One of the delivery trucks in the new program

Image: Scott Bellow

For more than 20 years, commercial loading and delivery in Vail Village—big rigs entering a pedestrian ecosystem—has been a thorn in the Vail Police Department’s side. “We get multiple complaints every day in some form or another,” says Commander Ryan Kenney. “Anytime you have an interaction between a pedestrian and a vehicle, there’s potential for a problem. Close calls happen daily.”

In the summer of 2019, complaints really ramped up, and with traffic and commerce in the village likely to keep growing, Vail Town Council asked Vail PD to find a permanent solution. Internal discussions were followed by the formation of a 12-person working group comprising delivery drivers, business owners, and residents. Their input led to a potentially game-changing idea that will be tested this winter: activate the historically underutilized subterranean loading docks scattered about the village as transfer stations, then have smaller vehicles deliver product to individual businesses.

It sounded great on paper, but bringing it to life—Kenney’s job—proved to be more complicated than expected. Kenney queried logistics companies from Denver to Texas to the East Coast. None was willing to take it on. Then he heard about 106 West, which began operating in Eagle County in 2017 and is co-owned by Dave Riddle, who grew up in Eagle-Vail and knew about the village’s congestion firsthand. Riddle and his team worked out some details, and the E-Vail Courier Pilot Program was born. This winter, big rigs will deliver their products to an underground loading dock at Mountain Plaza, then two small, silent electric vehicles will transfer them to individual businesses. The Town earmarked $380,000 to fund the “last mile delivery” program at no cost to businesses.

The goal is to target not specific businesses or sectors, but rather the village’s most congested streets and largest trucks. So expect to see them zipping around Gore Creek Drive, Meadow Drive, and Bridge Street, narrower areas with heavy pedestrian traffic. Riddle says their goal is to take between 12 and 18 big rigs off the streets, with the potential to expand the program “cobblestone to cobblestone, all the way across Vail Village.”

This year, four delivery drivers will make deliveries from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday in two leased Club Car Current LSVs—mini flatbed trucks that have 13.4 horsepower and 1,200-pound payloads. Riddle estimates the system will pare big-rig delivery drivers’ time in Vail from four hours per visit to one.

The pilot will add critical data on exactly how many trucks and how much product come to Vail each day and month. Two town employees are looking into federal and state grants to subsidize future iterations. Though many businesses are skeptical of change, Riddle expects demand to grow. “We need to prove that this works,” he says. “And if it does, I think everybody will want in.”

Amby Upgrade

Introducing Vail Health’s upscale injured-skier transport vans

Adding yet another page to social media’s pervasive #vanlife hashtag, over the summer Vail Health purchased a pair of Ford Transit Vans (customized into 4x4 beasts by Quigley Motor Company) to convey skiers and snowboarders with simple extremity injuries offloaded from ski patrol toboggans at “The Tunnel” near Gondola One to the emergency department at the village hospital on Frontage Road. Not to be outdone, and staying true to its not-exactly-roughing-it lifestyle, at press time sister resort Beaver Creek was planning to put its own fleet of upscale vans into service this winter to transport injured guests from Bachelor Gulch or Arrowhead to the resort's on-mountain emergency department near the Beaver Creek Village base area.

Why the upgrades from Chevy Suburbans, the vehicles being replaced? Cupholders aside, it’s the elusive amenity that motivates most to take the #vanlife plunge: more space, as in nearly six feet of headroom and enough cargo compartment square footage to allow side-by-side Stryker Stretch Systems gurneys instead of the usual stacked sleeping bunks and solar-powered mini fridge. Plus: jump seats for passengers.

“Essentially, it was about safety, keeping the patients comfortable, and also just having enough space that we can be really efficient,” says Sarah Drew, Vail Health’s director of emergency and trauma services. “Say we’re picking up one injured skier: we can take their family with us. Whereas in an ambulance, you’re going to have to figure out your own ride to the hospital.”

In other words, instead of waiting for a village bus, your entire crew can hop on board, phones in hand, thumbing a new hashtag: #ambyvanlife. —Kyle Zinkula

 

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