“There is truly a benefit both ways”
Mt. Crested Butte’s Town Council is intent on seeing some new buses in the Mountain Express fleet. They are willing to commit $58,000 to the free public bus service in 2009 to help with bus purchases, so long as the town of Crested Butte agrees to match the donation.
In January, Mountain Express manager Chris Larsen announced that the bus service still had the opportunity to secure grant funds from the Colorado Department of Transportation for the purchase of new transit buses. However, the grant would require a 20 percent match—about $24,000 per bus.
During a council meeting on Tuesday, March 3, town manager Joe Fitzpatrick said the Mountain Express budget was very tight due to the ongoing construction of the new maintenance facility. “They have a grant opportunity… but they do not have the matching funds. So they cannot replace buses and the fleet is getting extremely old,” Fitzpatrick said.
Councilmember Gary Keiser, who holds one of the Mt. Crested Butte seats on the Mountain Express board of directors, said the current fleet was comprised of 17 buses averaging more than 100,000 miles each.
Fitzpatrick said Mt. Crested Butte had an opportunity to help Mountain Express pay for a few new buses—by helping them pay for the maintenance facility. Fitzpatrick said the annexation and development agreement for the Prospect subdivision (the East Trade Parcel) in Mt. Crested Butte included a small fee on home sales that goes into a mass transportation impact fund. There is currently $99,000 sitting in the fund.
Fitzpatrick said pursuant to the annexation agreement, the funds are to be spent on expanded bus service, or the construction of a new facility. He said if the council donated some money to help with the construction of the maintenance facility, “that would free up some op funds in the Mountain Express budget.” Fitzpatrick said Crested Butte Mountain Resort was a party in the annexation agreement and they supported the use of transportation impact funds for the maintenance facility.
Keiser said $58,000 would provide the 20 percent match Mountain Express needed for the purchase of two new buses—the intent was to buy a big bus and a small bus.
Keiser said Larsen was investigating whether using a smaller bus to run the town shuttle during slow times would be more efficient.
Regarding efficiency, councilmember Dave Clayton said he often saw the condo loop buses running empty.
Councilmember and Mountain Express board member Bill Babbitt said, “We’re re-evaluating all of our routes this spring.”
Clayton said he would like to see bus service expanded into the Prospect area at some point.
Babbitt said it could be a possibility in the future, but “the bottom line is the fleet is very old… If anybody has ridden any of (the buses) this year you will know what we mean.”
Mayor William Buck said when the town asked for CBMR’s support in using the transportation impact funds, the resort asked if the town of Crested Butte would be willing to contribute an equal amount.
Since the service is a benefit to both towns, Keiser said, such a funding arrangement would only make sense.
Clayton agreed. “There truly is a benefit both ways. It brings their skiers up here and brings our visitors down to Crested Butte in the evenings,” he said.
Councilmember Mike Kube made a motion to approve the $58,000 expense from the town’s transportation impact fund, contingent upon the town of Crested Butte pledging an equal amount. The expense was unanimously approved.
Clayton noted that with a combined total of $116,000 in matching funds, Mountain Express should be able to purchase four new buses.
Keiser said he hoped the Crested Butte council would make a decision soon. “We need to move fairly quick if we want to get (the new buses) by next ski season,” he said.
The Crested Butte Town Council will consider the funding request during a joint meting of the two town councils on April 6.