Aspen will cut back bus service
August 26, 2009
ASPEN – Aspen will trim various components of its free bus system in the coming year in response to sagging revenues, but one city councilman’s suggestion – to consider charging fares – garnered little traction on Tuesday.
The council informally agreed to a list of service reductions totaling $466,750 for 2010, including two that will take effect this winter, with the goal of having enough money in its transportation fund to replace six diesel buses in 2013.
With a recession-fueled decline in revenues from the sales and use taxes that support the city’s in-town transit system, and no expectation that those funding sources will rebound quickly, the council agreed to start cutting now to prepare for the bus replacement down the road. The new buses will cost an estimated $2.36 million; officials hope a quarter of the cost will come from federal monies.
“What if we charged a dollar a ride instead of free ridership?” said Councilman Torre. “You think one dollar a ride is going to make people not ride the bus?
“I have to put it on the table because I’m looking at reductions that are going to hurt,” he said. “They’re going to hurt people who rely on buses for transportation.”
City staffers agreed to circulate to council members a previous analysis that was done on the impact of charging bus fares, but Torre didn’t find support for an immediate discussion of the idea.
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“I think it’s a big mistake,” Mayor Mick Ireland said of instituting fares. “Before we start taking about that, we need to know how much parking we’ll need to accommodate those people who switch [to driving].”
The council gave the go-ahead for the following service reductions:
• Reduce operation of the Cross Town Shuttle to 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the summer.
• Eliminate the Galena Street Shuttle during the summer season.
• Operate the Burlingame route from 7-11 a.m. and 3-7 p.m. year-round, eliminating extended service hours during the winter.
• Begin the winter schedule of bus service two weeks later, in mid-December, to match a service reduction made by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority on its valley-wide routes.
• Begin the summer schedule of bus service two weeks later, in mid-June, to match a corresponding reduction in RFTA’s valley service.
• Eliminate service before 7:30 a.m. on all city routes in the spring and fall.
• Eliminate $50,000 of the $250,000 the city spends on Aspen Music Festival bus service.