Keeps transit options for the working population
The free RTA bus between Gunnison and Crested Butte will be running again this summer, but with a reduced schedule, making six round trips each day between Gunnison, Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte.
The Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) settled on a rough summer schedule during a board meeting on Friday, April 10.
For cost savings during a tight budget year, RTA director Scott Truex recommended the board consider three trips a day for a total cost of $82,804. At the other end of the spectrum, he presented a schedule with seven trips a day for a total cost of $141,828. Last summer the RTA bus made nine round trips a day between Gunnison, Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte, but the bus often carried only a few passengers.
RTA board member Jonathan Houck said he realized last summer’s schedule had more trips than necessary, but thought three trips might be too drastic a cut. Houck said it would be tough to transport all the Gunnison residents who work in Crested Butte with just one morning bus, and asked if there would be capacity issues.
Truex said last summer all the Gunnison riders who took the 6:45 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. departures could fit onto one bus.
Board member Hap Channell said by cutting bus service back, he felt two things were going to happen: the RTA would have to concentrate more people on the fewer buses that were available and they would lose overall ridership.
Alpine Express is the company that provides drivers and general maintenance for the RTA bus. Alpine Express general manager Stewart Johnson said cutting to three trips a day could hurt the RTA’s reputation. “Are you going to lose your political support?” he asked.
Last fall the RTA asked voters to re-authorize the group’s sales tax funding. At the time the RTA also considered asking Gunnison residents to take a tax increase, but the board decided not to include a tax increase on the ballot. Gunnison currently gets charged 0.3 percent, while Crested Butte, Mt. Crested Butte and unincorporated areas of Gunnison County (only along Hwy. 135) are charged 0.6 percent. Houck said he could guarantee Gunnison would not agree to a tax increase in the future if bus service were cut to three trips a day.
Channell said, “I think it would be disingenuous of us to cut to three.”
Ultimately, the board agreed on providing six trips a day this summer to provide more flexibility for the work crowd. The rough schedule currently has three round-trips in the morning and three in the afternoon. The summer service does not start until June, and the final schedule will be announced later. In the meantime the RTA bus is running three trips per day during the off-season. You can find the official bus schedule online at gunnisonvalleyrta.org.
The RTA is also considering cutting the number of winter bus trips offered during the 2009/2010 season, but they have not made a decision yet.