Briefs transportation

Ohio Creek Park and Ride on course
The Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) is on schedule to build a Park and Ride facility this summer at the intersection of Ohio Creek Road and Highway 135. In the spring the Gunnison County Public Works Department will begin the project of re-aligning the intersection to improve traffic flow, and the RTA’s Park and Ride will be built concurrently to save costs. Plans for the Park and Ride were drawn up last fall in anticipation of a growing number of residents in the Ohio Creek area who might need or want to use public transportation. The RTA is aiming to use $120,000 in Federal Transportation Administration Section 5309 grant funds for the project.



Election fees paid
On Friday, Truex informed the board that the RTA’s election fee from last November had been paid. Ballot issue 5A asked voters to reauthorize the RTA’s tax funding. Following the election, the RTA and the Gunnison RE1J School District were both surprised to find their election bills totaling more than $30,000 each. That was due to legislation passed last fall that required separate ballots to be printed for each of the county’s 15 precincts. But after the two entities received their tall bills, county clerk Stella Dominguez re-calculated the election fees, cutting the election bills nearly in half. The RTA ended up paying about $16,000 for the election.

Air service update
As of last Monday, airline ticket sales at the Gunnison/Crested Butte Regional Airport were up 4.6 percent over last year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean more people are flying to the local airport to go skiing. Airline consultant Kent Myers gave the RTA board an update on local air service last Friday. The 4.6 percent represents an additional 12,000 tickets sold. Just a month ago, Myers reported that ticket sales were almost 5 percent behind last year. “The good news is we’ve got more people booked,” Myers says. He says just because ticket sales are up doesn’t mean more people are flying in for a vacation. Myers says there may be more outbound ticket sales than usual due to the RTA’s recent advertising efforts in local newspapers.
And despite having more seats sold, Myers says, passenger loads on each flight are still low since the number of airline flights offered in and out of the local airport increased 30 percent this season. Airlines need to fill their planes between 60 percent and 75 percent to break even on fuel costs. Flights this winter are 48 percent full on average, down from 59 percent last season. If airline ticket sales remain low for the rest of the season the RTA and Crested Butte Mountain Resort may be responsible for paying $1.4 million in performance guarantees, which are used to secure airline service to the local airport. The board will start discussing air service options for next winter during their March meeting.
Denver bus motors along under RTA contract
A public bus service between Gunnison and Denver is chugging along, thanks to a contract between the RTA and the bus operator, Black Hills Stage Lines. Truex says four to five people are estimated to use the service each day, but the RTA has not seen an official ridership report from Black Hills. In coming weeks, the Colorado Department of Transportation is expected to finalize its own contract with Black Hills to take oversight of the service. Truex says when that contract is finalized the service will have an official grand opening celebration.
The bus originally made its stop in Gunnison at the Loves Country Store, but the bus stop will change its location to the High Country Station at 700 North Main Street in Gunnison, which is also a stop for the RTA’s free Gunnison to Crested Butte bus service. Truex also wants to send out a reminder that the bus service to Denver accepts only carry-on luggage when traveling to Denver, but regular luggage is accepted when traveling from Denver to Gunnison.
Truex also noted that ridership on the Gunnison to Crested Butte bus was up 26 percent in December, despite not having “Ski Free” at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Ridership was up 46 percent in January. During both months the bus service carried more than 15,000 passengers up and down valley.

Meeting of Colorado Airport Operators in June
The Gunnison/Crested Butte Regional Airport will be the host for the annual Colorado Airport Operators Association conference, June 3-5. The conference itself will be held in Mt. Crested Butte at the Elevation Hotel. The Airport Operators Association serves as a lobbying group for the 79 public use airports in Colorado, and also provides a medium for exchanging ideas about airport operations and promoting air travel safety. Gunnison/Crested Butte Regional Airport manager John DeVore had requested that the RTA board consider sponsoring the conference with a funding contribution, but he was unable to attend the meeting last Friday and will come back before the board in March.

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