As you come to understand some of the difficult aspects of the sustainability movement, you’ll start to see that a significant portion of the issues stem from how the energy is produced. This fact cannot be understated when discussing transportation to, within, and from a tourism destination.
The tourism industry is inherently dirty, largely due to travel requirements. The tourism industry is special. The product cannot be delivered, and requires customers to come to the destination for the experience. The transportation aspect of a tourism enterprise is composed of any means required in order to reach the destination, travel within, and travel out of the destination. As one can imagine, this is highly energy dependant, especially on dirty fossil fuels.
When thinking of the ski industry, many people need cars to reach the resorts with the lack of widespread transportation infrastructure in the country which is due in large part to GM, but that’s a different story. Apart from the necessity for cars to reach resorts, is that many tourists feel they need a SUV, or other four wheel drive vehicle for the mountains. This is a legitimate concern as snow and ice quickly build up and bog down the I-70 corridor here in Colorado.
In order to cut down on fossil fuel emissions and congestion created by cars on the I-70 corridor, an alternative must be found. In the winter season 2010/2011, there were almost 21 million visitors, up 2.6% from the year previous, in the Rocky Mountains skiing. Resorts open up the 1st of November and close sometime around the end of May if they are lucky. In roughly 7 months, there are 21 million skiers. If there was a way to decrease a fraction of the total emissions caused by these people, this would not only save money through gas/wear and tear on cars, but decrease scores of CO2 emissions.
There are several popular options that are currently being discussed to alleviate the affects of transportation both pollution and congestion. First, is the notion of creating a train system that ran from Denver, and follow I-70 through the mountains. At first glance, this sounds like a great idea. The route is already created, and with little environmental degradation to an already developed route would be required. The train would take cars off the road, and be able to transport people and goods cheaply and relatively efficiently. The downside is the volume of people that would want to ride the train. As previously stated, there were over 21 million visitors to the ski areas in 2010/2011. This figure does not take into account the number of Coloradoans who frequent the freeway system in the state. I can’t imagine the number of trains that would need to be constantly running on a loop in order to accommodate the sheer volume of people. This does not seem like a viable solution in itself.
What if there was mass transit? This also seems like a great idea. Once again however, there is almost no infrastructure for this, and the volume of people is unimaginable. However, local tour companies have an opportunity to create connections with ski resorts. Continuous loops of large tourism buses could shuttle thousands of local people to and from the ski resorts daily immediately reducing hundreds of cars on the raods.
Would private companies such as Super Shuttle? The incentive is there with a huge market. The demographics they market toward include people who want a cheap, simple solution of transportation from the air port to a destination. I believe that companies such as Super Shuttle, if marketed correctly, could create various routes that are profitable and reasonably priced. Once again however is crushing number of people who use the I-70 corridor annually.
Reducing the amount of time spent traveling to and from a tourism destination is incredibly important to the visitor experience. If a person is annoyed with the travel situation, their attitude will not reflect this towards the destination experience. When leaving, this will have the same effect, however the destination will have little ability to change the last thought of its customers as they are leaving. An example from my own life occurred at the 2011 winter X-Games in Aspen. The weekend was a blast and I had a lot of fun, however it took almost 11 hours on the return trip, when it normally takes 4-5 hours. The volume of cars leaving the event is unimaginable, and due to this experience, I did not return for the 2012 winter X-games.
On their own, none of these options are viable for one reason or another. However a mix and widespread implementation of all of these sources in conjunction with each other would be a great alternative to the moving parking lot that is I-70. Apart from the CO2 emissions that would be reduced because of mass transit, there would be an untold number of jobs created. These would span from low skill jobs such as bus drivers, mid skill jobs such as mechanics and construction crews, to high paying jobs such as managers, marketers, and engineers who would all be necessary to the implementation of such an expansive emission reducing, job creating, and efficient project.