Valley to nearly double summer bus service
VAIL — Bus service will increase on the East Vail, Sandstone and Golf Course lines this summer in a temporary test that coincides with an examination of parking in town.
During daytime hours, the East Vail line will run twice per hour, up from once per hour, and the Sandstone and Golf Course lines will run once per hour, up from once every two hours.
In passing the $76,000 pilot program unanimously, the Vail Town Council wanted to make clear that the increased service is a test for this summer, and not necessarily a change that will be in effect permanently.
“It’s not an entitlement that we can’t get rid of, except that it is,” councilman Greg Moffet said with a laugh.
RIDERSHIP WILL DECIDE
When the idea was initially presented earlier this month, Mayor Dave Chapin, who sits on the town’s parking task force, took extra care in using the phrase “pilot program” in describing the idea of increased bus service.
Moffet told Chapin he could call it whatever he wants, but increased bus service is an entitlement that will not end once it begins.
“I’m pro transit and I think we need to have decent service to all parts of town, but if we add it, we’re never going to take it away,” Moffet said. “That would be taking away an entitlement.”
Council member Dick Cleveland questioned whether a temporary increase in service would skew some of the data the pilot program intends to collect.
“If we chance too many variables, our parking study will be useless because we don’t know what led to it,” Cleveland said.
Ridership numbers will be the metric by which the decision to continue the service will be made.
“If we’re only getting 10 more riders for twice as much service, we would probably be coming back to you and saying there would probably be a recommendation to cut that service,” Public Works Director Greg Hall told the council.
PART OF TWO STUDIES
The council is expected to examine the increased bus numbers in August and the final parking numbers near the end of September.
With a goal of reducing the long walk to town for guests on spillover days — when the structures fill, cars spill out onto South Frontage Road and back up all the way to Ford Park and beyond — the plan is to collect entry tickets at the structures during a 12-week period between June and September this summer and analyze the data. Parking will still be free, but it won’t be a free-for-all, where the gates rise the day after ski season ends and do not come down again until the next season begins. When parking this summer, you’ll still have to push a button, take a ticket and use it to exit the structure. Only you won’t have to pay.
“I remember in my 20s, I took the bus in to work every day and the day after the mountain closed, it was like everyone had a big party because we got to drive our cars in,” council member Jenn Bruno said. “We need to change the culture of how we think as a community.”
The ticket collection will require extra staffing from the town, which will cost approximately $60,000 during the 12-week test period.
Chapin said the end goal is to make sure guests have a place to park, not to make money off parking.
“This isn’t meant for the town to make money, this is meant for the businesses to enhance their customers, to get their customers to create sales tax for the town,” he said.
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