Survey: Regional Transit Routes Needed, Feasibly, Sustainability Of Such Service Unknown

07/03/14 | By | 766 views More

Route From Montrose to Telluride/ Mountain Village Desired

MONTROSE — A transit route through Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel counties is desperately needed. That’s the consensus from meetings, over the last eight months, among officials from the City of Montrose and the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village to debate ways to share services in tourism and regional public transit.

The consensus, said Montrose Assistant City Manger Rob Joseph, is to create a dependable, safe, cross-country public transit service connecting Montrose with Telluride and Mountain Village via Rigdway.

Joseph shared results of a recent survey of residents and businesses in Montrose, Telluride and areas along the proposed route of U.S. Highway 550, Colorado Highways 62 and 145, which includes Ridgway, with members of the Montrose City Council Tuesday.

Joseph said about 228 individuals and 48 businesses participated in the survey. Nearly 74 percent of employees said they would use a service to get to and from work; the majority of responding employees said they would use a park-and-ride area south of Montrose and mass transit to get to and from their employment.

Joseph told councilors determining local demand, calculating funding sources to see if such a service is sustainable are all part of the next steps to phase-in a public transit service.

Joseph noted the significant population growth over the past decade, and the demand for a service for employees, tourism and shopping promotion, and the need to help people get to and from health care appointments has made a regional transportation service more desirable.

Among the options  presented to council Tuesday were a van-pool, bus or mini-coach for the service.

“There are three dominant van-pool models,” according to the report, which include “owner-operated, employee-owned and third-party providers. The van-pool gathers riders within a community and then travels directly to major employment centers (such as those located at Montrose and Telluride). The schedule and route of the service depends upon the individuals participating in the van-pool service. Van-pool service is limited to the individuals within the program and has limited service for medical or shopping trips. Due to liability issues with disabled individuals, van-pool service is primarily for employment trips for non-disabled individuals. All three van-pool types operate in the region, but are not part of a coordinated effort.

“Depending on participation from Ridgway, this service could have demand-response zones on either end of the trip with only pick-up and drop-off points in Mountain Village/Telluride and Montrose,” according to the report. “Alternatively, the service could provide direct point-to-point service from outlying pick-up and drop-off points in Montrose where passengers could transfer to All Points Transit. Telluride passengers could transfer to the Galloping Goose,or the Town of Mountain Village.

Both options would require access to park-and-ride locations.

The Colorado Department of Transportation said it would donate a portion of land, just off U.S. Hwy 550 south of Montrose as a park-and-ride area.

“More than 62 percent of employees responding to the survey implied they would consider riding in a van or carpooling with others to get to work and 74 percent said they would consider using public transit to get to and from work. Another promising program indicator is that nearly 88 percent of respondents would likely pay, or consider paying a small ridership fee,” the report concluded.

Another option is to partner with companies already operating in the desired areas, such as All Points Transit and Telluride Express.

“Telluride Express can provide well-equipped mini coaches that offer comfortable individual seating for 24-28 people, storage capacity and the ability to transport bicycles and skis for approximately $250-300 each way,” the report said.

Montrose Councilor Rex Swanson, who also serves as the board president of All Points, said the transit board looked at expanded service, but said, “It’s too much for us to do at this point.” He said the role of All Points was to serve as a connection for riders coming to Montrose and transport people to downtown, the airport and the proposed park-and-ride lot.

To pay for all of this is the real question.

Most certainly Intergovernmental Agreements would need to be penned by each of the participating governments. Creating a Rural Transportation Authority has the ability for governments to impose sales, vehicle registration, and visitor or lodging taxes, but must
be approved by voters in each county. A sales tax to pay for the service is the least desired option.

“I know you don’t have an appetite for taxation,” Joseph told councilors. He said that a partnership with private and public support could be a good model to explore.

Another option would to collect fares, but Joseph and councilors agreed collecting fares would not make the service sustainable.

Region 10 Executive Director Michelle Haynes told councilors that the service Gunnison uses to connect with Crested Butte has nowdoubled the number of rides connecting the two communities; that service is free and paid for with tax revenues and private donations.

“Let’s find out what they are doing right,” Councilor Kathy Ellis said, adding that a transit service connecting Montrose with Telluride “is something we need to pursue.”

In May the Telluride Town Council voiced support for an expanded transit service, but nonetheless voted, 4-2, against the proposed RTA. Mountain Village approved the creation of an RTA, and has express interest in putting such an agreement before voters in the fall.

The complete copy of the report can be found online at the city’s website at www.cityofmontrose.org.

wwoody@watchnewspapers.com
Twitter.com/williamwoodyCO

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