Pitkin County board mulls incentives for greener car rentals at Aspen airport
Just before passing a resolution declaring a state of emergency over climate change earlier this week, Pitkin County commissioners demonstrated their commitment to the subject while discussing an ordinarily mundane point of government business.
The subject was new lease agreements with rental car companies for space at the Aspen airport, which eventually morphed into a discussion about how to motivate and incentivize the companies to rent more hybrid and electric cars to Aspen visitors in the future.
“I just don’t think we’ll be honoring our climate change commitments to kick this down to a potential future airport project that may not come to fruition for another eight-to-10 or more years,” said Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury. “I want to press a little on this and see what we can include now.”
And while the answer to that question was not much immediately, her fellow board members supported the idea and Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock suggested that a separate rental car program with financial incentives for companies that provide such vehicles could be investigated.
Future space leases for rental car companies at the airport could include quotas mandating a particular percentage of the rental fleet be electric or hybrid, McNicholas Kury said.
“Let’s put our goals out there,” she said. “It’s OK that we can’t mandate it (yet).”
Leery of extending the lease process — rental car company lawyers would have to look over any lease changes — commissioners Wednesday approved the leases with Avis, Hertz and other companies. However, the five-year leases must be re-approved every year, so additional conditions, voluntary or otherwise, could be included in subsequent years, Pitkin County Attorney John Ely said.
Commissioner Patti Clapper initially broached the subject when she wondered aloud whether the board could provide financial incentives to rental car companies that encourage the rental of hybrid vehicles.
Chris Padilla, the airport’s controller, said he’d asked the companies about it and found that rental car fleet makeup is “market-driven.” The companies offered the vehicles previously, and one even provided incentives, but Aspen car renters passed, he said.
“People wanted four-wheel-drives,” he said, adding that Jeeps were popular.
Nonetheless, commissioners liked the idea and continued to brainstorm over ways it might be implemented.
Board Chairman Greg Poschman, a vocal environmentalist, wondered if the companies might, perhaps, offer 5% of their Aspen fleet as hybrids in exchange for discounts on space rental.
Commissioner Steve Child said the board ought to provide charging stations at the airport both so rental car companies can provide electric cars and so the general public will be able to charge electric cars while parked in the public lots.
Peacock said county staff will speak with rental car company representatives about the idea, analyze the financial impacts of offering incentives, come up with incentive program proposals and look at the cost of adding infrastructure before bringing the issue back to the county board.
Not long after discussing the rental car leases, commissioners welcomed Aspen students and passed a resolution declaring that a climate change state of emergency exists in Pitkin County. And that action followed a march by hundreds of local students Sept. 20, who stood in solidarity with their peers worldwide in a Global Climate Strike designed to bring attention to the issue.
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