The Boulder Valley is well known for many things, whether it’s our environmental-friendly people and companies, our highly intelligent and educated work force, the University of Colorado, our scenic countryside or our fairly wealthy population. But none of these individual characteristics alone can define our community to the world. What is the Boulder Brand? Or, better yet, what should it be? Even the city of Boulder is seeking ideas from the public on the Boulder brand in hopes of passing a bond measure in 2012 for a capital project that’s in line with whatever brand idea is chosen. In an effort to make our community more aware of the Boulder Brand ideas being discussed for the city and the Boulder Valley as a whole, RE/MAX of Boulder will feature organizations’ brand proposals in its e-zine over the next several months. We hope these articles are informative and that you feel welcome to provide your feedback to RE/MAX as well as to the organizations and your local government.
Innovation is a beautiful place.
In this case, that place is a community that provides innovative transportation choices that minimize the impact on the environment, allowing the community to retain its beauty, according to George Gerstle, chairman of 36 Commuting Solutions and director of transportation for Boulder County.
“For Boulder and Boulder County, we provide choices for people who want to commute to the county; we make it easy to take the bus or ride a bicycle,” he says. “We’re really focused on giving people a choice so they don’t have to bring their car.”
And when a community has upwards of 50,000 people commuting in to it for work, transportation choices are critical to the environment.
“The last thing we want to do is have our roads ruin the visual environment,” Gerstle says. “When they come in, we want their first sense to be of the beautiful open space, not miles of roads.”
But the overall impact on the environment is just as important, he notes.
“Air quality is critical, both from emissions from tail pipes and climate change,” Gerstle says. “We’re making an effort to reduce emissions and our reliance on oil; the less reliance we have on oil, the better off we all are.”
The right transportation system not only limits a community’s impact on the environment, it also moves people efficiently and comfortably, he notes.
“Our goal is to have a transparent transportation system that moves people well,” Gerstle says, noting it’s a formidable challenge with tens of thousands of commuters as well as visitors. “We don’t want many, many lanes (of highways) coming in to Boulder and Boulder County.”
While Boulder, Louisville and Longmont will both get commuter rail systems eventually, those aren’t likely for another 15 to 20 years, he says. Meanwhile, Boulder-area governments and 36 Commuting Solutions are working with the Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) and the Colorado Department of Transportation to provide a rapid transit (BRT) bus system that’s the next best thing to a commuter rail.
“We’re not waiting for rail,” Gerstle says. “We’re going to have a great BRT system in the next couple of years. We’ll have busses that no one has seen before – like rail but on wheels – that come every few minutes and are much more affordable.”
Besides the improvements in the bus system, the Boulder area already has a tremendous bike trail system and nearly 60 miles of shoulders that provide beautiful views as well as an easy and efficient way to get around, Gerstle says. And with such great weather, bicycles can ride most days, improving their health and just helping them feel good.
“By providing the choices that we are, whether bicycling, walking or carpooling, it leads to much healthier lifestyle than sitting in a car, producing and ingesting air pollution,” he says. “Active living is the key to a healthy lifestyle. We want to make it easy for people to do the right thing.”
Gerstle says his organization, the Colorado Department of Transportation and local governments are always looking to improve the availability of shoulders and regional trails on which to ride, and they are following an aggressive regional trails plan that includes building a bike path along U.S. 36 between Boulder and Westminster. Completion is expected by 2015, he says.
“Boulder County has the shortest commute time of any county in the Denver metro area, and we spend less than most other places on transportation, so by all measures, Boulder County is the place to be if you want to have a short, beautiful commute,” Gerstle says. “Innovation is a beautiful place.”
And it’s critical to continue traveling down that path if the Boulder area wants to maintain that reputation, he adds.
“We had better be successful if we’re going to keep the Boulder and Boulder County economy vital,” Gerstle says. “If people can’t move in and out in an efficient and comfortable way, they will move somewhere else.”