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ECO Transit OKs skier shuttle

Christine Ina Casillas

Avon’s skier shuttle might be saved after all, says Avon town officials.

The ECO Transit Board of Directors approved unanimously to contribute $100,000 to the $300,000 skier shuttle, stating that from the beginning, the route established a dot-to-dot connection between Avon and Beaver Creek.

“We are overjoyed with this news,” said Larry Brooks, Avon town manager. “When I heard the news, I said, “Yes! We like making progress like this.'”



Now, Avon is waiting to hear back from Beaver Creek to contribute the remaining $100,000 for the bus service.

Town leaders since last summer have been grappling with saving money on Avon’s free bus system, which is costing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to operate.



The bus, which is free and collects skiers and snowboarders on a route around Avon and takes them up to Beaver Creek, loses about $200,000 a year.

The skier shuttle costs the town $193,440 to carry 178,688 riders every ski season. As a comparison, the town spends only $181,427 every year to carry 273,855 riders on its in-town routes. Before, the town picked up the entire bill, or about $300,000, to run the bus service.

But after serious deliberations Thursday, the ECO Transit Board decided to pitch in one-third of the costs, Brooks said.



“Avon’s issue is that the bus goes outside the town limits, and with an economic crunch we’re faced with right now, it’s not fair to the taxpayers,” said Ron Wolfe, Avon town councilman. “In actuality, the $100,000 contribution is less than what it would cost ECO Transit if it stopped at Avon.”

Tuesday, the Avon Town Council is expected to address the issues with the free shuttle service at 5:30 p.m. at the Wildridge Fire Station at 2110 Wildridge Road. The Council is expecting to hear back from Beaver Creek about the other $100,000 this week, Brooks said.

“We hope (Beaver Creek) will see this as a benefit to everybody,” Wolfe said. “We’re just waiting for Beaver Creek to kick in next.”

The town considered two alternatives – which still might be possibilities – such as charging a fare on the ski bus or cancelling the route altogether because Beaver Creek already operates buses that run from the parking lots up to the slopes.

“The skier shuttle is an economic engine for all three stakeholders – Avon, Beaver Creek and Eagle County,” Wolfe said. “It benefits everyone for two reasons: the resort community benefits because it brings in the skiers, lodgers and renters. It also energizes the lodgers in Avon and benefits the town, and for the county, it’s the sales tax, which is always good for business.”

The ECO Transit started the skier route between Vail and Beaver Creek with a stop in Avon in the mid-1980’s to transport skiers between the two resorts. From the beginning, the route was dot-to-dot.

The ECO Transit board asked, “Is there a dot-to-dot connection between Avon and Beaver Creek?” The answer was yes.

The ECO Transit board officials said the $100,000 investment is intended to prolong the economic viability of the skiing guests lodging in Avon.

“It is logical to assume that a degradation in the level of this service would result in a negative experience for the guest,” read a memorandum by ECO Transit board officials. “This action could very well translate into a loss of sales tax revenue in future periods. “

Contributing the service is a way for the three stakeholders to have the service for less cost, Brooks said.

“Their decision has provided a whole new cooperation and synergy for us,” Wolfe said. “There’s a new climate and cooperation among various entities in the valley, offering the best results for everybody. This is good news to all of us.”

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at ccasillas@vaildaily.com.


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