RTA Buses Gunnison Crested Butte

Hometown Bus Thoughts

2015-07-15 00.37.24The recent RTA (Transportation) measure (5A) on the ballot in Gunnison County was a bone of contention for some and for others a no brainer, I am of the latter camp and I will tell you why. My hubby and I went to the X Games in Aspen a couple of years ago to watch our favorite Olympian, Aaron Blunck. As we approached Aspen, having no clue where to go, we were directed via large highway signs where to park for the X Games. We parked and were directed where to go to catch the bus into Aspen, at which point our bags were checked for explosives and guns and on the bus we went. After a short ride we were dropped at the bottom of the half pipe with a 50 yard walk to watch Aaron. No mess, no fuss, no traffic and straight forward as hell and all in about 20 minutes.

This was no event created bus system, it is that way day in and day out from Snowmass to Aspen and back. In my mind what played out was what I had campaigned for (among other things) in 2012 when I ran for County Commissioner in Gunnison County; a county-wide bus system. Ski areas are in the mountains and there is little room for building, much less parking so it only makes sense to enlarge public transportation and in fact visitors choose one vacation area over another often because of the availability of public transportation.

What I envisioned in 2012, when I  talked to the transportation director about what it would take to make this happen, was a bus system that would allow shoppers to come to Gunnison from Crested Butte and visa-versa. A system that the general public and college students could use to get across town to a restaurant and home without a DUI or worse hurting others because of said DUI condition. I envisioned transportation for older folks who depend on personal friends to get them around town. Us boomers are aging, but haven’t shut down our activities, so a transportation system benefits us in so many ways and older folks are choosing Gunnison County as a retirement destination.

I have driven Hwy. 135 thousands of times and it seems there are less cars now than in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, and the few buses we have now are directly responsible for the drop in numbers of cars on the road. For every car we take off the road we drop the risk of an accident. I used to walk every morning from WSC across town for a baby sitting job at Wildwood and how I could have used a bus system then to get back to my 8:00 a.m. class on time. The number of times I drove from Almont to Gunnison after a night out dancing was ludicrous, but now young folks can simply catch the bus and avoid the pitfalls of DUI.

Of the people I talked to prior to the ballot issue passing many were on the fence about it. Some rightly asked why not charge something to offset costs and I would explain that there are some grant monies that are only available for free transportation. As well, the director told me that when they charged a very nominal fee their ridership fell off by at least 40%. We can argue that with “so what”, but I remind folks, every vehicle on our highways are wear and tear on them and we pay for that via state taxes. If the RTA charged they would have to hire someone to create the tickets, administer the tickets and collect the money. The drivers cannot be occupied with that and it slows them down when loading. So what is the cost of free? Under John Norton  CBMR came up with “Ski Free”  during an otherwise dead part of the year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Like he said then and I say now, there isn’t anything like free. Ski Free BTW was a huge success for businesses in Gunnison as well as CB!

Back in the 1980’s and 90’s when CBMR was catering more to families than the effluent, lots of folks stayed in Gunnison and skied the Butte. I am seeing some innovation recently that can bring that back by selling Gunnison as a two resort town which I have advocated for a while now, by busing some folks to Monarch as well as the Butte. The RTA cannot do the Monarch run as it is designated to be a county operation at this point, but small businesses are starting to think out of the box on that and trying to obtain their own bus system to accommodate the two resort model. I am sure Monarch would be happy to help them along in that endeavor if approached as they have long thought out of the box on things.

Western State’s student population will use the heck out of that bus system and it will be a draw for getting students to come here to school. Many of them come from public transportation areas and if their parents do not have to buy them a car and insure it on top of paying for college tuition it ought to help our recruitment immensely.

Some are still not happy with the passing of 5A because of taxes in general and I don’t blame them…we all pay taxes. However, I do strongly believe this ballot measure will pay them back in the not too distant future. Some I have talked to say to me that “it will only benefit Crested Butte.” First off those saying that were not in business when the ski area catered to families or when WSC was full of students. I hate to say it, but if the fear of Gunnison being left in the dust is something a person is concerned with, then perhaps we need to pick up the game so we can compete. Be proactive. Gunnison has a lot to offer. I also want to remind folks that whether or not county taxes are collected in Crested Butte or Gunnison, they benefit everyone.

If The Inn at Tomichi Village does get their shuttle to Monarch off the ground I would be the first in line to buy an advertising place card on that shuttle if I had a business. I believe a year-round public bus system is the one thing that can bring Gunnison and Crested Butte businesses big bang for their bucks. I believe.