Avon skier shuttle likely to return; town’s budget discussion is Oct. 24 | AspenTimes.com

Avon skier shuttle likely to return; town’s budget discussion is Oct. 24

John LaConte
Vail Daily

Avon Transit last winter extended the Skier Express Shuttle by adding two free routes to the town’s regular schedule. Transit will be part of the budget discussion at the Avon Town Council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 24.

AVON — Avon's 2018 public transportation suggestions will be explored in a work session on Tuesday, Oct. 24, as part of the town's annual budgeting process. The budget is currently in the planning stages and is expected to be voted on by the Town Council in November.

2017 has been a pivotal year for public transportation in town, with several new options becoming available to riders. Spurred by the elimination of free skier parking on surface lots at nearby Beaver Creek Resort, the year started with the Avon Transit pilot program adding two free routes to the town's regular schedule. The town contracted with a private provider — Peak 1 Express — to provide the services.

One such route, commonly referred to as the "deviated loop" of the Skier Express Shuttle, provided daily service along West Beaver Creek Boulevard, running twice each morning at 7:50 a.m. and 8:05 a.m. It began at Westgate Plaza on the corner of U.S. Highway 6 and West Beaver Creek Boulevard and continued on to The Aspens residential complex before heading east on West Beaver Creek Boulevard, picking up passengers at all Avon Transit bus stops on West Beaver Creek Boulevard. It also stopped at the Beaver Creek Elk Lot before delivering passengers to Beaver Creek Village. Ridership information was collected and reported to the town on a weekly basis.

Community feedback was used to evaluate the effectiveness and determine the future of the program. Council member Jake Wolf followed the comments closely.

"It was very 2017," Wolf said. "Facebook groups and comments were my main source of information, and what I witnessed was a totally grass-roots collaboration to provide a service that's becoming more and more necessary to help locals achieve the lifestyle that brought them here in the first place, a lifestyle that's becoming harder and harder to achieve.

"Yes, when you break it down, I'm really just talking about skiing and snowboarding," Wolf added. "But the bigger picture is about more than that. It's about health, wealth and relationships, some of the most important elements of life. If you can't get up to the mountain to do what you're here to do, you really start to question why you're even here at all in this town. That's not what we want for the folks in Avon who bust their humps to provide services to this community."

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MAN WITH A PLAN

Joe Shankland was among the most engaged members of the community. After watching the pilot program unfold throughout the winter months, Shankland made a suggestion this fall which will likely be implemented into next year's transit program. His idea was to incorporate a Beaver Creek stop into the night portion of the deviated loop.

"This would allow the residents and guests along West Beaver Creek Boulevard a way to download from the mountain," Shankland wrote to Avon Transportation Director Eva Wilson in an email.

Wilson said the West Beaver Creek Boulevard portion of the deviated route saw 23 riders during a 3.5-month test period during the 2017 season. Based on Shankland's input, Wilson said Avon will float the option of the skier shuttle's deviated loop starting at noon daily at the Beaver Creek stop.

"We will ensure the deviated loop option is on our winter transit program to spread the word," Wilson said. "This expanded winter service will not add significantly to town costs for the deviated loops."

NIGHT RIDER

Tuesday's budget discussion will also include details on the town's Night Rider shuttle, a 6 to 10 p.m. loop that provides service within the town core, with stops at Westgate Plaza, The Aspens, West Beaver Creek Boulevard, Stone Creek, Buck Creek, Lake Street, Avon Station, Northside Kitchen & Coffee, Buffalo Ridge, Walmart, ANB Bank, Christie Lodge and Eaglebend Apartments.

The Night Rider loop was added in February as part of a pilot program and was scheduled to end service at the beginning of April. After reviewing the ridership, Avon Transit continued the Night Rider into the summer.

"After nearly eight weeks of service, the ridership showed evidence to continue with the Night Rider shuttle," Wilson said in April.

The 2017 plan would discontinue services with Peak 1 Express, opting instead for the addition of one full-time employee to the town in an effort to reduce the seasonal nature of transit jobs and increase efficiency. The net cost in eliminating the Peak 1 contract and adding another employee is expected to be about $25,000, including benefits.

The entire budgeted amount on the town's Transit Enterprise Fund for 2018 is expected to come in at $1,687,784. The 2017 program is expected to come in at $2,132,062, with 2018 costing about $444,278 less than 2017. The total general fund subsidy to support the transit fund in 2018 is expected to be $1,167,000.

"This compares favorably to the final revised 2017 budget of $1,390,415," Finance Director Scott Wright and Town Manager Virginia Egger wrote in a memo to the Town Council, which was received on Friday, Oct. 20.

Avon's 2018-19 Transit Enterprise Fund is one of 10 funds in the 2018-19 town budget, which was developed to successfully implement the strategies outlined in the town's 2018-19 strategic plan. Both the budget and the strategic plan are available online at avon.org. To learn more about Avon's 2018-19 budget, visit Town Hall — located at 1 Lake Street in Avon — on Tuesday for the budget discussion, which is expected to kick off at approximately 6:30 p.m. The council meeting begins at 5:05 p.m. The meeting will also feature a discussion of Eagle County's ECO Transit and its goals to improve service, attract new riders and improve integration with Avon and other Eagle County transit providers.

Avon skier shuttle

The route is scheduled to start at noon, with stops at the following locations at the prescribed times. For example, the shuttle that begins at noon at Beaver Creek Resort would stop at Westgate Plaza at 12:08 p.m., The Aspens at 12:09:40 p.m. and so on.

1 Beaver Creek Resort / 0:00

2 Westgate Plaza / 8:00

3 The Aspens / 9:40

4 West Beaver Creek / 10:50

5 WB Buck Creek / 12:10

6 WB BC West Condos / 13:30

7 Sheraton / 15:00

8 Christy Sports / 16:57

9 City Market / 18:35

10 Chapel Place / 19:27

11 Christie Lodge / 21:40

12 Comfort Inn / 23:25

13 Lake Street / 24:42

14 Avon Station / 26:55

15 Elk Lot / 29:30

16 Beaver Creek Resort / 36:18

Source: Town of Avon