Eco-Touring – June 2009

Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Eco-Touring” June 2009.


“Leave The Driving To Us”
Ramblin’ On, by the Napa Nomad – Eco-excursions in the Napa Valley
By Arvis Northrop

Leaving the driving to that familiar grey bus seemed like a good idea at the time.
In fact, it can still be a great idea for alternative transportation, in terms of less cars chugging along our freeways. The inconvenient truth is, all of that diesel fumes that are spewed into our air.

To advocate and provide solutions to the pollution, a few insightful citizens of Napa Valley formed the Napa Valley Clean Air Coalition; a group of public, private and non-profit sectors. Working together, they can address the public’s need to be educated on what we can do to lessen the inevitable pollution of our air. The Napa Valley Clean Air Coalition (NVCAC) partners with the Bay Area Quality Air Management District ( and its Spare the Air program (

The partners of the Napa Valley Clean Air Coalition put their heads together and came up with the Napa Valley Car Free program.  Their vision: what if visitors to the Napa Valley could get here from San Francisco and not have the expense and stress of renting a car? Why not be free of inching along in traffic jams on Hwy 101 or I-80, burning fuel and adding to the air pollution? More partners got in on the idea, including the Napa Downtown Association, City of Napa, Napa Chamber of Commerce; just to name a few. (A complete list of Coalition partners is on the NVCAC website:

The idea is to provide alternatives to driving their own cars, or renting cars for visitors to the Napa Valley. The Coalition and Car Free program offers alternatives that allow our guests to “take a vacation from their car” with affordable transportation. The Car Free program encourages people to pay attention to how they travel and their impact on the environment of the destinations they are visiting. For travelers who are already keenly aware of eco-friendly methods of travel, “eco-tourists”, the Car Free program recognizes their commitment to responsible travel and gives them a scenic and enjoyable way to get to and around our beautiful Napa Valley.

So, how does it work? Where do we go and what do we do? In its start-up phase of operation, just since March of this year, the Napa Valley Wine Train and Platypus Tours have coordinated great vacation packages for your visiting friends and family to use. For the many people who are touring San Francisco, they can spend an entire day in the Napa Valley, experience the Wine Train’s lunch and winery tour packages and return to San Francisco by 7:00pm. They begin with the Bay Link Ferry or Bus to Vallejo. The shuttle picks them up at the ferry and brings them to the Wine Train station where they depart on their excursion. In the afternoon they’ll have free time to shop and explore in downtown Napa, return to the Wine Train station and be transported back to the ferry in Vallejo for their return trip to San Francisco.  Can you imagine the benefits for all of us in this? We’re often concerned about “more tourists”; but this brings the tourism revenue to our town, without the added traffic and air pollution. Brilliant!  As stated on the Napa Valley Clean Air Coalition website:  “Managing our traffic congestion problems (and the resulting negative air quality impacts) is very important to those of us who live, work, and play in the Napa Valley. Traffic congestion cannot be solved by merely adding more roadway capacity. We need to get people to change their travel choices, including when and how they travel.” The partners of the Napa Valley Clean Air Coalition have worked hard and smart to bring affordable, scenic and fun travel alternatives for our visitors.

And for us? In the plan is a way to get to the Bay Link Ferry in Vallejo every day of the week; just call Platypus Tours for pricing on this shuttle service, 253-2723. On those hot days, skip the crawl down Hwy 29, through American Canyon; you know what I mean. I’d say it’s worth considering as a start to my vacation-style day trip to San Francisco, via the cool and relaxing ferry ride from Vallejo.

Keep your eye on the Napa Valley Clean Air Coalition’s website ( as more opportunities develop to get around our Napa Valley without a car. For complete instructions on how to reserve a Car Free package with the Wine Train go to:


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