Monthly Archives: August 2006

Biodiesel buses hit Missoula streets

Missoula is proving that something can be done about high gas prices, according to Senator Max Baucus. The city is doing its part to develop public transportation and embrace alternative fuels in a state where residents think nothing of driving long distances to recreate or visit family.

“We’re not a seaport state or a barge state, we’re a highway state,” Baucus said after the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which he performed with Mountain Line board of directors chairwoman Debra Parker. “We’re really all connected by our transit system.”

The state’s mass-transit system is set to expand, Lynch added. Currently, Montana operates 12 rural bus systems, but that number is expected to triple in the next few years – an expansion made possible by dramatic increases in transportation spending by the state.

Mountain Line provides about 730,000 rides a year with 20 fixed-route and seven para-transit buses, and ridership is steadily increasing, Earle said.

“It’s increased 6 percent just in the last year,” Earle said.

The new 35-foot Gillig Phantom buses will replace five 12-year-old buses that, with 500,000 miles each, have reached the end of their life span, he added. The new buses run on B20, a fuel mixture using 20 percent biodiesel.

Read the full article in the Missoulan . . .

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Add biking to the toolbox of business networking

On mountain trails and bike paths, businesspeople are breaking a sweat and brokering deals. For some, it has replaced golf and squash as a way to network, chat up clients or get one-on-one time with the boss.

The learning curve is easy because most people began riding bikes as children. The same can’t be said of golf, which can be maddeningly difficult.
 Read the full article in the Denver Post . . .

Boise going green?

First there was the news that Boise wanted to invest more in efficient transit.  Now come the announcement that Boise Mayor Dave Bieter is scheduled to sign the U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement today.

Bieter would be the first mayor in the state and 280th in the nation to sign the agreement designed to reverse global warming. It calls for reducing greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that a consensus of scientists worldwide say are contributing to climate changes.

“Even if non-human factors are involved, addressing human emission sources is most within our control and thus provides the best opportunity to address the problem,” Bieter wrote in a memo to the Boise City Council first reported Tuesday at IdahoStatesman.com.

The mayor is scheduled to make his announcement at noon today at the Banner Bank Building to illustrate that energy-efficient design is not only good for the environment but also makes good business sense.

Read the full article in the Idaho Statesman . . .

Boise Chamber of Commerce backs public transit tax

Move over Salt Lake and Denver. Taking a page out of the transit success stories in other larger intermountain west cities, Boise is trying to but the anit-tax, anti-transit sentiment of the state.

In an anti-tax climate, Boise Chamber of Commerce CEO Nancy Vannorsdel is pushing to empower voters to impose a half-cent sales tax for public transit in Ada and Canyon counties.

Vannorsdel, a former banker, acknowledges the chamber usually fights taxes. “I know, it’s an oxymoron,” she said. “We may very well be a recipient of that award. But the marketplace is changing. Workforce will be the No. 1 issue in the next 10 years. Getting people to and from work, and having them live where they want to live, is pretty important. Transportation has become a big issue for business.”

Vannorsdel and her board are allied with the Coalition for Regional Public Transportation, co-chaired by Home Federal Bancorp CEO Dan Stevens, former Idaho Transportation Board Chairman Chuck Winder and Caldwell Mayor Garret Nancolas.

They want to allow Valley Regional Transit, which has no taxing authority, to ask voters in November 2008 to back a half-cent sales tax. That would raise an estimated $964 million over 20 years to buy right-of-way from Boise to Caldwell, vastly improve bus service and start light-rail.

Their draft bill says a simple majority of voters in a transit district could approve a sales tax of up to a half-penny. It also would authorize bonds approved by a two-thirds vote.

The prospects for the bill, however, look dim. Proponents are watching the ongoing developments in Utah as Gov. John Huntsman said last week he’s considering a special session for lawmakers to consider the Salt Lake Chamber’s call for allowing voters to boost the existing transit sales tax. Voter approval in November could raise $17.7 billion over 10 years and accelerate the 2030 transit plan to completion by 2015. That would more than double light-rail mileage, build 45 miles of commuter rail from north to south, and add 175 miles of bus rapid transit, much of it on dedicated lanes.

That heartens Vannorsdel. “What’s so exciting about the Salt Lake model is it’s not an East Coast proposal. It’s right next door.”

Precisely. Salt Lake is our cultural sibling. Ridership on three new light-rail lines has doubled projections, and many Idahoans know the system. If Utahns have the intestinal fortitude to invest, get out of their cars and head off commuting nightmares, why can’t we?

Read the full article in the Idaho Statesman . . .

Vail Going Green?

Less than 10 years ago the Aspen Skiing Company introduced the first wind-powered lift in the American ski industry. In April, Skico switched to 100 percent renewable energy, followed this summer by Vail Resorts and the town of Vail.

Skico and Vail Resorts are leaders in the ski industry and, perhaps more important, for businesses of all kinds. Vail’s purchase made it the second largest corporate user of renewable energy in the nation.

The outdoor recreation industry is leading this green trend in part because of Patagonia, an apparel company that in 1998 became the first in California to buy all its energy for 13 buildings (including the headquarters) from newly constructed renewable energy plants.

More and more consumers make decisions about where to spend their money based on the company’s perceived environmental conscience. More companies are coming around to the viewpoint that green is gold.

Read the full article in the Aspen Times Weekly . . .

California – the next nation state

California has the 6th largest economy in the world. The gross state product is nearly $1.5 trillion, which is only slightly behind France and Britian. So it is really no surprise that it has begun acting more like another nation state rather that just a western state.

Just the other day, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an agreement with British Prime Minister Tony Blair to work together to curb greenhouse gas emissions, promote clean-burning fuels and collaborate on research to fight global warming.

“California will not wait for our federal government to take strong action on global warming,” said Schwarzenegger in a statement. “International partnerships are needed in the fight against global warming, and California has a responsibility and a profound role to play to protect not only our environment, but to be a world leader on this issue as well.”

At the meeting, Blair called global warming “long term, the single biggest issue we face.”

Read the full article in the L.A. Times . . .

Commuter Rail for Missoula?

Although rail made the development of the Western US a possibility, it doesn’t get much respect in many transportation circles outside the major metro areas like Portland, Denver, San Franciso and Salt Lake. Opinions, however, are begining to change.

As Daniel Kemmis, a senior fellow for the Center for the Rocky Mountain West, notes, “Certain economic trends like population increase, business growth and urban development are now occuring in places like Missoula, cars are no longer the best or wisest means of transportation.”

“We’re finally beginning to evolve out of the automobile trend that’s been going on for over 100 years… we have a lot of thinking to do, and we have to be as smart and as wise as we can be,” he said.
Read the full article …