If we build it, will they come? More mass transit, affordable housing, electric vehicles seen as best commuter solutions

Steve Clouthier lives in Arvada and drives to work in  downtown Boulder.

“I’ve been commuting into Boulder for about 12 years, (from) Golden the first six and Arvada the last six,” he said.

Clouthier exemplifies one of the toughest problems Boulder County faces in reducing carbon emissions. Many Boulder workers live in nearby towns; many others commute out of the county.

About 65% of commuters from Boulder drive by themselves to work, according to Census figures — a number that has not budged since the early 2000s. Likewise, workers commuting into Boulder make a huge impact. Former Boulder City Council member, County Commissioner and Boulder Mayor Will Toor said the daytime weekday population of Boulder is roughly 150,000, which falls to about 100,000 people at night.

Toor, who now heads the Colorado Energy Office in the administration of Gov. Jared Polis, said the lack of affordable housing in Boulder is a big problem.

Toor said that a survey conducted a few years ago found that about half of workers commuting into Boulder would live in multi-family housing if more were available and affordable. He said the state is also working on transit, improving or adding arterial bus lines on routes such as Highway 119, Arapahoe Road and South Boulder Road.

“That would support a lot of east-west commuting,” he said.

The Polis administration also has extended tax incentives on electric vehicles and is working to bring more EVs to Colorado.

Clouthier and his wife have four children, and she stays at home with them. He said Boulder’s housing costs were a deterrent to living there, although they also weighed distance from family in Highlands Ranch and Littleton.

Clouthier has free parking and an electric vehicle charging station at work. He also gets a free bus pass. When the family lived in Golden, Clouthier commuted by bus frequently on Highway 93.

“I could walk to the bus stop from my house. If I was running  late, I could jump in the car to get to the bus,” he said. “I could open my laptop going to and from work and read my emails. It was awesome."

A need for more space prompted the family’s move to Arvada where housing was cheaper. Now, Clouthier mostly drives to work, a 30-minute commute. The bus stop is a 10-minute drive away from home.

“I’m already a third of the way to Boulder. The bus is usually reliable, but occasionally I stand there waiting. (Then I think) ‘Why am I doing this?’ “

He said his free bus pass offers an incentive. “But there’s a flip side. If I were paying for it, (I might be) a little more motivated to make sure I used it to get my money’s worth."

As for an electric vehicle, Clouthier said he might look at one in the future.“It would be easy to go back and forth from Arvada,” he said.

by Cindy Sutter