By Summit Daily staff writer Taylor Sienkiewicz
BRECKENRIDGE — The town of Breckenridge is working to increase public transportation, encourage visitors not to rent a car and improve sustainability. To address these goals, the town purchased two fully electric buses, which will be added to the current Breckenridge public transit routes, replacing two diesel buses.
The buses were purchased using grant money given to the town of Breckenridge and Summit County in 2018 by the Federal Transport Authority.
One bus currently is being tested and used for mechanical and driver training, but both buses are scheduled to be added to routes by the second week of September. The buses will be charged at the recently constructed Bus Barn, which can fit up to six buses.
The buses are part of the town’s plan to encourage visitors to not bring cars into Breckenridge when they visit. Town spokeswoman Haley Littleton explained that not having to deal with a car or parking in Breckenridge can reduce stress while on vacation.
The idea is feasible, she said, because shuttles — which are equipped to drive in the mountains — bring visitors to Breckenridge from Denver International Airport. Once visitors arrive in Breckenridge, gondolas, the free bus system and walking paths make everything in town accessible.
As for residents, the electric buses enhance the Green Commutes program, which encourages employees to use sustainable methods of transportation for their commutes.
“The town has some multimodal goals for residents and visitors to help us achieve our goals for the climate action plan,” Breckenridge Sustainability Coordinator Jessie Burley said.
The major goals of the climate action plan are to reduce emissions by 25% by 2030 and 91% by 2050. While the new buses might seem like a small step toward that goal, they will prevent about 229,167 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually. The new buses also are larger than the existing buses, allowing them to transport more people in a single trip.
While more sustainable transportation options will help to achieve the goal, people have to use them in order to cut down on carbon emissions. A May survey showed that only 16% of Breckenridge residents use public transit.
“The buses alone are not going to get people out of their cars,” Burley said. “It has to be a comprehensive option, but once we get the buses here, we can work on encouraging people to use public transport.”
The electric buses are part of the town of Breckenridge’s transit master plan project. Once the new buses are implemented, the next step is to evaluate the buses for efficiency and determine where best to use them on the routes. The transit master plan project is expected to be completed in the fall, and more diesel buses are eventually expected to be replaced by electric buses.