City to extend Burlingame bus service
Residents of the 167-unit Burlingame Ranch neighborhood got what they wanted Tuesday when the Aspen City Council extended their twice an hour bus service starting June 11 through next April.
Ridership figures provided to the council by the city’s Transportation Department helped the council arrive at its decision.
This past winter, the city paid $205,000 to the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority to service the residents of Burlingame, an affordable-housing subdivision located across Highway 82 from the Buttermilk ski area, to ferry passengers to and from Aspen twice and hour, up from once every 60 minutes. The pilot program yielded impressive results, said John Krueger, director of transportation.
From Dec. 12 through March 31, 58,433 passengers used the service, according to data supplied by Krueger. That’s nearly twice as many, or a 90 percent increase, over the 30,741 riders who used the once-an-hour service during the same months in the winter of 2014-15. The city, when it budgeted for the service in October, considered a 40 percent spike in ridership to be a success.
“It indicates to us that there’s a big demand out there for the service,” Krueger told the council. “And we think in the summer it would not be quite in the 90 percent (increase) range, but it would be high.”
Krueger initially approached the council seeking funding for just the summer service; with ski season over, the Burlingame-Aspen route returned to once an hour Monday.
But the council took it a step further and advocated for an extended period through next April. Assistant City Manager Randy Ready cautioned that with sales tax collections flat in March, the city should be conservative in its approach toward funding the route.
“We want to be cautious looking at the long term,” Ready said, adding the city wants to give Burlingame the service, which if offered year-round would cost the city $1.3 million. The city currently spends roughly half of that amount, $666,000, for the existing level of service, which includes this past winter’s rides.
While council green-lighted the service through next April, the 2017 winter and early spring service still needs to be approved as part of the 2017 budget talks, which begin in October.
Council members questioned the demand for the twice-an-hour service during the shoulder seasons and whether it could be reduced to an hourly offering during those slower months. But Stefan Reveal, president of Burlingame’s homeowners association, said the neighborhood is comprised of many professionals who work year-round.
“There’s a substantial amount of people who don’t have offseasons and rely on public transportation,” he said, adding that a recent survey among residents showed that if rides were only offered hourly, 85 percent would consider driving into town.
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