Commissioners to increase price of taxi ride to and from Aspen airport
Pitkin County commissioners on Tuesday supported a hefty increase in the fee taxis and limos pay to pickup and drop off visitors at the Aspen airport.
Ground transportation companies currently pay $1 per passenger for normal sized taxis and cars and $1.25 per passenger for vehicles with seven passengers or more to pick up people at the airport. On Tuesday, commissioners unanimously threw their support behind charging those companies $2.50 per passenger to both pick up and drop-off travelers to Aspen.
“I’ve had calls from some (ground transportation) providers and they’re just going to pass (the increase) on (to travelers),” said Commissioner Patti Clapper. “I’m supportive of (the highest increase).”
The proposed increase is likely to start Jan. 1 and be phased in, with the second and final increase to $2.50 per trip coming June 1, 2022, according to discussions Tuesday. Airport officials attempted to impose the additional ground transportation costs in 2019 but ran into strong pushback from transportation providers, then held off last year because of the pandemic impacts.
This year, airport officials reached out to ground transportation providers about the impending increase, said Rich Englehart, assistant county manager and former interim airport director.
“They aren’t super happy about it, but they say they understand,” Englehart told commissioners Tuesday. “I don’t think we’ll see the pushback this time.”
While the increase will put Aspen’s ground transportation fees more in line with other similar sized airports, the main reason behind the proposed increase is the massive discrepancy between the annual cost to maintain ground transportation services at the airport and the amount of revenue it currently brings in. As it turns out, the revenue does not even cover the airport’s landscaping costs.
The yearly costs to provide ground transportation include $380,000 for security, $290,000 to staff the Aspen Chamber Resort Association information kiosk, $100,000 for landscaping and $30,000 for transportation management, according to Kevin Sommers, a project manager for the contractor that runs the ground transportation operation. The per-passenger pickup fees bring in a little more than $92,000 a year.
“How do we justify only making $100,000 and it’s costing us so much more?” Commissioner Greg Poschman said. “The cost (increase) to any traveler is not much at all.”
Board Chairwoman Kelly McNicholas Kury pointed out that taxpayer dollars are not used to support airport services and that the airport is run and maintained solely using money it collects. Nonetheless, she said that the large discrepancy in costs versus revenue in the ground transportation operation means other airport projects languish.
She also pointed out a “fantastic amenity” at the Aspen airport – a free bus into Aspen that’s just a short walk from the terminal that travelers could utilize.
Poschman and Commissioner Steve Child suggested that fees could be waived for electric taxis.
The increase is scheduled to be approved Wednesday by commissioners on first reading. The action becomes official after second reading, which generally takes place two weeks later.
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