As a climate action and sustainability practitioner, I try to be as thoughtful as possible about the impact of my personal transportation behaviors. Public transportation and commutability have long been hailed as a way to curb emissions, and not to mention, rising gas prices have made public transit options a lot more appealing.
When I moved to Eagle, I researched the bus routes to and from Avon to get me to work every day. To give you an idea of what this would entail, I would have to catch the ECO Transit bus at 7:45 a.m. to make it to work by 9 a.m. waking up around 6 a.m. in order to accomplish my desired morning routine. Taking the bus back down to Eagle would get me to my house at around 6:30 p.m.
Comparing this to the time and convenience of taking my personal vehicle, I felt like my public transit options were cumbersome, especially in a community with ambitious climate goals and a workforce that primarily lives downvalley.
The inclination for more comprehensive public transit options in the Eagle County community is widespread and gaining traction, though. In January 2020, the Vail and Beaver Creek Economic Advisory councils met to discuss the need for an improved transit system for the Eagle River Valley.
Since these conversations transpired, the development of a regional transportation authority from Gypsum to Vail has come to fruition. The transit goals of the potential RTA would be to enhance transit service and increase ridership, create multimodal integration across the county, develop stronger collaboration and efficiencies across the valley’s four transit agencies — ECO Transit, Epic Mountain Express, Avon Transit, and Vail Transit — and explore the ability to expand transit into the future.
In short, it would finance expanding routes and increase the frequency of current and future routes. As it currently stands, the formation committee and technical committee members representing Eagle County, municipalities, and metro districts are working through the legal, financial, and technical details of creating and funding an RTA for the Eagle County community. If all goes as planned, the RTA will be included on the ballot for our community members to vote on in the November 2022 election.
The creation of and successful vote on an RTA would be big news for our community’s climate action goals. As of 2020, ground transportation accounted for roughly 37% of our CO2 emissions, being the single largest contributor to emissions in the county.
Getting more people out of their cars and onto public transit supports our Climate Action Plan goals of reducing single-occupancy vehicle commuter trips and encourages freeing up parking spaces in the valley, especially in tourism-congested areas where parking is commonly limited.
Beyond reduced CO2 emissions, fewer cars on the road mean a healthier community. Pollution born from ground transportation increases respiratory ailments, the risk of life-threatening medical conditions, and can harm other living beings such as plants and animals. Supporting the formation of an RTA is a climate-friendly decision.
However, the last time I wrote in the Vail Daily, I shared some vulnerable pieces of my background that culminated in my desire to address environmental and social justice issues. Additional to the climate benefits in Eagle County, the RTA provides a pathway to address social justice in our community.
On average, Eagle County residents commute 23 minutes to get to work. Much of the Eagle County workforce lives downvalley due to the high cost of living, and these are also the same folks that are likely more reliant on public transit. Expanding our public transit infrastructure through an RTA-driven increase in routes and frequency alleviates strain on Eagle County’s workforce livelihood, and is an identified vision for transportation equity in Colorado.
So, what can you, as a citizen, do to champion the RTA formation? Urge the Board of County Commissioners and your municipality’s leaders to put the RTA on the ballot for November’s election, and urge your fellow community members to vote in the upcoming elections. The RTA can be a means to support both climate action and social justice in our community, and your encouragement of it can be a stepping stone to doing so.
Please visit the RTA’s website at EagleCountyRTA.org to learn more.
Gina McCrackin is the new Climate Action Collaborative manager at Walking Mountains Science Center. The Climate Action Collaborative is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Eagle County 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.