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Carpooling Apps Aim To Ease I-70 Traffic, Facing Hurdles From State

DENVER (CBS4) - Over the three-day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, nearly 180,000 vehicles were expected to travel through the Eisenhower and Johnson Memorial Tunnels. But some app developers are saying the state is stunting their ability to help connect skiers and get cars off the I-70 corridor.

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"I've spent my fair share of hours on I-70, and it gives you time to think. Myself and my co-founder, we are software people. We try and solve problems with software, and that's what we're doing," said Adam Cotner, a Co-Founder of a carpooling app Gondola.

A similar carpooling app, TreadShare, launched in December and was sent a Cease and Desist letter from the PUC. Now legislators and transportation advocates have demanded a change.

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CBS4's Jeff Todd interviews Adam Cotner. (credit: CBS)

"The I-70 carpool apps referenced above are focused on cost-sharing for the driver, not profit.  The annual $111,250 TNC license fee and the extensive regulations such as background and medical checks for drivers is prohibitive and not viable for these cost-sharing rideshare platforms that have the primary goals of congestion and carbon emission reduction," said Ryan Hyland, the Chair of the I-70 coalition in a letter to legislators.

"This has really ground us to a halt for fear of action by the Public Utility Commission," Cotner said.

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Gondola has people create an account through either Facebook or LinkedIn. They can then drive or find a seat in a car from a location to a designated ski area. Riders help pay for gas and other car expenses to the driver.

"Our ultimate mission is to take cars off the road. I think that's a sentiment shared pretty universally across the Front Range," Cotner said. "The skiing community is full of a lot of really friendly, outgoing people. And the more of those people we can connect the better."

"We've got to throw everything at the wall to see what sticks and certainly this is one more way to get vehicles off the I-70 Corridor," said Rep. Julie McCluskie.

Interstate 70 traffic
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On Friday, during a storm and increased traffic, it took McCluskie, herself, almost six hours to get home from the State Capitol to her house in Summit County. She's now working with other legislators to create a bill that would allow carpooling apps to not face the same strict regulation as other ridesharing apps.

"Many of us are hoping and looking for solutions, ways that we can still have robust thriving tourist economy and still be able to get back and forth from our homes to Denver. We have to look at every possible solution," she said. "We need to take steps so these rideshare apps can get out there on the market and thrive!"

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