Avon funds bus service to Wal-Mart
AVON – For months Bob Reed has heard about the need for bus service to Buffalo Ridge and the Wal-Mart shopping area. At one point, Reed, who heads up Avon’s transportation department, was receiving calls about the lack of service every day, he said. He still gets phone calls and e-mails regularly from people wondering why they have to cough up $4 to ride from Avon’s transportation center to Wal-Mart on a county bus. And when frustrated residents aren’t calling him directly, Reed hears about the problem from his bus drivers.But in the past, all Reed could do was refer the problem to the Traer Creek Metropolitan District, the entity responsible for providing basic services, like snow removal and buses, in the Village at Avon, which includes the Buffalo Ridge apartments and Wal-Mart. Avon officials said they’ve asked the metro district to pony up for the bus service, but Avon’s plea hasn’t been heard. On the other side of the fence, Dan Christopherson, spokesman for Traer Creek, said the request hasn’t been heard because Avon has never formally ask the metro district to start bus service. Not the right time for bus serviceBut to be honest, metro district officials said, even if formal requests had been made, now isn’t the right time. “Right now, the year-round population of the Village at Avon is less than 200, hardly enough to merit creating and funding a new bus line,” said Dan Leary, the president of the Village at Avon and Traer Creek metropolitan districts, in a letter to the Vail Daily. Though Leary doesn’t think a bus route is necessary, the town of Avon believes its residents deserve one. And after many hours of discussion over several weeks, the Avon Town Council recently decided to fund bus service to Buffalo Ridge, an affordable housing community north of I-70, and the Wal-Mart shopping area. “At the end of the day, I don’t think passengers should be held hostage over an argument that the town is having with a metro district,” Town Manager Larry Brooks said.
Avon’s philosophy has always been that Traer Creek should pay for the bus routes, but according to the metro district’s contract with Avon, the district only needs to provide bus service when it deems it necessary. Christopherson said until the Village at Avon has more businesses paying taxes, funding bus service is financially out of the question. “Eventually, though, the Village at Avon will become home to thousands of residents,” Leary said. “Thus, long-term, we share the town’s desire to provide for bus service.”Old mistakes?But council members said they didn’t want to wait for the long-term. “Regardless of who ultimately pays for this service, it is clearly our responsibility to ensure that all citizens within the town are treated fairly and provided with choices and options for mobility,” Councilman Brian Sipes said. “We are, after all, the heart of the valley.”Councilwoman Kristi Ferraro saw the current bus quandary as the result of a less-than-perfect deal a previous town council made with the Village at Avon developer. “This highlights some of the unintended consequences of allowing Traer Creek to retain all of the tax revenues derived in the Village at Avon,” Ferraro said. “Traer Creek is entitled to decide how those tax revenues are spent without any input from the public. “Unfortunately, Traer Creek has used millions of those tax revenues to fund a little-used park between Wal-Mart and (The) Home Depot and a parking garage,” she said. “I don’ think that the public would choose to spend their tax dollars in the same way.” The public garage is under Traer Creek Plaza, the building under construction next to Wal-Mart that will have restaurants, shops and offices.
‘A lot of happy people’Scheduled to begin around Memorial Day, May 19, the routes will run daily, year-round, including the during off-seasons. Accepting the financial burden for running the routes will cost more than $850,000 every year. If the metro district had paid for its share of service within the Village at Avon, it would have cost the district $434,800 annually. “It’s going to be tight. It’s going to be tough to do. But it’s a little easier when you know it’s the right thing to do,” Reed said. Since the council made the decision, Reed said he’s heard nothing but positive feedback.”I’ve been getting e-mails and phone calls about this,” he said. “There’s a lot of happy people up in Buffalo Ridge.”========================What’s the route?The additional bus service to Buffalo Ridge apartments and the Wal-Mart shopping area will be added on to two existing Avon bus routes.
The town will run an east-west route, the In-Town Shuttle, which starts at the transportation center, heads west to Sunridge apartments, east back into town, then continues to Wal-Mart before returning to the transit center. The second route, the Hurd Lane route, will serve the transportation center, Hurd Lane, Buffalo Ridge and Wal-Mart before returning to town via East Beaver Creek Blvd. Both routes will stop at the transportation center, Christy Sports, City Market and Wal-Mart. ==========================================What’s in a name?Traer Creek, LLC is the developer, the entity responsible for constructing businesses and residential buildings at the Village at Avon.The Traer Creek Metropolitan district creates infrastructure and pays Avon to provide services like snowplowing, police and fire protection and bus service.======================Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14621, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Vail, Colorado