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Tough times bring signs of sharing to Vail Valley

Melanie Wong
mwong@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado ” Vail, Colorado and Eagle County leaders hoped that together they could find money to solve some of the area’s bus and housing problems, but tight budgets proved to be a big constraint.

One of the county’s biggest challenges is running the ECO Transit bus system on limited funds, Eagle County Commissioners told the Vail Town Council at a joint meeting on Tuesday.

The ECO buses are widely used both by downvalley skiers and workers headed to Vail, and the town should be part of the solution, commissioners suggested.



The system, which is funded mostly by a countywide, half-percent sales tax, has grown dramatically in ridership, outgrowing the money available to run it, said Commissioner Sara Fisher.

“Our ridership is up 26 percent from last year. People are finding that one way to economize is to take the bus,” she said. “But we’re basically out of money for ECO Transit.”

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.



Vail suggests park-and-rides

The county has discussed forming a regional transit system combining all the town and county bus lines, but Vail council members said they weren’t sure they wanted take part, pointing out that the town has its own bus system.

Council members said they liked the idea of building park-and-ride sites up and down the valley so that people would park and take the buses into Vail instead of driving in ” something Vail would consider helping fund.



The solution may be to increase the sales tax funding up to 1 percent, said Vail Councilman Farrow Hitt.

“I think now is the time to start talking about it,” he said. “It’s a service that’s very important to many businesses, and there would be support for it.”

However, council members also worried that the sales-tax money was unfairly going toward a downvalley bus system.

“I don’t want to see our percentage of the ECO tax that we pay up here go to build a bus system downvalley that will keep people downvalley,” said Vail Councilman Mark Gordon. “There needs to be some equity here to make sure we are beefed up.”

Keep building housing

With financial forecasts looking increasingly gloomy and budgets being cut, officials struggled to find money for other projects, such as housing.

Despite the recession, the county and the town should work together to continue building workforce housing, leaders agreed.

“We cant afford as a county and a town to make mistakes we’ve made in the past,” Gordon said. “There’s going to be another boom in the future, and we can’t allow these factors of the economy to make us sit back and say, ‘There is no housing crisis. We don’t need to build housing.'”

The county plans to sell Lake Creek Village, an affordable rental complex in Edwards, and use the money to invest in other workforce housing projects. Maybe Vail could partner with the county for some downvalley projects, commissioners said.

Some of that Lake Creek money might also go toward Timber Ridge, Vail’s employee housing complex, said Commissioner Jon Stavney.

The town plans to redevelop the aging apartments and has asked if the county would be willing to pitch in.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.


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