Vail bus service struggles with deficit

Chris Outcalt
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colo. ” ECO Transit Officials are still trying to figure how to make up a projected $1.3 million budget deficit with a combination of fare increases, route cuts and pass changes for Vail Valley bus riders

Eighty percent of the department’s budget comes from sales tax, and the dip in county sales tax revenue is forcing officials to try to figure out what to do in case the drop continues.

If sales tax numbers stay down 21 percent for the rest of the year ” which has been the average decline so far this year compared to 2008 ” officials are projecting ECO will get $1.3 million less than it was planning on.

A trio of local officials spent six weeks studying ECO’s financial problems and have already made some cost-saving recommendations. The group ” comprised of Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll, Vail Transportation Manager Mike Rose and Avon Town Manager Larry Brooks ” will present some more specific recommendations to the ECO Board Wednesday.

The changes would make up $1.4 million in revenue, officials said.

Suggestions include eliminating the unlimited ride, 30-day bus pass and replacing it with a per-ride pass. The pass would cost either $2.50 or $2.80 per ride instead of the full $3 fare, depending on how many rides were purchased at once.

The recommendation also includes raising fares on ECO’s two more expensive routes ” bus service from Leadville to Vail and an express route from Vail to Beaver Creek. The Leadville route could cost $8 and the Beaver Creek dexpress route would jump to $10. Both routes cost $5 now.

Running fewer buses on the express route between the mountains is part of the plan, too.

“It’s the least amount we can do to get us through,” said Kelley Collier, ECO’s assistant director. “We don’t want to cut too much.”

The ECO Board will review the suggestions Wednesday and vote on a final recommendation, which would have to be approved by the commissioners.