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RTD unveils new eco-friendly transit system

Series: April Fools | Story 11

With gas prices trending higher and expected to stay that way, the financially-troubled Regional Tribulation District (RTD) announced last week that it will eliminate bus routes between Longmont and Boulder in favor of a greener alternative. Launching on April 31, the Zip2Boulder system will take commuters from a 70-foot platform at the Niwot Park-n-Ride on a zip line to one of three stops along Highway 119 (the Diagonal).

"When we told our accounting department to get creative about cutting costs, they truly went above and beyond, no pun intended," RTD CEO and general manager Dontacalme Johnson said of the project, thought to be the first of its kind in the country. "I thought we would have to fire a bunch of bus drivers to get our expenses under control, but the gravity-powered Zip2Boulder system is another level of genius. There's no gas or diesel to buy, and no large smelly buses to fix and maintain. And those displaced bus drivers will now serve as harnessers, brakers, or catchers 'on the line'. It's a win for everyone involved, and Boulder County is the perfect place to pioneer the future of mass transportation."

The Z2B will run along the Diagonal from Niwot to Valmont, with stops at Lookout Road and Jay Road in between. A one-way fare end-to-end is $8.00 per rider, with round-trip fare costing $17.00, but frequent riders can join the "Boulder Zipee" program for special perks and bonuses, Johnson said.

"For every 10 rides, a 'Zipee' will earn reward points that can be exchanged for prizes, like reduced fare, a medium fries at McDonalds, or free crutches, if you have a hard landing."

To use the Z2B, commuters board an open lift that takes them to the top of a platform at any of the four stops. For those feeling energetic, there is also a ladder. Once "up top", each rider will be strapped into a canvas harness attached to a steel cable via a pulley mechanism. In timed intervals, riders then launch themselves from the platform and will travel an average of 60 feet above ground to the Lookout Road station and beyond. Wi-Fi will be available, and harnesses will include up to five carabiners that can be used to secure a backpack, metal water bottle, or other select carry-ons. In the event of rain or snow, a pouch on the harness opens into a hooded poncho. You'll need to bring your own helmet, though.

"It won't be much different than a bus ride, which also has stops," Johnson said, adding that commutes from Niwot to Boulder on the system would take under 15 minutes. "Plus, you'll have the thrilling sensation of flying through the air, free as a bird with the sun on your face. You'll arrive at your destination feeling exhilarated and ready to take on the day's challenges."

For commuters that need to travel beyond the Diagonal, Johnson announced that a wide variety of pedestrian maps, bicycles and scooters will be available for rent at the bottom of each Z2B platform. Bus service will also still be available in Boulder itself, at least for now. Johnson said that RTD and the city are considering plans for a ZipEvenFurther2Boulder system that would take riders to stops including the Pearl Street Mall, Folsom Field, and the Boulder Public Library.

Local environmental groups praised RTD's announcement, calling the Z2B system "a model for climate-friendly mass transit that could have no possible tradeoffs."

"It's low-carbon and will substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Boulder County, with no compromise in mobility, so what's not to love," Johann Du Ghudder, president of Green Action in Boulder Now! said. "Plus it's cool as hell."

Funds for the $1.2 billion Z2B system are coming from the 2021 American Rescue Act, a $1.9 billion economic stimulus bill passed a year ago to help combat the ongoing economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Johnson said that the initial phases of construction will begin later this month, with the removal of all vegetation and trees from the Hwy. 119 median.


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