In the Luumlight

Press

Living the Dream with Luum, MTC and Napa Valley Forward

Excerpt from Napa Valley Register’s Traffic Tales by Barry Eberling (2/21/2020)

Steve Gaebe and Matthew McElroy are at the forefront of Napa Valley’s solo-commute-busting movement that local transportation leaders say could ease traffic problems.

Both work at Harvest Inn in St. Helena. Both live near downtown Napa. They decided to carpool on days when their schedules mesh.

“There were a couple of instances where we’d pull into work and we’d park right next to each other at the same time and go, ‘This is crazy, why we aren’t driving up (here) together?’ ” Gaebe said.

In 2018, they began doing so a couple times a week. They were sold on the Napa Valley Forward vision before Napa Valley Forward was born.

Napa Valley Forward is a new, $1 million-plus pilot program by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Napa Valley Vintners and Visit Napa Valley. About 20 employers in the wine and hospitality industry are participating, including Harvest Inn.

Alternate-commute workers log their trips into a website. They can earn rewards such as coffee and gift cards. Data gathered on where workers are traveling and when will help transportation leaders shape solo-commute options.

Another co-worker lives in Coombsville and can take one of them home if a schedule suddenly changes.

Forgoing the solo commute doesn’t necessarily mean carpooling. Gaebe said a few people on the Harvest Inn housekeeping team take the bus from Calistoga to St. Helena.

A typical morning carpool commute for McElroy and Gaebe begins going through the city of Napa’s newest traffic feature – the triple roundabouts being built at First Street, Second Street and Highway 29. They think the roundabouts will work just fine.

“It’s hard to get a full sense right now because of the construction going on…I do have this sense once it’s going, people will learn,” McElroy said.

Then it’s decision time. McElroy and Gaebe check the live traffic conditions and decide if they should make the trip on Highway 29 or Silverado Trail. They said the signal on Highway 29 at Yountville can be a bottleneck.

A good day might see the 17-mile trip take about a half-hour.

The recent Napa Valley Transportation Authority travel study counted about 353,000 vehicle trips in the county on a typical weekday. Forty percent of morning rush-hour trips are work-related.