gives travelers all the info they need to plan a delay-free trip to the mountains and home again. It’s also the best place to learn the latest on plans for I-70 improvements.” and is a portal to what Margaret believes to be one possible solution: combining a suite of irresistible deals directly with the conservation effort.
"We’re really proud of the discount programs that we’ve developed with local businesses. We’ve built relationships with local merchants up and down the corridor,” Margaret says. “You can find savings on travel, lodging and retail in Summit, Clear Creek, Vail Valley, Winter Park and Central City. Happy hour deals, bonus-night stays and discounts on activities--it’s a great resource aimed at keeping customers on the mountains a little bit longer, reducing congestion at peak times."
And while these perks continue to grow, Margaret believes it’s carpooling and ridesharing that has the potential to lead the way in conservation and to banish congestion, at least in part, from I-70. Though she works directly with resorts to market carpooling incentives like dedicated parking and discounted tickets, it’s been an uphill climb, so far. “There’s no excuse not to carpool to the mountains,” Margaret says. “And while we’ve experimented with various services, like WayToGo.org, as ways to encourage and facilitate carpooling amongst skiers and riders, it’s been a challenge finding a technology platform that works especially well for mountain commutes.” Margaret remains hopeful for the future, but she notes that driving adoption will be key, and it’s not going to be easy.
We’re hopeful too, because we know there IS a better way… :)
Jay and the Team