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Metro area offers environmentally friendly commuting

Multiple methods available to help save money, planet

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Adam Crow enjoys seeing Colorado’s wildlife on his 40-minute commute to work, which begins in Jefferson County and ends in Gilpin County.

Crow sees deer every day, he said, and often, he also sees elk and bighorn sheep.

But for Crow, the best part of the commute is that he is not actually driving the nearly 34 miles each way. Crow, of Lakewood, is a head cook at Monarch Casino Black Hawk. He has been riding a casino bus to get to and from work five days a week for the past eight years.

“It’s dependable,” he said, adding he wouldn’t have it any other way. “Unless,” Crow said, “the casino was right next to home.”

About 2.8 million people live in the 10-county Denver metro area, and Crow is far from the only one who has a commute to and from work. Nowadays, more and more people are joining Crow in seeking alternative modes of transportation that are more environmentally friendly.

And because of mass transit and the emerging popularity of bike share programs throughout the metro area, it’s becoming much easier for people to access ways to commute that have less of a negative impact on the air we breathe.

“Most people in Colorado are conscious about the environment,” said Kahlea Davis, a bartender at Monarch Casino who commutes from Arvada by casino bus twice a week. “It’s important to be sharing rides and lessening our footprint on earth.”

The casino buses that Crow and Davis ride are large, Crow said. He guessed that on average, about 30 to 40 people ride it per day. Their main reason is probably because it is less costly than driving a car up the mountain every day, he said, but their number two reason is to lessen the impact that the commute has on the environment.

“Riding a bus is one easy way for everybody to be able to pitch in,” he said, adding he also prefers the Regional Transportation District’s light rail for recreational outings such as ball games in downtown Denver.

RTD racks up impressive numbers

According to the most recent data available, in 2016, RTD had nearly 101 million boardings, including bus, free MallRide, light rail and Access-a-Ride.

“The heart and mission of RTD are about serving the public to the best degree possible by giving people transit options that best meet their needs,” said Laurie Huff, senior specialist of public affairs for RTD. And because of the amount of passenger trips per year that the RTD provides, it is “inherently beneficial to the environment because it speaks to fewer car trips being taken.”

But in addition to that, RTD is doing its part to help reduce emissions.

“We strive to implement sustainable features into our projects and services whenever possible,” Huff said.

RTD continues to replace old buses with new buses that are powered by clean burning engines equipped with highly advanced emission reduction devices. In the past three years, 570 of these new buses have been put into service. RTD estimates that these new buses reduce exhaust emissions by as much as 90 percent compared to the ones they’ve replaced.

Those buses are in addition to RTD’s 36 mall buses that operate on compressed natural gas in electric-hybrid configuration and its nine hybrid buses that operate in regular city transit service.

Cities across the metro area are also helping out the environment by launching bike share programs, making it easier for people to conveniently check out a bicycle for recreation, everyday errands or as a method to connect with RTD.

Denver was one of the first and launched its B-Cycle program in 2010. The Golden Bike Library opened for its third season on April 19.

“Bikes help us do our part of reducing how much carbon dioxide is released in the atmosphere and reduces our dependency on fossil fuels,” said Craig Berkley, a bike librarian at the Golden Bike Library. “They are a convenient source of transportation, but, also, bikes are just fun.”

New approach to bike sharing

Earlier this year, Lone Tree decided to try a new kind of a bike share program — a dockless bike share called ofo.

“It’s a really interesting new concept,” said Austin Good, Lone Tree’s management analyst.

Unlike Golden’s bike library or Denver’s B-Cycle where people check out a bike and return it to a station, a dockless bike share system such as ofo allows people to rent a bike through an app. The bikes have on-board locks, GPS and cellular connections that are accessed via mobile device to find, unlock and pay for use.

Ofo approached Lone Tree after it had successfully launched in Aurora, Good said. Because Lone Tree had been talking about implementing a bike share program for some time, “it lined up really well with us,” he said.

Lone Tree is trying out ofo as a pilot program — which began in February and will continue through June — but Good said he thinks it’s going pretty well.

“I’ve seen the bikes going through all stretches of the community,” he said.

Lone Tree focused on having the bikes available at primary spots in the city that cater to the commuting public, such as RTD’s Lincoln Station that serves the E, F and R light rail lines; apartment communities; shopping destinations and major employers.

“We see ourselves at a crossroads for a lot of different transportation options,” Good said. “Biking and walking is just as much of our transportation network as driving a car is.”

Leigh Gunther is a nurse with the Colorado Visiting Nurse Association and riding a bike is her preferred mode of transportation.

“I like being one who is not contributing to traffic congestion or omitting pollution into the air,” she said. “I like doing my part.”

It just turns out that a nice benefit of riding a bike is that it’s easier on your pocketbook, she added, in that it doesn’t require gasoline or the costly maintenance of a car. Plus, you don’t ever have to deal with having to search for a place to park or parking fees, she said.

And on top of it all, riding a bike is a fun way to get exercise, Gunther said.

Gunther lives in downtown Denver and takes her bike any time she can for work, but also for the everyday errands of going to the post office, the grocery store and the library.

Recreationally, Gunther is part of a women’s meetup cycling group who bike together about once a week.

“We’re always looking for new pathways and adventures to explore on a bike,” Gunther said. “It’s feels good to be able to jump on a bike and remember the joy that it brings.”

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