Buses try to ride out financial pinch in Eagle County | VailDaily.com

Buses try to ride out financial pinch in Eagle County

Melanie Wong
Eagle County, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” With increasing numbers of riders and possibly less money to operate on, next year will be tough, said the director of the bus system in Eagle County, Colorado.

The bus system operates mostly on sales tax revenue, as well as bus fares. However, sales taxes for next year are expected to be flat at best, and the county is asking all departments to look for possible places to trim.

But Transit Director Harry Taylor said that the system barely has enough to operate on as it is. He asked commissioners on Monday to consider lowering the county’s administration fee. The 7-percent fee is charged to departments for things such as legal and accounting services that the county provides ECO Transit.

“If you look at our budget, I don’t think you’d see much to cut,” Taylor said. “We’re not offering the extent of service we want to ” it’s just a financial thing. We’re going into reserves to keep operating.”

While fuel costs may not be as high next year as originally expected, the bus system faces other rising costs, such as charges for bus parking and a general increase in rider numbers.

Taylor also asked commissioners for more money to fund the youth ridership program ” all riders under 18 ride the bus for free, and youth numbers have doubled or tripled in the last year.

“There’s nothing else we can cut without cutting service,” he said.

Commissioners said they don’t want to cut any bus services, and agreed that increasing fares would hit the county’s workers the hardest.

Commissioner Sara Fisher said she wants to see other governments or businesses pitch in to help the bus system.

“There’s so many people commuting into work to these new projects (in Vail), and we don’t see any (funds) from them. I want to see more from employers,” she said.

Taylor said ECO Transit is also impacted by parking fees in Vail ” as parking fees increase, so does bus ridership. Fisher suggested asking the town of Vail, which recently announced higher parking garage fees for the upcoming season, to consider pitching into the bus system.

County Finance Director John Lewis said that nothing has been decided yet, and that the commissioners have much more to look at before deciding on any department’s budget.

Consultants are looking at how much the county should be charging departments for administration fees. After the results are in, commissioners will consider ECO Transit’s request for a fee cut, he said.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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