Currently, traveling from Denver to Boulder takes anywhere from 35 - 95 minutes via car or bus. What if we could make the trip along Route 36 in just 12 minutes? What if that mode of transportation was powered by sustainable and renewable power sources, and they could reduce emissions for a portion of the 52,000 in-commuters to Boulder every day?
Led by Peter Vitale, these are the types of questions we discussed last Wednesday at the TEDxBoulderSalon on The Future of Transportation. Hosted at Old Main Chapel at CU, one of the most historic buildings on campus, we showcased local innovators and thought leaders in the transportation, engineering, and sustainability space.
Set within the backdrop of a hypothetical Boring Company / Hyperloop project, our first panel gave us an insightful background on the history of transportation projects in Boulder. Between a changing community and a growing need for alternative transportation methods, we received a comprehensive background on forward thinking projects across the Front Range. Kicking off the night, Boulder’s Mayor, Suzanne Jones, gave us a thoughtful dive into Boulder’s transportation plan and vision of the future - she showed that as one of the most innovative cities on the Front Range, Boulder can be a true leader in this initiative. She challenged the audience to consider how being a leader in future transportation could also include doing so sustainability by reducing our carbon footprint, which will be a core component for decision makers moving forward. Jones also highlighted the need not just for new forms of transportation, but for new methods - such as the importance of utilizing shared vehicles (or in the future, pods).
Our second panel dove further into how we would move people underground - specifically through intricate tunneling systems. Engineering miles of tunnels, the geological components taken into consideration for these projects, and the way we can sustainably go about creating networks of people- movers under the ground we walk on. Wrapping up this discussion was the Vice Chancellor for Infrastructure and Safety at CU, David Kang, who brought the conversation home to the campus that makes up a core component of our local community. Kang shared how we can focus on these projects from a micro-level, compared to massive changes at scale that we had discussed throughout the night. How do we move people more efficiently and sustainably on CU’s campus? While we move hordes of students around, could we consider moving the teachers or classrooms instead? He shared how they changed package deliveries on campus. Instead of having delivery trucks from Staples, UPS, and FedEx drive to each building, they created a centralized distribution network to deliver packages with mail runners on campus. These questions and solutions not only make the functional aspects of the campus more efficient, but also a less resource intensive network.
Transportation is more than getting from A to B. We have to consider many data points when rethinking mobility between communities. Creating transportation equity in a sustainable fashion seems to be the driving force in many forward-thinking projects. How we go about achieving success will be dependent on a collaborative and idea-generating force that taps into the many innovative stakeholders involved, on the Front Range and beyond.