How will Vail Valley transit, parking look this ski season?
It’s too early in the new ski season for trends to develop, but transit and parking are going to look different this winter.
The biggest potential problem is occupancy cutbacks on buses. Due to public health orders stemming from the COVID-19 virus, many buses are limited to 50% capacity.
Then there’s the matter of who’s willing to ride this season.
Tanya Allen is the director of ECO Transit, Eagle County’s bus system. In an email, Allen wrote that signs right now point to “significantly lower ridership this season.”
While the system switched Dec. 6 to its winter schedule, Allen wrote that ridership right now is holding steady, when a sharp rise would be expected with the start of the ski season.
At Beaver Creek, buses between the valley floor parking lots and the resort are limited to 50% of capacity.
Beaver Creek Communications Manager Jessie Vandenhouten in an email wrote that Vail Resorts has provided “plenty of options” to get employees and guests to the resort village.
Buses from the parking lots are available. The resort is also providing shuttle service to Beaver Creek Landing adjacent to The Westin Riverfront Resort in Avon. There, guests can ride a gondola to access Beaver Creek Mountain.
There’s also paid parking available in the Ford Hall or Villa Montane parking garages.
In Vail, the town’s free bus system usually transports roughly 3 million passengers every year. Capacity cuts and reluctance to ride may cut into that number.
Mike Rose runs the town’s transit and parking operations. Rose said both bus ridership and parking transactions are down so far from last season. But, he added, it’s still too early to see any trends developing.
Rose said the town is ready to roll out adjustments to schedules, and the town is sending “piggyback” buses on well-ridden routes when possible.
Parking has “just been weird,” Rose said. The biggest impact so far has been the opening of Vail Health’s new parking structure. In the time between tearing down the hospital’s old structure and the new one opening, hospital parking for employees and construction crews occupied many of the Lionshead parking structure’s available spaces.
Rose said he frequently drives through the parking structures. On a recent weekday trip before Friday’s snowstorm, the structure was virtually empty, Rose said.
On the other hand, town data from Dec. 11 showed the interior of the Village Transportation Structure was about 80% filled. The top deck was a bit more than half occupied. The Lionshead structure was about 75% occupied.
Still, that’s the start of a weekend with snow in the forecast.
Rose said it’s going to be interesting to see how people respond to bus restrictions and the need to get into Vail’s resort villages.
“We’ve gotten some complaints about our buses being too full,” Rose said. “If people are being left (standing at bus stops), are you going to drive and pay, or pay for a Pink (parking) pass?”
But, Rose added, parking pass sales are also down from last season.
Rose said everyone will know more after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
“Everything appears to be less than before,” Rose said. “But the (ski) hill’s doing fine. It’s weird.”
Vail Transit schedule changes Dec. 21
Vail Transit’s schedule
Vail Transit is extending its early season schedule until Dec. 20, with changes coming Dec. 21.
Capacity on the buses has been reduced, an all passengers are required to wear masks. Free masks will be available on the buses.
For more information, go to http://www.vailgov.com/bus-information, or call 970-479-217.
For information on Eagle County’s ECO Transit, go to http://www.eaglecounty.us/Transit/Schedules/.
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