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RTA is taking measures to mitigate bad bus behavior

Highway 50 bus stop to be moved next spring

By Mark Reaman

The Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) winter bus schedule will begin on Wednesday, November 22. Like last season, there will be 17 round trips a day through the ski season. But the valley-wide bus system is experiencing growing pains and some riders are jeopardizing the service and bus stops through bad behavior.

The issue was discussed at length at the November 10 RTA meeting and it appears the late-night bus that leaves Crested Butte at 11:20 p.m., along with early-morning riders catching the bus at Colorado and Highway 50 in Gunnison, are pushing the envelope. The board agreed to move the Highway 50 bus stop next spring to the Gunnison Chamber of Commerce, while implementing mitigation measures immediately to try to control the behavior of passengers.

The behavior issues include people on the late-night bus treating it as a “party bus.” There have been instances of people vomiting on the bus, drinking and doing drugs on the bus and even gambling on the ride down to Gunnison.

The early-morning issues are centered on the Quality Inn hotel on Highway 50. Lodge owner Michelle Gallowich told the RTA board that some passengers waiting for the bus have no respect for her property, business or customers.

They have destroyed a wall in the front of the hotel, entered the hotel to use the facilities, helped themselves to coffee and the breakfast bar, sat on the cars in the parking lot, used foul language and generally made customers of her family hotel uncomfortable.

“A bus stop atmosphere is not a good match for a hotel,” Gallowich said. “It is not a good blend. I need to protect my business and it is not fitting to have the bus stop at the hotel. I really would like it moved.”

The board agreed with that request but said it was too late to make the move for this winter. Moving it to the Gunnison Chamber of Commerce building a block away seemed to be the logical move but a bus stop there needs to meet ADA standards, which it cannot manage at this time.

“We are on board with mitigating the issue as much as we can until we can build a new bus stop,” promised RTA board chair Roland Mason.

RTA board member and Gunnison City Council member Leah Morrison said the city was looking at perhaps having the bus stop move closer to the core of downtown, with the thought that tourists riding the bus down from Crested Butte could then be closer to the businesses. “In the long-term the city is interested in identifying a stop closer to Main Street,” she said. “But in this situation, in my opinion, the chamber location is okay.”

“We all agree the stop has to be moved,” concluded RTA board member Jonathan Houck. “We can work on how to best mitigate the problems this winter and move it quickly in the spring.”

“We had discussed abandoning this bus stop but it is pretty busy,” said RTA executive director Scott Truex.

RTA special projects manager Anthony Poponi is developing a plan to help “fix” passenger behavior. There will be signage placed at all the bus stops asking passengers to respect private property and not trespass on nearby businesses. Flyers will be printed and placed on the buses. Cameras are located on the buses and have been used successfully to identify problem passengers and prosecute offenders

“We will also be engaging law enforcement throughout the county to make random appearances on buses,” explained Poponi. “RTA staff will also be making face-to-face contact with riders at stops experiencing these issues to reinforce proper etiquette while waiting for the bus and during trips.

“We have discussed the situation with the police at both ends of the valley,” Poponi said. “They are aware and supportive of trying to curb the bad behavior. We are also using social media and notifications through the real-time scheduling app, Swiftly, to get the word out. We are hoping education helps curb the actions of people who might be making bad decisions.”

“We are getting more of these types of problems as we mature,” said Truex. “It is a never-ending battle and it is happening in other places as well.”

“At what point do we have to have our own security?” asked RTA board member Glenn Michel.

“I don’t want to go there but we may get to that point,” answered Truex.

“The behavior has definitely gotten worse,” added J.P. Frymoyer of Alpine Express, who runs the routes. “We want to protect the assets of the RTA. As usual, 99 percent of the people are great and it’s just a few people causing the problem. But as we grow there are more of them.”

“We will do our best to mitigate all of these issues this winter and move forward to work with the city to move the bus stop, probably to the chamber this spring,” summarized Truex.

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