Friday, December 4, 2020

Transit leaders talk about outlying service

Strategic plan needed

[  By Mark Reaman  ]

In a joint meeting between the Mountain Express and the Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority, serving Crested Butte South and other outlying areas in the valley was discussed. The RTA normally stops in Crested Butte South but during the morning and evening prime times, the RTA bypasses the subdivision and Mountain Express drives the route for six trips a day.

Mountain Express transit manager Jeremy Herzog said having buses serve Crested Butte South was integral to the public transportation system but not a major part of its ridership numbers. He said it currently amounted to approximately 2 percent of the ridership.

The Crested Butte South routes cost Mountain Express about $50,000 annually. The towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte and the Crested Butte South Property Owner’s Association each contribute about $16,000 to cover the expense.

Mountain Express chairperson Roman Kolodziej brought up the issue at the August joint meeting and said former RTA board chair John Messner suggested last year that perhaps the RTA should reimburse Mountain Express for the service costs. Kolodziej said that seemed fair.

“Our budget, like everyone’s, is in a different spot right now, given COVID,” said RTA executive director Scott Truex.

Kolodziej said the topic could perhaps be discussed at a later time.

Herzog said the Mountain Express board had approved a formal policy to charge for services outside its prime service area of the two towns. The policy is to have those requesting such service pay one-third of the costs.

RTA chairperson Janet Farmer said it was “unfair” for Crested Butte South to expect Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte to pay for that additional service. “It seems like asking $16,000 is not a huge amount,” she said.

Herzog said the bus averages about five passengers per trip from Crested Butte South. He said, “As long as parking is readily available in town or on the mountain, riders will many times choose to drive their own cars.” Given the limited parking in both towns, he said there could be opportunity to expand Crested Butte South ridership this winter if parking is crowded in the two municipalities.

Herzog said the transit agency had a strategic goal to put a comprehensive transportation plan on paper for the north end of the valley. He said he hoped a coalition of valley representatives would help with the plan.

Crested Butte town planner Mel Yemma said incorporating the role of outdoor recreation and climate action should probably be a part of the effort.

Everyone agreed to assist in the effort when the timing was right.

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