Eagle County bus service reduced for spring | VailDaily.com

Eagle County bus service reduced for spring

Chris Outcalt
Eagle County, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Using the county bus system this spring may take a little extra planning.

ECO Transit will offer a reduced spring schedule instead of transitioning immediately from its winter to summer service. The spring schedule will start on April 12, run for seven weeks and includes 31 fewer trips per day than the typical summer schedule.

The department decided to make the move because of the sharp decline in county sales tax revenue, which accounts for 80 percent of the ECO Transit budget. The seven weeks of reduced service will save the department about $150,000, officials said.

“We took our summer schedule and just cut some (service),” said Kelley Collier, ECO Transit’s assistant director. “We’re trying to impact the fewest people possible.”

County sales tax revenue was down 24 percent in January compared with 2008 ” an almost 20 percent bigger drop than what the county budgeted for.

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Collier said the department was considering how it might account for less revenue before the January sales tax numbers were released.

“We’ve been having those talks,” she said. “Even before the January numbers, we were taking a hard look at our budget.”

The smaller spring schedule ” which is still in draft form until approved by the ECO Tranist board of directors ” will affect every route ECO Transit offers, with service in Minturn being reduced the most. The Minturn route will operate as a “commuter route,” meaning there will only be a bus passing through town in the morning and evening.

The Highway 6 route will only operate once an hour, instead of every half hour. Three times were axed on the route between Dotsero and Gypsum ” a morning trip and two trips in the evening.

“It’s not something we want to do, especially with record ridership,” Collier said.

Ridership on ECO buses was up 16 percent in January and 12 percent in February from the previous year.

Mark Tamberino, owner of Kirby Cosmo’s in Minturn, wasn’t happy to hear about the new spring schedule. He gets business from people that use the buses and several of his employees that don’t work normal business hours use the bus to commute to Minturn.

“There’s a bus stop in front of my business. It’s notorious for people to grab a sandwich before getting on the bus,” Tamberino said.

Tamberino said he understands why ECO Transit needs to make budget cuts, but would rather pay for a small fair increase and keep the regular Minturn routes.

“They’ve always cut back in the mud season, but not this much,” he said. “I only want what’s best for Minturn.”

Andy Kaufman, owner of the Minturn Saloon, thinks it would make more sense to keep operating on the winter schedule for one more week until Vail Mountain closes.

“I see high usage during ski season,” he said. “A lot of people ski the Minturn Mile and then take the bus home.”

Depending on what the county sales tax numbers look like for February ” the county gets the figures about a month and a half late ” ECO Transit could also implement a fare increase, Collier said. Most routes cost $3 right now.

“We’re trying to pinpoint what our deficit is going to be,” Collier said. “We don’t want to do a fair increase and then have the numbers bounce back.”

The department doesn’t plan to cut any staff, but does have three open positions it likely won’t fill.

Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or coutcalt@vaildaily.com.

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