Avon council candidates talk transit
Ryan Summerlin October 7, 2012
AVON, Colorado – The town of Avon has had a bus system for years. And for years, officials have tried to find better ways to pay for the service besides tapping the town’s general fund.
That’s why this week’s question to the council candidates is: Avon has always wrestled with ways to fund its bus system. Voters last year rejected a proposal to raise sales taxes to provide a stable source of revenue for the system. Can the town afford to keep its current bus system running?
Transit in the town of Avon has always been a lose/lose problem for the town’s general fund. Every year the Town Council and town staff try to come up with options to fund even part of our transit system.
If possible it would be great if Eagle County and ECO came to the table with some assistance with the routes between the town of Avon and the Beaver Creek ski area. This is transportation between two different jurisdictions in Eagle County that pay a sizable amount into Eagle County general funds and don’t get all the services that other jurisdictions get! It would be a way to help out funding just this part of our service so we can fix our efforts on our town core routes.
The town cannot afford not to keep its bus system running. The bus system is essential for our guests, as well as the many workers who live in Avon’s core. I recognize that because some Avon voters don’t ride the bus themselves they may not realize the importance of such a service.
Avon’s bus system must continue and even be enhanced, solidifying our partnerships with Beaver Creek and ECO Transit to make it as affordable as possible for the town. Restoring the upper valley’s transportation triangle (bus service between Avon, Beaver Creek and Vail) should be a priority for our community.
Yes, the bus system is a necessary public service. Bus service helps our environment, by reducing car congestion and emissions. Buses are used for commuting to work, traveling to shop and getting to the ski mountain (where they also relieve parking pressure and make car travel easier for visitors).
With all that, Avon has a great history of living within its means, which I will support.
So here are the numbers:
• Avon annually spends a little over $800,000 for our bus system.
• That pays for about 500,000 passenger trips ($1.60 a trip).
• The accommodations tax paid by hotel and short term visitors raises just under $750,000.
While that tax is not dedicated to transit, it still falls short of paying for the free bus service we now offer. Avon voted not to raise sales taxes to provide revenue for the system. So, since Avon is good at getting grant money, we should seek a federal grant (like the Roaring Fork Transit got last year). Or perhaps it is time for bus riders to “chip in” and pay a nominal amount to partially offset our costs.
As your Town Council member, I will bring my corporate experience and financial discipline to all such matters.
Obviously, this is a tough issue for Avon. On one side of the equation, people need public transportation within the town for work or daily errands; and on the other hand we have guests who demand convenient access to skiing in Beaver Creek, with other user types in between. The problem may be that there is simply not enough ridership in these limited categories to adequately sustain an in-town system.
Resort towns like Vail, Aspen and Breckenridge have significant local and guest populations to support their bus systems, which Avon presently lacks due to our physical isolation from Beaver Creek. Other resort towns also have significant revenue streams to the fund their systems that are currently lacking in Avon. There are already at least three bus systems operating in Avon today: ECO Transit (mostly commuter traffic); Beaver Creek Transit (resort guest, local skier and commuter traffic); and the Avon system (which includes the hotel/lodge shuttles).
We have excellent opportunities to partner with these other providers to serve the needs of the community while utilizing less taxpayer revenue. It is time to take a fresh approach and determine what can be done in the short term to serve our critical transit needs while building a sustainable, long-term plan based on our forecasted transportation demand.
A bus system, to a town like Avon, is crucial for many reasons. It would be in Avon’s best interest to keep the bus system running. I feel there should have been another bond initiative this year, which strictly dealt with the cost of running the bus system and did not include the entire transportation plan.
The council should examine getting an increase of revenue from other sources including a possible resort tax and possibly more support from Vail Resorts. Many locals and mountain enthusiasts benefit from Avon’s town transportation. Not having a bus system would inhibit our lower-economic residents and middle-class tourists from accessing Beaver Creek and our local businesses.
I would actually like to see bus service expanded to Buffalo Ridge. It seems logical that we should have public transportation available for subsidized housing. The bus system is beneficial to our community. The cost of not having a bus system would be devastating to our community. Can Avon afford it? We can’t afford not to have a bus system.