The free Home Safe Program, which was operated by Telluride Express and the Telluride Rotary Foundation, with funding from San Miguel County and the towns of Mountain Village and Telluride, ended last month after the tragic death of Patrick Morris.
With the service no longer in place, discussions on several levels have taken place, and at Tuesday’s meeting supporters of the program were there to see if there is any way to keep the program moving. But without a fiscal agent (Rotary) and without an operator (Telluride Express), the program in its previous form, is finished.
Several options were discussed, including providing some sort of security for the late night buses. When Mayor Stu Fraser asked Telluride Express General Manager Sue Rovito if a higher level of security would resolve issues Telluride Express has had with the program and its riders, she answered emphatically, no. Telluride Express, she said, can no longer operate the service.
“My big issue right now is my insurance company,” Rovito said. “I don’t know if they will allow us to do it any more. I can’t justify losing my whole business for something I don’t make money on.”
Rovito went on to say that both Telluride Express and Mountain Limo are operating a taxi service to fill the need of providing late-night rides home, but she can no longer offer the service as part of the free Home Safe Program.
What was not in question during the meeting was the general feeling that the program is indeed needed. Since the program began in 2003-2004, it has transported nearly 26,000 riders. A variety of people were on hand Tuesday to express their desire to keep the program functioning.
“On the Board of County Commissioners, we all three have a different view,” San Miguel County Commissioner Joan May said. “I think we all agree that it does fall under health, safety, welfare. We have a lot of transit needs and few transit dollars. It’s a transportation issue.”
Commissioner Elaine Fischer agreed.
“The big issue here is moving a lot of people at once,” Fischer said. “There are a lot of complicated issues here, no doubt about it. We need to continue the conversation. It is really important to keep our minds open to what we are providing as a community.”
Can Telluride operate the Galloping Goose buses to transport people late-night? It’s an option Councilmember Thom Carnevale said the town might have to consider, but there are implications with that as well.
“The central question is, can we pick it up immediately?” Town Manager Greg Clifton said. “There are capital implications, staffing implications and intangibles. This is all new and it will take some careful exploration to find a way to expand capital with our existing infrastructure. If anything came out of the discussion today, [it’s that] this is a complicated issue.”
It was emphasized several times during the meeting that there are taxi services available for late night rides and that the Gondola as well as the Galloping Goose will be running until 2 a.m. during Gay Ski Week, February 25-March 3.