Developer should pay for bus
Vail CO, Colorado
There are some things that haven’t been made clear in the debate over whether or not Avon should provide bus service to The Village at Avon, which includes the Wal-Mart shopping area and Buffalo Ridge.
The Town Council and staff believe that bus service and transit mobility is one of the most important issues facing our community, and we have been the principal promoter of providing bus service to this area. Tens of thousands of trips to Wal-Mart and the other retail outlets are made every year by our residents. Eight hundred people live in Buffalo Ridge. It has been clear that bus service to this area is important and needed.
But the way the development agreement with Traer Creek is written, it is not that simple.
One of the fundamental goals of the Traer Creek agreement is to make sure that existing taxpayers do not subsidize the development. In other words, the development would pay its own way. That is one of the reasons Traer Creek gets to keep all the tax revenue it generates because that will allow it to pay for roads, utilities, and other infrastructure and to pay the town for the services it uses such as police, snowplowing, and transit.
That also is why the agreement says that it is up to the Traer Creek Metropolitan District ” not the town ” to determine when bus service to the development should begin. Once it has made that determination, the town would provide the service and be reimbursed by the district for the cost.
We have made repeated attempts in recent years to persuade the district that the time for this service had arrived. We knew the demand was there. We knew residents of our town needed transportation to and from this area. Yet, we were not successful, so last June we decided to go ahead and provide this service ourselves, thinking that surely, once the district sees for itself the need demonstrated by the ridership numbers, it will agree that it was time for bus service to the development.
Were we wrong?
After running the service for nearly a year, we had hard evidence showing the clear need for the service. To date, nearly 65,000 trips to and from the retail development were made in the past nine months. Ridership for the Buffalo Ridge site over the same period has been over 17,000. We were hopeful that this evidence would compel the district to fund the service. It has not.
It cost us nearly half a million taxpayer dollars to provide this service. That is a cost we cannot bear on an ongoing basis. Moreover, doing so would mean that existing taxpayers would be subsidizing the development, something we structured the development agreement to specifically avoid.
This is not a case where town leadership does not think the service is needed. Quite the contrary, we thought it was so important we decided to provide the service ourselves without waiting for the district to ask. Whether or not that was the right approach is something for which we will shoulder responsibility. But the numbers are what they are ” the Town of Avon does not have the revenue to continue this service indefinitely. This is a cost that the Traer Creek Metro District will pay ” when it decides it is time.
We hope the residents of Avon ” who, by the way, are supporting the district by living, working and shopping at Traer Creek ” will let the district know just how important this service is to them, and persuade the district that the time to provide this service has indeed arrived.
Larry Brook is the Avon town manager.