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Meet the new head of RTD, learn about Snowstang, and more — read on!
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March 2020

The Smart Commuter

Five questions with Paul Ballard, new Interim RTD General Manager | All about Transponders on I-25 | Snowstang to the mountains from now until April 19 | One-on-One Travel Training on RTD available | Electric Car Trivia | Revealing this year's Bike to Work Day Poster! | and news to peruse — read on!
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Due to COVID-19, many employees and managers are turning to teleworking.  To read Smart Commute's advice for remote workers, and people managing remote workers, read our E-Blast from last week.


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Smart Commute and many north area elected officials welcomed the new RTD Interim General Manager/CEO, Paul Ballard, on his third day at the helm of RTD.  Mr. Ballard attended the North Area Transportation Alliance's February Board Meeting and spoke about his experience with Commuter Rail and leading transit agencies, most recently in Fort Worth, Texas.

Mr. Ballard was able to get to know the specific needs of the north metro at our meeting - specifically, our long-awaited N Line Commuter Rail.  In order to get to know him, we asked him five questions, which he answers below.  Read on!
 
Five Questions with Paul Ballard
 
Now that you’ve been here a few weeks, what are your first impressions of Denver and the metro region?
"When it comes to transit, Denver is ahead of most places in this country: Denver gets it. There's already the will to support transit and the recognition of how important it is to the community. People ride from necessity, but they also ride by choice. It isn't like that everywhere."
 
What’s your first priority for RTD?
"I have many first priorities. Overall, I would like to position RTD to be perceived as the agency that has done great things for this region over many years. The RTD Board, with its newly elected leadership, is poised to achieve great success, and I want to help them and the entire agency to be recognized for that progress."
 
How will your experience in Fort Worth help with the challenges facing RTD?
"'Show us how to get this commuter rail line up and running!' That has been the challenge shared, not only by Denver and Fort Worth, but before that, also by Nashville, Tennessee, when I started in each of those places. It's become a specialty for me, and the issues are similar, even if the solutions may require some innovation.
 
"TEXRail, Fort Worth's train from downtown to DFW, was mired in red tape when I first got there. It was hard to know where to start, and it was a difficult project with a lot of ups and downs and cliffhanger deadlines. But we finally opened a year ago – on time and $100 million under budget. I'm proud of that, and we'll all be proud of the RTD team that opens the N Line while I'm here, because that's what we're going to do."
 
What do you like to do on the weekends?
"This will sound geeky, but it's the truth: My wife and I actually have a long-standing tradition of riding bus and rail lines on weekends, just to see where they go. It's an excellent way to get exercise, too. We want to try Amtrak’s Winter Park Express before the season ends. 
 
"I know this may be a little much to believe, but it gets better: Our apartment is on the 10th floor of a building near Union Station, and we have a view of the station tracks. We'll be sitting on the balcony, just watching the people and the trains. It doesn't get better than that!"
 
What’s the most recent concert you’ve gone to?
"It's been a while! I love the symphony, though, and I've always wanted to go to concerts at Red Rocks."
 
The Express Lanes north of 120th are now open, and tolls are currently not being collected - lane testing is in operation, and needs to complete prior to tolling commencing.  

When the lanes are open, three-person (or more) carpools can use the lanes for free...if they have a Switchable HOV Pass.  The above video explains how they work.

Unfamiliar with Express Lanes?  Check out this other retro video from 2009, when tolling first started on the already-established HOV lanes (no Teslas in this video).
In an effort to provide additional transportation to the mountains this winter, CDOT, with support from the I-70 Coalition (an organization that, similar to Smart Commute, represents interests in traffic reduction and air quality improvements) launched the Snowstang program for the 2019-20 ski season! While the ski season is over for most locations in Colorado, the Snowstang showed signs of success in its inaugural year by exceeding ridership expectations. 

Snowstang is an express bus service with direct routes from Denver to Arapahoe Basin, Loveland, and Steamboat Resorts.  51-seat motor coaches with reclining seats, restrooms, wifi, and electrical outlets allow passengers to ride in safety and comfort. The service operates Saturdays and Sundays until April 19th.  Rates for Snowstang are extremely competitive at $25 for Arapahoe Basin and Loveland roundtrip, and $40 for Steamboat Springs. 

Snowstang is an off-shoot of CDOT’s Bustang program. Bustang currently operates a North Line, a South Line, and a West Line.  While most Bustang service is supported by state and federal funding, Snowstang is funded not by public money but by participating ski resorts and their support of I-70 solutions! 

The I-70 Coalition posts information about I-70 Mountain Corridor travel including transportation alternatives like Snowstang and carpooling, driving tips, technical resources, and a weekly travel forecast at GoI70.com.
 
Did you know that Smart Commute offers travel training for anyone interested in riding the new Wagon Road Park-n-Ride/144th FlexRide?  This grant-funded work is to help employees, shoppers, and residents to take full advantage of this new service.  If you are interested in scheduling a travel training, email Carson with Smart Commute.

Travel training is a one-on-one experience riding the FlexRide with a trained Smart Commute employee, who will help you know how to schedule a ride, how to pay your fare, and where to get off, giving you the confidence you need to rely on this new service!
The Denver Regional Council of Governments, along with the Way to Go program, is preparing to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Bike to Work Day in the Denver metro region.  This year's poster was revealed to a limited crowd in early March, and asks participants to "REjoin the Movement."  See a pic from the big reveal party above, with a cleaner version to follow soon!
The Colorado Energy Office has published a great online data visualizing tool for Electric Vehicles, allowing an easy snapshot of the EVs currently on the road, the vehicle models, the power providers, and more to easily see the impact of EVs in our state.  How do Teslas compare to LEAFs?  How many EVs are owned by Adams County residents?  Get answers to these questions, and more, at the EVs in Colorado website.

News to Peruse

If Coronavirus Sickens RTD’s Workforce, It Will Cut The Least Productive Routes First (CPR)
Guest Commentary: Changes at Fire Dept Provide Opportunity for Better Streets (Denver StreetsBlog)
What RTD is doing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (9News)
(Returning from last month) Teleworking During The Coronavirus Outbreak - Could It Save Lives? (Forbes)
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Smart Commute is the Way to Go provider for the north metro area. Learn about this regional program at waytogo.org.
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