Last Resort taxi service deemed a success | VailDaily.com

Last Resort taxi service deemed a success

Jane Stebbins/Summit County Correspondent

Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk

SUMMIT COUNTY – Bartenders throughout Summit County distributed almost 100 Last Resort taxi vouchers to intoxicated patrons from October 2002 to September 2003 in an attempt to keep them from getting behind the wheel.

In doing so, they helped the Summit Prevention Alliance, or SPA, save $122,894 compared to the cost of the previous taxi program, Tipsy Taxi – and saved an estimated $950,000 in drunk driving costs to society.

According to an SPA report, bar owners requested a total of 760 vouchers, and distributed a total of 12 percent of them in the past year.

“I think it’s been very successful for the first year,” said Bev Gmerek, the SPA’s community prevention coordinator. “We got 95 people home safely. We didn’t have a good idea how many people would use the program. We’re still working on getting the information out there. The front-line people know it exists to be used.”

Twelve establishments in Breckenridge participate in the program, six in Dillon, five in Frisco, three in Silverthorne and seven in Keystone.

Bar owners in Breckenridge used 25 percent of the vouchers they had, compared to 26 percent in Frisco, 20 percent in Silverthorne, 14 percent in Dillon and 9 percent in Keystone.

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SPA established the Last Resort last September to keep intoxicated people off the road by offering them a safe ride home. It replaced Tipsy Taxi, which had been in service for six years, and is modeled after a similar program in Aspen.

Tipsy Taxi was funded by the town of Breckenridge and grants obtained by the SPA. Bars and restaurants were issued vouchers they gave to intoxicated patrons.

But the service was only available in the Breckenridge area, leaving Keystone and Copper Mountain resorts, Dillon, Silverthorne and Frisco without taxi service.

When Summit Taxi began countywide transportation services last fall, Tipsy Taxi’s ridership numbers plummeted by 54 percent. SPA officials then decided they wanted to redirect their efforts – and their money – to something more productive.

Tipsy Taxi dropped off its last intoxicated customer Sept. 30, 2002, and Summit Taxi owners agreed to provide similar services. Summit Taxi is a metered taxi service, operating the same way taxis do in cities.

If a patron uses a voucher, SPA repays the taxi service for the fare, Gmerek said. Funds were contributed by the Summit County and Breckenridge restaurant associations. Since its inception last year, SPA has reimbursed the taxi service $2,106.

The average fare was $22.16; the highest was $72, for a patron who needed a ride from Breckenridge to Heeney.

Restaurant and bar owners and their staff, however, encourage people to find an alternative way to get home, be it a designated driver, a bus or taxi ride.

Gmerek also said that all liquor license-holding establishments can participate in the program.

“Some (bars) are afraid that if they use it, they’ve overserved,” she said. “It’s really about getting somebody home safe. Nobody’s looking back to say “XYZ has used it six times; maybe they’re overserving.’ This program is about getting them home safe and keeping them out from behind the wheel of a car.”