Avon, Beaver Creek have bus questions
Avon, CO Colorado
AVON, Colorado ” The town of Avon and the Beaver Creek Resort Company started calling town residents Tuesday to ask about the bus system that connects the two places.
The survey is trying to find out how many residents value the public transportation between the two places ” specifically how often they use it and if they’re willing to pay for it somehow.
The town used to help pay for a shuttle up to Beaver Creek Village until the Westin Riverfront Gondola opened. It gave roughly $265,000 to the shuttle but transferred that contribution to the gondola instead, said Becky Lawlor, town spokeswoman.
The town runs a shuttle called the Gondola Express, which picks up guests around the town’s concentration of hotels and drops them off at the Avon Transportation Center, where they have to walk a short distance to the gondola.
Beaver Creek ran its own shuttle this past ski season from Avon and had more than 100,000 passengers, said Tony O’Rourke, executive director of the Beaver Creek Resort Company, which is why it thinks there’s still a demand for bus service even with the new gondola connection.
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“For the never-ever skier, the gondola is not going to cut it,” he said. “They don’t have the capacity to ski when they get to the top (of the lifts where the gondola drops off).”
Whether it’s a cup of coffee or a quick ski rental, many people enjoy starting their ski day in Beaver Creek Village, O’Rourke said.
“We need to provide that opportunity,” he said.
Everyone is stretched thin in terms of funding public transportation, O’Rourke said.
O’Rourke and Avon town councilman Buz Reynolds went to the county commissioners earlier this week to see if ECO Transit could help with funding; the commissioners said no because of ECO’s own budget constraints.
Discontinuing the shuttle service would be a big disservice to guests who still pay top dollar to ski, dine and shop in Beaver Creek, O’Rourke said.
“We have to maintain integrity,” he said. “(Guests) don’t want a discounted experience.”
Avon Town Manager Larry Brooks has said the gondola has about seven times the carrying capacity as the bus service and is a more efficient way to get people on the mountain, but O’Rourke said the gondola is carrying about 50 percent to 60 percent of Beaver Creek guests coming from Avon.
“The gondola is missing a piece of the public that does want to be transported from point-to-point,” O’Rourke said.
The town and Beaver Creek Resort Company each chipped in $6,250 to pay for the survey. The town wants to hear from its residents to get an idea if there are enough people in favor of it to put a question on the November election ballot. The survey results should be ready sometime in June.
The town’s public transportation services, including the gondola, already cost about $1.5 million a year, Lawlor said.
“If we were to add a skier shuttle to Beaver Creek or (add) more (town bus) service, that money would have to come from the general fund ” we don’t have it,” she said. “The survey is to find out if thy majority of residents value these services, would they be able to fund them?”
Options for funding include increasing the sales and lodging taxes and adding bus fares. The current sales and lodging taxes are both 4 percent, and buses are free.
Lawlor said the town estimates that about two-thirds of its sales tax revenue comes from non-Avon residents, so that and the lodging tax increases would have less impact on town residents.
O’Rourke agrees that the people who use the service most should pay for it. He likes the lodging tax idea because it’s not imposed on the public, but rather on the people “who warrant and use the service.”
Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.