Minturn worries about bus routes
Minturn, CO Colorado
MINTURN, Colorado –Chris Bennett has to walk 45 minutes along the white line on Highway 24 to get to and from his bus stop at the Forest Service station in Minturn – the walk is one of his only options now that the ECO bus service to Minturn is minimal.
Bennett, 28, works two jobs in Vail. Last winter he could catch a bus back to Minturn around 10:30 p.m., but this winter the latest bus is leaving Vail around 5:30 p.m.
“It’s going to suck,” Bennett said.
The ECO bus service cuts are affecting workers all over the valley, but Minturn’s location two miles off the highway makes it difficult to find alternate options. Bennett said a 45-minute walk or hitching rides seem to be his only options.
The county pays for ECO with sales tax revenue and bus fares, with sales taxes covering 80 percent of the cost. When revenues severely declined this year, the ECO board of directors had to cut bus service, said Matt Scherr, board member and a Minturn resident.
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The board is sensitive to how the cuts are affecting the community, but the cuts had to be made, he said.
Minturn has the highest cost-per-rider as an area, which is unfortunate, he said.
“In cutting the routes, what we’re trying to do is get the biggest bang for the buck,” he said. “Nobody wanted to see any of these cuts, but they had to happen.”
Minturn business owners are worried the county’s bang for its buck could equal less bucks for Minturn businesses.
Andy Kaufman, owner of the Minturn Saloon, said he’s concerned about how his customers and staff members are going to get home this winter. The Saloon is a popular place for skiers and snowboarders to hang out after completing the Minturn Mile, a backcountry ski run that goes down the backside of Vail Mountain to Minturn.
“Obviously the Minturn Mile is a popular run for people to make and one of the certainly primary ways to get back to Vail is the ECO Bus,” Kaufman said. “Going to zero afternoon service is, I think, really disappointing.”
Kaufman is hoping the board can figure something out before winter, whether it means having a bus returning from Leadville make a Minturn stop or adding one afternoon bus. Scherr said he’s hopeful the county can add one afternoon bus that would be able to bring Minturn Mile skiers and snowboarders back, as well as nighttime employees to Vail. He said he hopes to hear whether that’s possible in the next week or so.
Kaufman knows his customers use the afternoon route because the Saloon clears out when the bus comes, he said.
Darla Goodell, owner of the Turntable Restaurant and Motel in Minturn, said she’s worried the bus service could affect whether people decide to stay at her motel. She typically rents as many as 20 rooms to seasonal workers at Vail Mountain each winter – workers who rely on the bus to get to and from town.
“The bus service does hurt my business,” Goodell said. “People want to know the bus schedule.”
Goodell is concerned about people like Bennett who walk along Highway 6, too, she said. She picks people up when she sees them walking to bring them into the Forest Service bus stop, but that’s not safe for anybody, she said.
“A lot of these kids get off at 11 at night – I don’t understand how (ECO) can just dump them off there at the Forest Service,” Goodell said. “We pay taxes, we should have bus service.”
Kaufmann said he knows ECO is having revenue problems and admits he doesn’t know what the answer is either. He also doesn’t know how ECO came to keep the current routes serving Minturn.
“It’s down to a bus schedule that I’m not sure who it’s servicing,” Kaufman said.
Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com