RTA to reinstate free bus rides after the ski season

Crested Butte South stop not happening this summer

It will be cheaper to catch a ride on the shuttle buses between Gunnison and Crested Butte once the ski season ends. This summer, the Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) won’t charge riders the $2 fee to ride the route between the two ends of the valley.



The RTA implemented the rider fee for the first time this winter. The RTA is funded by the Gunnison Valley sales tax, which has steadily declined since 2007—as much as 23 percent in 2010, according to RTA executive director Scott Truex. In response, the RTA reduced the number of daily bus trips from a high of 11 during the 2009-2010 season to six this winter. The fee was implemented to match demand with the reduced bus service, and it worked. Ridership has declined more than 60 percent this winter compared with last.
“The fee was successful in that we have not had overcrowding, but not too successful in raising funds since riders per bus have dropped substantially,” said Truex.
According to Truex, the RTA’s ultimate goal is to meet the transportation needs of Gunnison Valley. The board is considering several service options for next winter. In order to go back to free service, Truex says, they will need to provide a minimum of eight round trips per day.
In the meantime, spring, summer and fall present the opportunity to return to three free trips per day, the same service offered last year. The bus will not, however, stop in Crested Butte South.
The RTA will deviate off of Highway 135 only if the added cost is covered by the requesting party. Last summer, the Crested Butte South Property Owners Association paid $11,000 for the RTA bus to pull into the subdivision. According to Crested Butte South Association manager Chris Behan, an average of about seven people per day used the Crested Butte South bus stop. That came out to be about $3.48 per rider.
The Crested Butte South Property Owner’s Association board took bids to see if it could afford the cost of running buses for the subdivision when the RTA negotiated its contract with Alpine Express. The board decided not to include the service in the 2011 budget.
“It doesn’t matter who you use. One of those buses is about $100 an hour to operate,” Behan said.
As a result, the bus won’t be turning into Crested Butte South this summer. It will continue to stop at Cement Creek Road as it has all winter.
Free rides start April 4, the day after the ski resort closes, and run through November 22.

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