Climate Action Collaborative: how a regional transport authority would address climate change and social justice

Gina McCrackin

As a climate action and sustainability practitioner, I try to be as thoughtful as possible about the impact of my personal travel behaviors. Public transport and mobility have long been hailed as a way to reduce emissionsnot to mention that rising gas prices have made public transit options much more attractive.

When I moved to Eagle I researched the bus lines coming and going from Avon to work every day. To give you an idea of ​​what this would entail, I would have to take the ECO Transit bus at 7:45 a.m. to arrive at work at 9 a.m. and wake up around 6 a.m. in order to accomplish the desired morning routine. Catching the bus back to Eagle would take me home around 6:30.

Comparing that to the time and convenience of taking my personal vehicle, I felt like my public transportation options were cumbersome, especially in a community with ambitious climate goals. and a workforce that lives mostly downstream.

The inclination for more comprehensive transit options in the Eagle County community, however, is widespread and gaining momentum. In January 2020the Vail and Beaver Creek Economic Advisory Councils met to discuss the need to improve the transit system for the Eagle River Valley.

Since these conversations, the creation of a regional transport authority from Gypsum to Vail has come to fruition. Transit objectives of the potential RTA would be to improve transit service and increase ridership, create multimodal integration across the county, develop stronger collaboration and efficiency between the four transit agencies in the Valley – ECO Transit, Epic Mountain Express, Avon Transit and Vail Transit – and to explore the ability to expand transit in the future.

In short, it would fund route expansion and increase the frequency of current and future routes. As it stands, the training committee and technical committee members representing Eagle County, municipalities, and metropolitan districts are working on 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 in the November 2022 election.

The creation and successful vote of an RTA would be great news for our community’s climate action goals. In 2020, ground transportation accounted for approximately 37% of our CO2 emissions, being the largest contributor to county emissions.

One of the new electric buses in the ECO Transit fleet. In 2020, ground transportation accounted for approximately 37% of our CO2 emissions, being the largest contributor to county emissions.
Courtesy picture

Getting more people out of their cars and using public transport supports our Climate Action Plan goals to reduce commuting in single-occupant vehicles and encourages the freeing up of parking spaces in the valley, especially in areas congested by tourism where parking is generally limited.

Beyond reduced CO2 emissions, fewer cars on the road mean a healthier community. Pollution from land transport increases respiratory ailments, the risk of life-threatening medical conditions and can harm other living things such as plants and animals. Supporting the formation of an RTA is a climate-friendly decision.

However, when I last wrote in the Vail Daily, I shared vulnerable parts of my journey that culminated in my desire to address environmental and social justice issues. In addition to the climate benefits in Eagle County, the RTA provides an avenue to address social justice in our community.

On average, Eagle County residents commute 23 minutes to get to work. Much of Eagle County’s workforce lives in the lower valley due to the high cost of living, and these are also the same people who are likely more reliant on public transportation. Expanding our transit infrastructure through RTA-induced increased routes and frequency alleviates pressure on the livelihoods of Eagle County’s workforce and is an identified vision for transportation equity in colorado.

So what can you, as a citizen, do to defend RTA training? Urge County Board of Commissioners and leaders in your municipality to put the RTA on the ballot for the November election and urge members of your community to vote in the next election. The RTA can be a way to support both climate action and social justice in our community, and your encouragement can be a springboard to do so.

Please visit the RTA website on EagleCountyRTA.org to learn more.

Gina McCrackin is the new head of the Climate Action Collaborative at the Walking Mountains Science Center. The Climate Action Collaborative is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Eagle County by 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.