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Cash drags on Eagle-to-Glenwood bus route

Matt Zalaznick

The county’s bus system will suffer a drop in revenues this year, dropping the Glenwood route down the agency’s list of priorities, ECO Transit Director Jim Lair says

“Right now, it’s not one of our priorities and it’s not on the near horizon,” Lair says. “Right now, we’re making sure we can cover all our bases here in Eagle County.”

Nearly 100 people have encouraged ECO to create the link. And dozens of county business owners have told ECO bus service linking to and from Glenwood Springs, Aspen and Rifle would give them a lot more people to hire, says Debbie Buckley, chairwoman of the ECO Board.



“They would welcome having more people to draw from for employees,” Buckley says. “That would help – look at the want ads, there’s a lot of them in the paper now.”

The route would require a partnership between ECO and the Roaring Fork Transit Agency, or RFTA. And the two agencies are now discussing how to split the costs of the cross-canyon route.



The basic idea is that buses from Eagle would make a morning and evening trip to drop or pick up riders in Glenwood Springs, where they could catch buses west to New Castle, Silt and Rifle, or southeast to El Jebel, Carbondale and Aspen.

RFTA recently created the Grand Hogback route, which travels from Glenwood Springs to Rifle.

“I’m optimistic this will happen because of the response we’ve gotten so far, especially from employers,” Buckley says. “But we’re only at the beginning of the process of assessing the need. In order to make it fly, it has to be a cooperative budget effort by RFTA and ECO.”



According to 1990 census figures, a total of 1,990 Eagle County residents commuted west – 1,692 to work in Pitkin County, and 298 to Garfield County.

The census found 544 Garfield County residents and 193 Pitkin County residents commuted to work in Eagle County.

Because officials feel this data is slightly outdated, they have been asking for input from county residents and business owners to gage the interest in the proposed route, Lair says.

But budget fears may trump interest, he says.

“This is going real slow, and the reason is not so much public sentiment but because of the budget,” Lair says.

Regardless of cash concerns and public sentiment, it doesn’t appear an ECO bus will head through the canyon any time soon.

“Hopefully, we’ll have a good snow year and everybody will have a lot more money,” Buckley says. “It’s hard to tell, but I would think it would take six months to a year to put this together.”

The heavy-duty buses ECO would operate through the canyon would not have problems with the winding, sometimes icy and windblown stretch of Interstate 70, Lair says

A fare for a Glenwood Springs route has not been determined, but the other route that ECO operates out of the Eagle County –to Leadville –costs riders $3 one-way. ECO estimates the 40-mile round trip to Glenwood Springs would cost $3.26 per mile.

“We’ve gotten over 100 responses and e-mails saying, “Yeah, I’d like to use the bus.’ There’s interest, but the question is whether we can financially afford the service,” Lair says. “We have to make sure we keep our own system running within Eagle before we expand to other areas. But we’re cautiously optimistic.”

Public input

Residents who want to express interest in a bus route from Eagle County to Glenwood Springs, Aspen and Rifle can contact ECO Transit Planner David Johnson by phone at (970) 328-3524, or via e-mail: djohnson@eagle-county.com.

Folks can also fill out the comment form on the Eagle County Web site: http://www.eagle-county.com/ecotransit/comments.html.

ECO Transit also is offering riders a sneak peak at this winter’s bus schedules. Copies of the schedule can be found at the following places: Avon Library, Gypsum Library, Minturn Town Hall, Eagle Library, Saint Clare of Assisi Catholic Church in Edwards and Vail Transportation Center

Beginning on Aug. 15, riders can view, print, and send comments on the schedules by visiting the Eagle County Web site: http://www.eagle-county.com/draft.htm.

ECO also will host four public meetings so residents can discuss the schedules:

– Aug. 18, 8:15 p.m., Saint Clare of Assisi Catholic Church, Edwards.

– Aug. 19, 6 p.m., Minturn Town Hall.

– Aug. 20, 6 p.m., Avon Library.

– Aug. 21, 6 p.m., Eagle Library.

For further information, call 970-328-3524 or e-mail djohnson@eagle-county.com.

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.


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