By Jeff Todd

DENVER (CBS4) – With more ski resorts starting to turn on their lifts for the season, a new state law is allowing carpooling apps to launch and help alleviate traffic in the mountains.

(credit: CBS)

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“We’re just really connecting people,” said Lizzie Templeton, the founder of Caravan, a carpooling app. “It is all the same common goal in the end it’s lowering traffic, lowering congestion, even in parking lots.”

Caravan is one of two apps that has recently registered with the Colorado Department of Transportation. Treadshare is the other app hoping to connect drivers with passengers headed to the same resort from similar parts of the Front Range.

“You select the resort, you’re going to your departure time from Denver or Boulder, wherever you’re starting addresses. And then the time that you plan to leave from the mountain and come back,” Templeton said about the app.

The idea for Templeton started in 2018 when she was living in Denver.

“I would leave from one apartment building with a few friends. And I would see at the same exact time I was leaving probably 20 People with the ski gear all going down to their cars leaving at the exact same time. We look around in the car isn’t it was one person per car for every single car around us,” she said. “We’re all starting at the same place. We’re all going to the same place. And we’re all coming back to the same spot within a 20-minute time frame.”

(credit: CBS)

There was just one problem with her idea to launch an app that would connect people, she didn’t know how to write the code for the software. She submitted her idea for a carpooling app to a programing class at Northwestern University. Students helped develop the app for free. Right now, Caravan is a non-profit and does not take a fee for connecting people on the app. It was ready to launch last winter, but state law and COVID put the brakes on plans.

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“The law kind of viewed (carpooling apps) the same way views, what we call transportation network companies, so Uber and Lyft,” said Time Hoover, a spokesperson at CDOT.

Legislators saw the benefit of connecting strangers who wanted to cut down on solo trips on ski days. The law was changed that allowed the carpooling apps to operate without needing to pay about $112,000 to the Public Utilities Commission.

“If people use it, especially in that I-70 ski corridor, it can relieve some congestion and get people together,” Hoover said. “You’re reducing the number of vehicles that are out there and so you reduce the amount of carbon emissions.”

Caravan allows drivers and passengers to create profiles and connect on the app where they can talk about logistics. It is not regulated like rideshare apps that may have a slightly higher level of safety. Many believe the carpooling apps will help with busy highways, but users need to act in their best interest.
“They have to take their own care and due diligence in getting into another person’s car,” Hoover said.

(credit: CBS)

Templeton says most registrations on the app start with a driver’s license and more personal information is available to make passengers comfortable with drivers. Social media accounts can be linked so people can search for other folks who might share common interests or live near each other.

“I see someone zero miles away it probably means they’re in my building. And I open their Instagram and they have a lot of similar hobbies well, that might be someone I would then request a ride from them. It would send them a text message, they would open the app and either accept or reject me as a passenger,” She said.

No one is expecting this to revolutionize weekend ski traffic, but many legislators and transportation officials see it as a huge help in getting more single-occupancy vehicles off the road.

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“I really would just like to hear good feedback and good experiences from people carpooling so that we can use that going on years forward,” Templeton said.

Jeff Todd