Is it easy to hitch from Sopris and Sixth?
The Rural Transportation Authority bus stop near Sixth and Sopris will stay for the winter, and a shelter for passengers will possibly be built soon. Located in front of Benson-Sothebys International Realty and the Alpineer, the stop is used by the RTA to pick up passengers heading to Gunnison.
Benson-Sotheby’s owner Cathy Benson had sent a letter to the town and to the RTA asking that the bus stop be moved. She said the proposed shelter could potentially block the view of Crested Butte Mountain from her offices and pointed out that the bus stop attracted cigarette butts, trash and people wanting to use the private bathrooms in the nearby business buildings.
On Friday, October 10, the RTA board of directors discussed Benson’s letter, but took a neutral stance in regard to the stop and the shelter. Director Scott Truex said the shelter itself is the town of Crested Butte’s project and whether or not to move it was the town’s issue. As far as changing where the transit buses make their stops, Truex said,”We can stop the bus wherever the town wants us to, just as in Gunnison.”
But Truex said the new vehicle pull-out in front of Benson’s office was specifically built for a public transit bus. “The old stop has been taken away,” he said.
RTA board member and Gunnison councilman Stu Ferguson said similar complaints regarding trash and loitering were heard in Gunnison at some of the RTA bus stops, but those were resolved by improving the facilities at each stop—adding bike racks, trashcans and benches.
Gunnison councilman and RTA member Jonathan Houck agreed. “Once we actually developed those sites and had those amenitites in place it’s been wonderful,” he said.
The RTA board agreed to let the town handle the bus shelter issue, and was amenable to moving the bus stop if necessary, but preferred keeping the existing location.
During the Crested Butte Town Council meeting on Monday, October 20, councilmember Skip Berkshire asked the council to consider moving the bus stop to Sixth and Belleview at the site of the current hitching post.
“The RTA board doesn’t care where the bus stop is located, but they asked that there be only one in town to keep the process simple,” Berkshire explained to the council Monday evening. “We’ve received input from business owners asking for the move.”
Town building and zoning director Bob Gillie said that while the Colorado Department of Transportation may control the right-of-way to the hitching post area, it shouldn’t be a problem to move the bus stop to that location.
“But the same issues will just migrate down the street,” Gillie warned. “The lack of public bathrooms, the loitering, the smoking and trash—the same problems will remain. I think the bus stop is good where it is. It ties in with the Mountain Express routes and we can put up signage directing people to the public bathrooms by the Visitor Center. If we are going to have one bus stop, shouldn’t it be centrally located?”
Councilman Dan Escalante said he used the RTA bus a lot this past summer and he liked the idea of having it near the hitching post. “That way you can try to hitch a ride and if you don’t get picked up, you know the bus will be by soon. It is convenient,” he argued.
“I understand what Dan is saying,” said councilman Reed Betz. “But what about the congestion, especially with the school traffic? Is that really the best option? Why not just have [the bus] stop where it did last year next to the Visitor Center building?”
“Because there’s not a bus stop there. It’s a street now,” Berkshire reminded Betz.
“Okay. Bad question,” admitted Betz.
Chamber of Commerce director Christi Matthews informed the council that many times she saw 30 or 40 people waiting for the bus when the stop was outside her office. “The truth is, you are talking about short-term solutions to long-term problems,” she said. “Eventually the town is going to need a transit center.”
The council discussed the issue at length. Eventually, mayor Alan Bernholtz suggested keeping the bus stop where it is for the upcoming winter. “Our time and finances are limited but maybe we build a shelter and if it doesn’t work there, we can move it next summer,” he said.
Gillie said the town was hoping to build a shelter at the Sixth and Sopris location before the snow flies. “We’ve only received one bid and it was very expensive, but we still hope to get something up there to help alleviate the problems. We can always move it if we need to.”