FRISCO, Colo. — If you’ve traveled Interstate 70 from the mountains to Denver after a holiday weekend, then you understand the headache that is traffic.
That’s why Erwin Germain and his partner Justin Kurtz developed an app aimed at reducing congestion along the mountain corridor. It’s called TreadShare and is a way to connect people to carpool from Denver to the slopes. The app’s developers said carpoolers split the cost of gas and mileage which encourages drivers to haul more people to the mountains for a cheaper price.
The developers also said a reduction of vehicles on the highway would result in a significant reduction in carbon emissions.
TreadShare launched last month and wasn’t up and running for long before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission sent a “cease and desist” letter citing the app violated current state law.
Under Colorado Revised Statutes 40-10.1-602, TreadShare is considered a Transportation Network Company.
Here’s how the law defines that:
"Transportation network company" means a corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, or other entity, operating in Colorado, that uses a digital network to connect riders to drivers for the purpose of providing transportation. A transportation network company does not provide taxi service, transportation service arranged through a transportation broker, ridesharing arrangements, as defined in section 39-22-509 (1)(a)(II), C.R.S., or any transportation service over fixed routes at regular intervals. A transportation network company is not deemed to own, control, operate, or manage the personal vehicles used by transportation network company drivers. A transportation network company does not include a political subdivision or other entity exempted from federal income tax under section 115 of the federal "Internal Revenue Code of 1986", as amended.
Because of this, TreadShare is subject to going through the same pricey licensing procedures as for-profit rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft.
According to the I-70 Coalition, TNCs are required to pay an annual license fee of $111,250 and are subject to regulations such as background and medical checks for drivers. Supporters of the app said that’s not easy to do since it doesn’t seek to make money.
“We’ve learned that it will take a legislative fix, so we’re really looking to our lawmakers to help us figure out what those changes need to be,” said Margaret Bowes, director of the I-70 Coalition. “It could be as simple as rewording a definition of what ride-sharing platforms are exempt from being considered in this certain classification that has proved to be troublesome for these new business models.”
The I-70 Coalition is comprised of 27 local governments and businesses along the mountain corridor from Golden to Eagle. Bowes said the group advocates for improvements to the highway which includes “everything from big fixes to the corridor to more near-term stuff like encouraging carpooling and transit use.”
The group said under current law, “it will be near impossible to implement any kind of structured, large scale carpooling on the I-70 mountain corridor.”
The coalition reached out to lawmakers for help and said they received a quick response from legislators like Democratic Speaker of the House KC Becker. Bowes said Becker is currently working on lining up bipartisan support of a bill that would amend current legislation and allow apps like TreadShare to operate without complaint.
Bowes said she’s “very optimistic” the problem will be resolved and hopes it will help avoid traffic headaches over future holiday weekends.
A second app, Gondola, which is similar to TreadShare, was planned to launch this month, too. It's also on standby while legislators investigate a change in regulations.
Carpool and transit options, as well as a travel forecast for upcoming weekends, can be found on Goi70.com.
SUGGESTED VIDEOS | Colorado Guide