Colorado Association of Ski Towns releases report to spur transportation changes in resort communities | SummitDaily.com

Colorado Association of Ski Towns releases report to spur transportation changes in resort communities

Breckenridge Mayor Erik Mamula hops off the demo Proterra electric bus Thursday, March 22, in Breckenridge. Breckenridge and Proterra partnered to demo the bus for a month to test its performance in mountain alpine conditions.

The Colorado Association of Ski Towns released a report late last month outlining best practices for developing multi-modal forms of transportation in resort communities, hoping to highlight new technologies and innovations to help ski towns weather the increasing number of visitors, as well as meet their sustainability goals.

Faced with growing traffic congestion and parking demands that often exceed supply, transportation has become an ever-present concern for resort towns. CAST — a nonprofit membership organization comprised of representatives from 40 communities in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho and British Columbia — believes multi-modal transportation could be the key to innovating the way these communities think about transportation. CAST contracted with Felsburg, Holt & Ullevig to produce the report.

"We worked to highlight multi-modal solutions across a wide spectrum of topics while also keeping in mind the needs and interest of CAST communities," said Holly Buck, principal with FHU. "Truth be told, great things are already being implemented in CAST communities, and we hope this report helps spread the knowledge amongst members."

In a survey at the onset of the study, respondents from resort communities identified encouraging alternative modes of transportation (walking, biking and transit) as their top priority, above even visitor experience, community character and economic vitality. Likewise, respondents pointed to seasonal demand of transportation and parking availability as some of the top challenges facing their communities.

The report explores a number of potential solutions to help combat these issues, and at times, dives into real world examples of where and how these solutions have been utilized.

Perhaps the most interesting of the concepts mentioned is the possibility of automated or autonomous shuttles. While the idea of widespread automated vehicles certainly seems like something we won't see anytime in the near future, a number of manufacturers already have models out for sale or lease, though few communities have actually implemented them. CAST emphasizes that the solution could increase access to transit, especially for mobility-challenged individuals, as well as reducing staffing needs and emissions. But rolling out a project like this seems daunting given the $300,000 price tag per vehicle, along with necessary installations of electric charging stations and upgrading traffic signals to communicate with the vehicles.

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The report also notes electric busses as a much more prominent solution, providing transit services to residents and visitors, while also serving to help communities reduce harmful emissions. Costly in their own right, the busses run from $600,000-800,000, not including charging infrastructure. Several communities have already begun implementing such projects including Aspen and Park City. Electric busses are already on their way to Summit after the county and town of Breckenridge received a $2.2 million grant from the Federal Transportation Authority late last month to purchase new buses and infrastructure.

The other big-ticket project discussed in the report is a microtransit system, an on demand app-based system similar to other ride share apps, but instead for first or last mile trips in an electric golf cart type vehicle. Meant to help reduce parking demands, the solution has already been implemented in Aspen, where riders can utilize their Aspen Downtowner service for free during summer, spring and fall.

Other solutions mentioned in the report are less ambitious, outlining ways that communities can better encourage multi-modal transportation, discourage parking for long periods and wrap new technologies into their existing transportation systems. Among those noted were Breckenridge's paid parking system, which disincentivizes employees and business owners from taking up prime spots; Vail's parking monitoring system, which provides real time parking availability at town-owned parking lots; and the integration of public transit systems into Google Maps and other apps to provide tourists with real time bus tracking and easier access to routes.

Finally, the report discusses the importance of town planning in helping to curb transportation issues through improved street activation and sustainable land use. The report cited Banff, Alberta, as an example of improved street activation, noting that reconfiguration of shared streets to prioritize pedestrians, providing suitable crosswalks, on street bike parking and boardwalk patios have helped to calm traffic and increase pedestrians in problem areas.

"The list of solutions highlighted is a great mix of innovative new technologies and lessons learned from successfully implementing more traditional solutions," said Buck. "We hope the solution profiles serve as a catalyst for implementing new ideas in all CAST communities."