Revitalizing car sharing options for Colorado ski season

When Erwin Germain was ready to leave the busy streets of Paris six years ago, he decided to move to Colorado because he loved exploring the French Alps in his youth. “I had the opportunity to experience new mountains in the United States, so I chose Colorado,” German says.

But when he set out to explore the Rockies, heading to ski areas and hiking destinations from his new home base in Denver (now a government employee, he has since moved to Summit County, near Copper Mountain), he noticed a definite gap. In Europe, he often used a popular service called BlaBlaCar, which helps people to move to different destinations. As both passenger and driver, German enjoyed the arrangement, splitting travel costs and knowing he was playing a role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions through ride-sharing.

Given Colorado’s green orientation, he decided to develop an app that would offer the same options in this state, to help drivers and passengers pair up. He and co-founder Justin Kurtz were working on the app, called tread, for three years; It is finally set to be operational.

Why did it take so long? The founders ran into an unexpected roadblock when they first tried to launch it in 2019: The Colorado Division of Regulatory Agencies Inform them that TreadShare will need to pay fees associated with businesses such as Uber and Lyft, where drivers earn money by giving people rides. According to German, it would have cost more than $110,000 to bring the company into compliance — which was too much for a startup without a business model.

TreadShare drivers will not make money; They will simply offer extra seats in their cars and split the gas cost with strangers instead of friends. While TreadShare itself will take a commission, German says the founders are trying to keep that percentage as small as possible, enough to cover operating expenses.

Seeking help with compliance requirements in Colorado led German to I-70 . Alliance, who notified state representative Julie McCluskey of the predicament faced by TreadShare and two other Colorado car-sharing apps, Gondola and Caravan.

Having learned of the regulations, mobile home The Lizzie Templeton Foundation has already turned her project into a non-profit organization, creating an app that doesn’t involve cash transactions. Instead, Caravan acts as a social site where users post their desired destinations and link to their social media, so that they can connect with others who are going to the same place; They are free to make financial arrangements offline. While the app has been running since 2020, Caravan has waited until 2021 to massively promote the service due to the pandemic and regulatory game.

gondola I came up with a similar setup, but while its website says the company plans to open soon, the site doesn’t appear to have been updated in about a year, when it posted this: “We’re sorry we haven’t launched this season due to legal blockers from CO PUC. There is a bill New allowing gondolas to operate at Colorado House and Senate Road and we plan to release for the 20/2021 season.”

Templeton was originally inspired to set up its app for car use during long trips to ski resorts on Interstate 70. McCluskey, who lives in Summit County and often travels along the I-70 corridor, was excited to consider a possible solution to ease congestion there.

One Friday night as she was returning home from Denver, she remembers, a snowstorm slowed traffic to a standstill. Fellow Rep. Perry Will was also trying to get home. McCluskey and Will ended up talking all night as the traffic slowly disappeared before they could make their way home, and the two emerged with a renewed sense of urgency to do something about the crowding along the driveway.

“Because it’s such a critical mode of transportation for the entire state, I’m very familiar with all the congestion we’re dealing with, because of the traffic and our great ski resorts and outdoor recreation opportunities,” McCluskey says.

Once she heard about the challenges facing car-sharing services, McCluskey seized the opportunity to work on a bipartisan solution, proposing new regulations for carpooling companies that would separate them from business operations like Uber and Lyft. McCluskey and Will became major sponsors of a law Project It was initially introduced in early 2020 but has been discontinued until this year due to the pandemic. Under the proposal finally signed into law in April, drivers are limited to one ride per day, as an addition to already planned adventures.

McCluskey says state lawmakers worked closely with Uber and Lyft to make sure the shared car companies’ goal was truly different. The bottom line: Carpooling groups are required to register with CDOT but communicate with users that CDOT does not regulate their services – which means the state does not inspect vehicles or check driver history, as is the case with Uber and Lyft. Additionally, the total amount shared by motorists collect from passengers per trip cannot exceed the IRS reimbursement rate, because money represents the cost of travel, not the profit.

“The end goal is really to reduce traffic and pollution here in Colorado, so we want to connect drivers and passengers in the same direction,” German says. “This is the difference with Uber and Lyft. We use cars that are already on the road.”

Now that the legislation has been passed, Templeton says Caravan plans to offer drivers suggested fares; Previously, she had shied away from it to avoid falling under the umbrella of the commercial establishment.

“The two main factors for us to pass this legislation, and the two big benefits, are the reduced traffic and congestion on the I-70 corridor and the environmental impacts of reducing greenhouse gases when we get more vehicles off the road,” McCluskey explains.

While it is difficult to determine the exact environmental impact of the legislation before knowing how many people will be using the car-sharing apps, German points out that even if a few thousand trips were ramped up each weekend during ski season, emissions would be reduced. The Caravan already had more than 100 users before the ski season started, and Templeton says the user base has grown in recent weeks.

And there are benefits beyond helping the environment. When BlaBlaCar took off in Europe, German noted that users also appreciated saving money and meeting like-minded people. on it InstagramTreadShare emphasizes all of these advantages to help convince people to adopt shared car use.

TreadShare users will also have a chance to win a 2022-23 season ticket at Arapaho Basin. According to Sha Miklas, Senior Director of Sustainability and Guest Services, sustainability is key to the ski area; When A-Basin saw an opportunity to encourage people to reach the mountain in a more sustainable way, he signed up for the app.

“We can save powder” is one of the sustainability mantras at A-Basin Basin. Besides offering the chance to win a season ticket, the company plans to highlight TreadShare and other car-sharing services as part of a sustainable Sunday series on social media. Miklas notes that anyone frustrated with crowded parking conditions in the ski area can also help with car sharing.

While TreadShare lists destinations across Colorado, it focuses primarily on ski areas and travel along I-70. Caravan only lists ski resorts as destinations, but Templeton says the company is exploring adding hiking tours and other popular destinations, such as Red Rocks, during the summer months.

“I still marvel at the innovations that are coming out of the market that solve all kinds of problems,” McCluskey says. She adds that five years from now, people may look back on Colorado’s adoption of car-sharing apps like TreadShare and Caravan as game-changers in terms of congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.

TreadShare is scheduled to participate in the game on Monday, November 29th. Find out more Here.

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