Business Center

Commuter Highlight: Taking Transit and an Electric Vehicle to Work with Ashley Nylen

By: Sydney Lund, Transportation Demand Management Intern

August 27, 2019

Here at the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), we are working to enhance the quality of life and the environment of the citizens of Colorado by creating an integrated transportation system that focuses on safely moving people and goods by offering convenient linkages among modal choices. Many CDOT employees are serving as role models for their commitment to commuting to work by walking, biking, taking transit, or carpooling.

This week's commuter highlight is Ashley Nylen!

Ashley is the Assistant Director of Mobility Technology, working at the HQ/R1 building in Denver. Ashley takes the light rail to work between two and three times per week, and drives to work in her electric vehicle when not commuting by transit. Read below for an interview with Ashley were she talks about her transit commute, how she gets to meetings, and what it is like to own an electric vehicle.

Here is Ashley with her EcoPass to ride RTD for free.

How do you commute to work?

Generally I have two different ways I commute to work. I either drive my electric car and charge here at work, or I take the train. When I take the train, I’ll take my car to the train stop and then take the light rail to work. I try to take the train between two and three days a week. Since I work a flex schedule, I try to take the train for at least half, if not more, of my commutes.

Why did you decide to get an electric vehicle?

I got my electric vehicle because I do think that one person can make a difference. When I got a job where I knew I would have to commute, I wanted a car that had more safety features. I also wanted to know that the miles I was traveling were a bit more eco-friendly.

Why do you commute to work by rail?

The reason that I will take the light rail to work is for the convenience and because it is less stressful. It does double my travel time, especially in the morning. But, I can sit on the train and not be worried about the traffic around me. I can also get work done. I usually get a good 45 minutes of work done on the train. I pretty much knock out all of my emails on the train. Then when I come into work, I can do actual work.

I'll take the train on days that I know that I might be at work late, since the afternoon commute is where I've noticed it is usually around an hour to get home when I drive. So going home, it takes the same amount of time driving as it would on the light rail.

I also don’t want to add to congestion. I think one thing that a lot of people say is, “Oh, I'm stuck in traffic.” We have this mindset that you are stuck in traffic, but in reality, you are the traffic.

Ashley is validating her EcoPass before taking the light rail home from work.

How do you commute when it is raining or snowing?

I prefer the train because it is safer. I get very worried on the roadway when there is inclement weather. Also, when the weather is bad, there is unpredictability around how long my commute will take. I would rather just be on the train and not have to worry about driving and that whole stress factor.

What are some tips you have to other employees regarding electric vehicles?

I would say, take the time to understand some of the changes that it's going to mean. I know that a lot of people can be fearful of range anxiety (battery life), but 95 to 99 percent of your trips can be accomplished with the batteries that are available today. Also, take a look at the different models of cars out there. There are lots of different electric vehicles, so take a look at what suits you. One advantage that we have here at CDOT is that we do have chargers. Not everybody’s in a place where they can have a home charger, but by having a workplace charger, it's sort of like having that home charger.

What are the maintenance comparisons for an electric vehicle and a combustion vehicle?

One thing I think a lot of people don't realize about electric vehicles is that the maintenance requirements are a lot lower than internal combustion engine vehicles. There's been studies that have shown that Teslas can go upwards of 400,000 miles without replacing the brake pads because of regenerative braking. So while the initial capital costs of an electric vehicle seems high compared to a traditional car, if you look at the long term strategy of that vehicle, it's actually lower when you consider all of the maintenance elements associated with internal combustion engine vehicles.

What are some tips you have to other employees regarding taking the train?

One thing I love about the train is the reliability of when I need to leave home for work. I know the times that the train will pick me up and I know what time I need to be at the depot to catch the train. When I commute to work by car, I have a lot of worry, stress and thought about what time I need to leave the house to have the best chance to not be stuck in traffic or hit a backup, etc...

One thing that I've noticed is that trains do leave on time, contrary to popular belief. So if you are a minute late, you will likely miss your train. I do have to switch lines, and in the afternoon there is a longer service gap between my transfer trains. Just like anything else, have a good understanding of the times, so you can manage your expectations of how long your trip is going to be.

Ashley is ready to ride downtown to a meeting in the Jump bike that she reserved off the Uber app on her phone.

One thing that I think we can do a little bit better job on is making sure that staff in Denver know that the free EcoPass is an available benefit to them right away when they get hired.

How do you get to meetings in downtown?

When I go to a meeting in downtown Denver, I will rent a Jump bike. I don’t want to rent a fleet vehicle from CDOT to go two miles and then have to find and pay for parking. Parking will cost anywhere between $1 to $5. But the Jump bike will cost me $1.50 to $2.00. I can pick the bike up using my Uber app and drop it off wherever. Also, it is fun to take a bike because it’s a nice little break in the day, and it is usually quicker than driving. Even better benefit that I get a little bit of activity exercise in, too. But since it’s electric, you don't have to worry about getting sweaty or out of breath since you have that electric power assist.

How do you get around on the weekends?

On the weekends, it's sort of a mixture. I definitely use light rail to go to special events. For example, my mom was in town for the Billy Joel concert and we took the light rail to the concert so we didn’t have to worry about parking or traveling downtown. I bike a lot on the weekend. My husband and I will bike to some of our errands. If I need to get something light from the grocery store I will take my bike. We also bike on the weekend for recreation.

If you could be any mode of transportation, which would you be?

Of the non-existing technologies I would be a transporter (teleportation) because I feel like I need to be in four places at once, and that would allow me to be there. Of the existing technologies I would be an automated vehicle.

Interested in commuting to work by walking, biking, or taking transit? Check out these biking and transit resources designed to help you commute to work.

Check out our past commuter highlight interviews here.

Do you commute to work by means other than driving alone? If so, we would like to highlight you! Send an email to Sydney Lund to be highlighted as a part of our commuter highlights series.