Mountain Express closing in on half-million ridership mark for the year

Tight budget eliminates pay raises

With participation on the Mountain Express approaching a half million riders for the year so far, the bus board is looking for ways to keep their budget trim. According to Mountain Express director Chris Larsen, the agency has set up a line of credit with the local Crested Butte Bank and plans to take a conservative approach to the upcoming year.



“It is a tight situation,” Larsen explained. “We are building and paying for the new bus barn and we always have a cash flow crunch when we start up for the ski season. Looking ahead, we plan to do more things for efficiency’s sake, such as be more prudent with the back-up buses in the morning and afternoons.
“But we hope those back-ups are needed,” Larsen continued. “If they are used that means we are hauling people and those people are spending money, which adds to local sales tax, which supports the Mountain Express.”
Other budget measures call for no increases for salaried or hourly employees, the realization that Mountain Express will likely have larger fuel, repair and maintenance costs and the purchase of one new small bus for the fleet.
Larsen said ridership in September was up about 16 percent compared to the same month last year. For the first nine months of the year, ridership was at 494,345, a 12 percent increase over 2007.
Overall, Larsen said revenues for Mountain Express from Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte sales taxes were up about $22,000 over budget projections.
As for the new bus barn located by the Crested Butte town shops, the concrete pad was poured this week. Larsen hopes the steel structure will start going up next week.
The building had to have an engineering face-lift to accommodate a 100-pound per-square-foot snow load requirement, which engineers neglected to provide with the original approved plans. Additional center posts and roof beams will be added.
“If everything goes right, we’ll be in the new building sometime in January or early February. We won’t get in before the ski season starts,” Larsen concluded.
Mountain Express buses ran late for the Vinotok celebration and carried 176 passengers after 11:30 p.m.

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