On the ballot, RTA tallies up successes

Cement Creek bus stop construction begins

In addition to the 18 statewide amendments and referenda facing Colorado voters on this November’s ballot—the longest ballot in the country— Gunnison County voters must consider a handful of local ballot issues. One of those issues catching more attention is 5A, the tax reauthorization for the Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority.



The town of Crested Butte signed a resolution in support of the measure in September, and the town of Mt. Crested Butte will consider a similar resolution at their October 7 meeting.
 Ballot issue 5A seeks to reauthorize the RTA’s sales tax funding scheme, which is set to expire in December 2009. The tax is an additional 0.6 percent sales tax charged everywhere in Gunnison County, including Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte. In the city of Gunnison, however, the tax is only 0.3 percent.
Supporters of the measure are pointing out the RTA’s efforts at improving public ground transportation in the last year as a reason to keep up the RTA funding.
Since November 17, 2007, the Gunnison Valley RTA bus has carried nearly 80,000 passengers between Gunnison and Crested Butte for free. The bus service replaced the former Gunnison/Crested Butte Shuffle, which made several trips a day between the two areas for a $2 fare.
This week, the Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) began construction on a paved bus pull-out at the intersection of Highway 135 and Cement Creek Road. RTA director Scott Truex says the pull-out will allow safe boarding for northbound bus passengers.
Under state law, a bus must pull completely over the solid white line at the side of the road to let off passengers. Previously there has not been enough room to pull over at the Cement Creek stop due to an embankment.
On the other side of the highway, the shoulder is flatter and wider, allowing the bus to stop. To reach the Crested Butte South subdivision, Truex says, RTA passengers disembarking in the southbound lane must still cross the highway. Truex adds the RTA will soon be adding pedestrian crossing signs, but not a crosswalk.
Truex says the RTA will be looking for a solution to safety and transportation issues at Crested Butte South in the 2008 Gunnison Valley Transportation Plan, which is scheduled to be complete in October.
An executive summary of the Transportation Plan released in August concludes a Park and Ride facility is the best way to increase public transportation at Crested Butte South, but such a facility will require a re-alignment of the intersection, as well as land and easements, which the RTA must obtain.
The RTA bus service has also seen several other improvements in the past year.
There are now bus schedules and signs at each of the major stops where there have not been in the past. At midway stops such as Riverland or Almont, the signs indicate the bus will stop no earlier than a specific time, but Truex says, “During lousy conditions it will be a little bit later.”
The RTA also bought bike racks for some of the more popular stops. And with a contribution from the RTA, the Crested Butte South Property Owners Association bought community bicycles specifically for residents to use getting to and from the bus stop at the highway (about a mile ride).
Down-valley, the city of Gunnison has pitched in to improve the bus stops around the city. “We’re trying to add some amenities,” RTA board member and Gunnison city councilman Jonathan Houck says of trash cans, bike racks supplied by the RTA, and metal benches.
“We just want to make the sites really accessible to citizens. We want them to feel comfortable about bringing their bike and locking it to the rack, or bringing a cup of coffee and being able to throw it away,” Houck says.
The old City Market parking lot in Gunnison at Virginia and Spruce is now a temporary Park and Ride facility. Truex says the lot striping should be finished up this week.
Houck says the temporary Park and Ride should provide a great amenity for those living out at Dos Rios or Hartmans, who want to make the trip to Crested Butte and can drive the short distance into town and then hop on the bus. The land on which the temporary Park and Ride sits is owned by St. Peter’s Parish, and Houck says the owners would eventually like to build a new parish hall on the lot.
Since the free bus service began, the RTA has also received several requests for route modifications in Gunnison, such as a stop at the airport, or at different community facilities. Houck says the board hasn’t jumped to make any requested changes to the route in Gunnison, but the ideas for new stops are still on the table.
The board did eliminate a stop at Rio Grande and Highway 50, at the far edge of Gunnison. Houck says there weren’t very many riders of the bus at the Rio Grande stop, and the extra distance caused scheduling difficulties during the winter.
In the future the RTA would like to create dedicated bus stops along Hwy. 135 at the intersections with Brush Creek and Ohio Creek.
The RTA, Crested Butte Mountain Resort, and the towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte jointly own a piece of land near the intersection of Brush Creek and Highway 135. This summer the four entities agreed on a design for a temporary bus stop at the location.
Eventually the stop may be incorporated into a full Park and Ride, but Truex says no movement will happen on the stop this year. “That’s going to take some movement of earth and pavement and things. We’re not putting a lot of money into anything until we know we have the tax reauthorized,” Truex says.
But Truex says there may be hope for a short-term solution. “We’ve been in discussions with the people at Skyland to see if there are options out there for getting the bus to pull in, perhaps where the post office is. We haven’t resolved anything yet,” he says.
Closer to Gunnison, Ohio Creek Road will be realigned next summer by the county, and Truex hopes to secure grant funds in time to build a bus stop as part of the realignment.
The free RTA bus is currently making three round trips a day between Gunnison and Crested Butte. On November 26, the beginning of ski season at CBMR, the bus will resume providing 11 round trips a day. Truex says the bus schedule is being tweaked just a bit this winter to better fit people’s work schedules. He expects ridership will decrease somewhat in December since there is no Ski Free this year.

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