Keystone makes move to free bus service | AspenTimes.com

Keystone makes move to free bus service

Bob Berwyn
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

KEYSTONE, Colo. – After years of wrangling with its intra-resort transportation system, Keystone has decided to stop charging homeowners annual fees and go with a free shuttle service.

Most visitors won’t notice many changes, although the Summit County ski resort is still tweaking the schedule – with a final version to take effect in early December. But a few residential areas previously served by resort buses will no longer be on the route.

Specifically, the buses won’t run down Soda Ridge Road beyond the Flying Dutchman condos. Service to parts of the Keystone Ranch and the Elk Crossing neighborhood will also be dropped.

“It’s a new system, a totally free system to serve the core of the resort,” said Keystone vice president and chief operating officer Pat Campbell. “We know we need to provide transportation for our business to be successful,” she said, acknowledging that the loss of service will definitely affect some homeowners but that the new system will serve more people overall.

Up to now, Keystone had operated part of its shuttle system as a contract carrier service under license from the Public Utilities Commission. Last week, the resort filed to abandon that license to make the switch. The move is subject to public comment and a hearing at an as-yet undetermined date.

Under the contract system, various homeowner associations around the resort paid an annual per-bedroom charge to buy into the system. Guests in those units could ride the buses but needed to show a bus pass.

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“It never evolved to where it needed to go,” Campbell said.

The new system eliminates the charges and makes the shuttles accessible to anyone.

Keystone resident Craig Suwinksi said he’s generally pleased with the switch but expressed some questions as well, wondering whether the condos near the end of the new bus route might experience parking issues. Guests in outlying homes and condos may use the condo lots to access the bus, he suggested.

At least one other area resident had a different opinion.

“They’re shooting themselves in the foot,” said a Ranch homeowner, who dropped out of the previous contract system when asked to pay $100 per bedroom. The full-time homeowner, who asked not to be identified, said the decision would lead to increased congestion on the narrow roads winding back into the single-family neighborhoods along Soda Ridge Road and the Ranch.

“Overall, I’m very pleased that Keystone apparently recognized their poor legal position using contract service, and decided that the best direction was reinstitution of free resort shuttle service for the majority of resort guests,” Suwinksi said via e-mail.

“I remain disappointed that it took five years to persuade Keystone to change (its) shuttle policy, and that, as estimated by me, and also reported to me third-hand, that it probably cost Keystone as much as a half a million dollars in legal fees defending their current shuttle service, when those dollars could have better been used for improved guest services,” said Suwinksi, who was involved in a protracted dispute with the resort over the shuttle service.

Suwinksi said there are likely some homeowners in the areas where service will be dropped who will be disappointed.

“I suspect there are many owners in these areas (who) would be willing to pay for even some sort of limited … service, possibly a route (which would be easy along Soda Ridge and for Antlers) or the existing door to door service.”

bberwyn@summitdaily.com

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