In-depth info could help corridor stakeholders plan new ways to reduce congestion along the busy mountain corridor
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — A mid-winter survey of skiers and snowboarders at the three Dinosaur parking lots in Morrison has yielded a “goldmine of information” for resorts and stakeholders along the I-70 corridor, with detailed data on car-pooling patterns, which people might be induced to ride public transit to resorts and whether skiers and snowboarders might be willing to pay a toll for an extra lane of traffic on the busy corridor.
More data came from automated traffic counters at the entrance of the Woolly Mammoth lot and from a series of questions posed to the RRC Associates Colorado Snowsports Enthusiasts Panel.
Overall, carpooling from the Dinosaur lot leads to a 60 percent reduction in the number of vehicles, with one carpool vehicle leaving the lot for every 2.4 vehicles that enters. Most cars entering the lot were solo drivers; by contrast, each car leaving the lot had, on average, 3.3 people aboard.
“The findings that would be most actionable are the dynamics of carpooling,” said David Becher, director of Research at Boulder’s RRC Associates. Based on the data, it’s clear that carpooling already results in a significant reduction of traffic on I-70, and the surveys help show what motivates people to share rides up to the mountains.
“We’ve been working with anecdotal information for so long we thought it would be good to get some real data,” said Margaret Bowes, program director for the I-70 Coalition. “We knew intuitively that the Dinosaur Lot was a huge focal point, but we weren’t sure where they were all coming from.”
Bowes said the survey results show that almost all (94 percent) of season pass holders are “super-willing” to change their travel behavior in order to avoid congestion during peak travel time. Those same consumers are also the most likely to be using online services to get information about traffic conditions on I-70.
“We see great potential to work with the resorts to use this information to increase carpooling, increase awareness of bus services and to spread out the peak travel time,” Bowes said. The information from the surveys could be combined with data the resorts have compiled from their carpool incentive programs to fine-tune future programs.
The next step could be to put together a summit meeting to brainstorm on how to use the information to achieve that goal, perhaps with new incentives for car-poolers and transit passengers. Bowes said she hopes to put that meeting together sometime this summer.
Becher said the survey respondents often cited economic and environmental reasons for car pooling mirroring similar results from studies on commuter behavior. National surveys also seem to suggest that car pooling rises when gas prices go up, he added.
Some of the strategies to increase car pooling could include the use of social media and additional incentives, he said.
Keystone (21 percent) and Breckenridge (20 percent) were the most popular destinations for car-poolers, followed by Copper Mountain (12 percent).
Economic factors seemed to be the biggest motivation, as 86 percent of the respondents said they were looking to save money on gas, while more than 50 percent also said they were motivated by social and environmental considerations. Nearly half said they wanted someone else to do the driving.
A large percentage of respondents are frequent carpoolers, with half of respondents carpooling on 70 percent or more of their winter trips, including 30 percent carpooling on all of their winter trips.
About half of all season passholders surveyed this winter said they’d be willing to pay to use an extra toll lane that may someday be built in the Twin Tunnels area, with non-pass-holders more willing (63 percent) to pay.
Overall awareness of new ski bus services is still low, with only about 20 percent of the respondents saying they’d heard of the services. In an encouraging sign for those transportation service providers, about 80 percent of the people interviewed said they’d be “somewhat” to “very likely” to ride a bus to the slopes.
Price points are crucial for people willing to consider transit, as about half the respondents said they considered a $20 to $29 fare to be “reasonable.” Only 15 percent identified a fare of more than $30 as reasonable.