Nine round trips
The familiar bus service between Crested Butte and Gunnison will continue this summer, and the Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) will be using a little spare change to keep the service frequent and free.
Between June and September, the RTA’s free bus will make nine round-trips a day between Mt. Crested Butte, Crested Butte and Gunnison.
Between April 14 and June 1, and after September 1, the bus service will follow an off-season schedule of three round-trips per day. The RTA is also investigating the possibility of equipping its four transit buses to carry more than two bikes this summer.
According to RTA director Scott Truex, the “RTA Bus” was originally anticipated to run on a limited schedule from the end of the current ski season up until next winter. That would have accommodated three round-trips per day (morning, afternoon and evening) versus the 11 round-trips currently offered.
During a regular meeting of the RTA on Friday, March 14 Truex said the RTA has an opportunity to expand the service, since the organization anticipates saving about $130,000 on the current season’s airline program. The RTA provides financial guarantees to airlines flying into the Gunnison/Crested Butte Regional Airport in case ticket sales do not cover operating expenses. This year more planes have been arriving fully loaded—hence, the savings.
Truex said it would be good to increase the service this summer to keep more of the RTA buses on the streets prior to the November election—when the RTA plans on asking voters to renew the organization’s tax.
RTA board member Chris Morgan said he supported increasing the service. “I think a strong show of support in ground transportation and a strong show of support in increased airline service will help get the RTA re-authorized, and we’re also accomplishing our overall goals… It gets cars off the road,” he said. Morgan also said that keeping the free bus service strong through the summer months could open the doors to new grant opportunities.
Inquiring about anticipated ridership, RTA board member Kimberly Metsch noted that Crested Butte Mountain Resort does not get as much summer business, and board member Jonathan Houck said Western State College is also much quieter in the summer.
Truex agreed and said, “We’ll see a lot less riders in the summer.”
However, Morgan said the traffic situation in the town of Crested Butte is usually more troublesome in the summer than it is in winter.
The RTA board agreed that nine round-trips would be adequate for the summer season. Board member Skip Berkshire said, “Nine trips is a lot closer to what is currently offered. It’s good PR for us.”
Metsch asked if the buses can carry bikes.
Truex said each RTA bus has a bike rack that can carry two bikes.
Houck said some of the bike shops in Gunnison were asking about bringing bikes on the bus. “Do these vehicles have the capacity to carry more bikes?” he asked.
Truex said the same bike racks that Mountain Express uses, which carry about four bikes, could be installed on the RTA Bus, but they aren’t intended for highway speeds. “If it was my bike I wouldn’t put it on there,” he said.
Berkshire asked if some of the seats could be removed for a place to carry bikes inside the bus, but Truex said that would create insurance liability issues.
Berkshire said, “I’d like to see us find a solution so we can take more bikes. We’re just throwing up walls to something that could be a really good thing.”
Board member Bill Babbitt asked if two proposed bus stops at the intersections of Highway 135 and Cement Creek (Crested Butte South) and Brush Creek (Skyland) would be completed this summer, making the service more attractive.
Truex said the RTA, Gunnison County and the Colorado Department of Transportation were working on getting at least the Cement Creek stop finished, but there was no guarantee.
According to Truex, the expanded summer bus program will cost approximately $90,000. An off-season schedule with three trips a day will begin on April 14 and run until June 1. The new summer schedule will begin on June 2 and will run until September.