A good system that needs to be refined…
Last week a college group from Texas Tech was in Crested Butte to enjoy the last days of their winter break. On Friday, January 15 they had a party at the Lobar that ended about 12:45 a.m. So by 1 a.m. there were 200 “happy” college kids on Elk Avenue looking to get back to their condos on the mountain.
Oops. The Mountain Express bus service had stopped running at midnight.
It is such situations that the local authorities want to avoid. A meeting was held Monday, January 18 to address the situation. Crested Butte Chief Marshal Tom Martin said it was a good meeting and the participants concluded that better communication and more funding to finance late-night transportation was what was needed. “If we open up better lines of communications between some key players… those holding events or live music… we can be prepared to handle the situations when they come up,” explained Martin. “We plan on organizing an e-mail list and we all agreed there needs to be some more money to help fund late-night services.”
Alpine Express runs the Late Night Taxi Service that is subsidized by the Crested Butte Bartender’s Association. Alpine Express co-owner Stewart Johnson said compared to some other resort communities, Crested Butte has a solid plan in place. “It was a positive meeting and everyone seems to be on the same page. We have a good system but we all agree that we need to refine it more. Better communication is certainly a huge factor,” he said.
Martin said both Alpine Express and Mountain Express are willing to add extra transportation when needed if they are aware beforehand that it will be helpful. He said the county has been cooperative in plowing the road between the mountain and town after midnight if county plow drivers are made aware that they will be needed.
There are already certain nights that the bus systems plan on running extra vehicles. New Year’s Eve, Mardi Gras and late nights during College Ski Week are three examples.
Mountain Express Director Chris Larsen said even though his system cannot accept additional financial contributions from private entities to run late buses, the thought is that there will be enough people out spending money after midnight to make up the costs. Mountain Express is funded primarily through sales taxes from Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte.
“The board is willing to help when we know help is needed,” Larsen said. “The main point that came out of the meeting this week is that communication needs to be improved between us and the bars, the promoters, CBMR. The idea is to give us notice when a big event is going to take place. That should eliminate most of the problems that came up with the Texas group and the Leftover Salmon concert that also stranded hundreds of people who poured out of the bars and had to wait on transportation home.”
Martin pointed out that if everyone knows the situation ahead of time, the plan could be geared toward a specific event. For example, a lot of locals attended the Leftover Salmon concert and so door-to-door service was needed. That would come under the charge of Alpine’s Late Night Taxi service. The Texas Tech students needed to get back to their condos from downtown. A Mountain Express bus probably could have handled most of those passengers.
“There is a financial concern and it needs to be addressed in the long run,” said Martin. “We will brainstorm some ways to find funding for the Bartender’s Association so they can help fund the late-night need.”
For years, the two towns have each contributed $3,850 to the association. Mountain Express contributes $7,700 a year to the late service. The county has donated money as well. But Martin said it could be time to revisit the level of financial support and touch base with some other entities like CBMR. The resort used to contribute to late-night transportation but it’s been a few years since they donated money.
Martin said Alpine Express runs a late-night taxi 325 days a year with time off in the spring and fall off-seasons. The service receives about $19,000 in government grants.
“Between finding ways to have better communication and digging up some extra funds to pay for the service, I think we’ll be able to tweak the current system to make it run really well,” said Martin.
Incidentally, on the night of the college party, the Late Night Taxi service had one 15-passenger van working, so they shuttled the Texas Tech kids up the mountain. “Unfortunately it sounded like there was a last-minute shift of the party location but none of us knew about it. We were able to get a second driver to help out but that was as much luck as anything,” observed Johnson. In the end, everyone arrived back on the mountain safe and sound.