West End shuttle won’t stop just yet | AspenTimes.com

West End shuttle won’t stop just yet

Allyn Harvey

Ridership on Aspen’s experimental West End shuttle has been increasing so sharply since service began last Christmas that the City Council has agreed to extend the program until the end of the ski season.

The council learned yesterday that ridership last week was 416 percent higher than it was during the first week of service, Dec. 21-27. In its first week, just 80 people used the shuttle; last week the number was 413.

Based on those numbers, the council agreed to extend the shuttle service past its original 10-week trial run, which was supposed to end this week. No vote was taken at yesterday’s lunchtime work session, but it was the consensus of the council that the program should not end yet.

The shuttle runs between City Market and the West End every half-hour in the early morning and late afternoon, and once an hour during the middle of the day. The shuttle is currently being operated on a contract basis by High Mountain Taxi.

In addition to the ridership numbers, the council looked at responses to a very informal mail-in survey that was sent to 500 homes in the West End. Of the 34 households that responded, 66.7 percent said they ride the shuttle at least once a week, while 26.5 percent said they’ve never used it.

West End residents utilize the shuttle for a variety of purposes, including getting to work (21.7 percent of the respondents said they used the shuttle at least once for that purpose), skiing (60.9 percent), grocery shopping (60.9 percent), running errands (34.8 percent), going to the movies (30.4 percent) and transferring to another bus (21.7 percent).

When asked for suggestions about the hours the shuttle should operate, most respondents suggested shortening the 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. schedule that is currently in effect.

“Perhaps it could stop at 11 or 11:30 p.m.,” wrote one person.

“Cancel it altogether,” suggested another.

The only major complaints from users have been about drivers who leave stops before scheduled departure times. Transportation Coordinator Lysa Usher told the council that the taxi drivers who are on shuttle duty have been told of the problem, and they promised to be more conscientious.

City Councilman Jim Markalunas, who lives in the West End, said he thought the drivers were doing a good job all around, though they could keep an eye out for passengers running to catch the shuttle before it leaves.

“I know you can use it very easily for grocery shopping,” he said. “I’ve done it myself and so has my wife.”

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