MOUNTAIN VILLAGE — The Mountain Village Town Council decided on Tuesday that it will not pursue a mill levy increase, sales tax initiative or utility bill surcharge to provide dedicated funding to pay for its Dial-a-Ride taxi service on the ballot this fall.
The measure was one of five recommendations offered to council by Transportation Director Chris Colter in response to prior direction from council that he compile operating alternatives and potential future funding mechanisms for the free, on-demand service.
The town’s DAR budget includes funding for not only the DAR taxi service, but also bus service to the Meadows neighborhood, Town Hall Plaza, the Town of Telluride, fixed departmental costs, and staff allocations.
“I don’t think I hear a lot of energy behind putting this to a vote,” Mayor Bob Delves said.
“I would prefer a user-based fee versus a property tax-based fee,” said Councilmember Dan Gardner.
At the beginning of the 2008/2009 season council directed that DAR staffing levels be reduced by one driver per shift for a savings of about $95,000.
In March it decided to operate the service seasonally, instead of year-round, as a result of the $1.5 million in budget cuts it needed to make in order to balance its general fund.
In lieu of tax increases or surcharges, council agreed with Colter’s remaining recommendations designed to save costs during tenuous economic times.
While DAR season service this year will discontinue on September 21 after the Blues and Brews Festival finishes despite the gondola continuing to run until October 18, council agreed that in 2010 the service should operate on the same schedule as the gondola.
Bus service connecting Town Hall, the Meadows, Lawson Hill and Telluride would continue during the gondola shutdown periods.
Next it agreed with Colter’s suggestion that Miracle Mile service between the Village Center and Town Hall be discontinued during the spring and fall, when the Meadows/Telluride Loop provides regularly scheduled transportation services between Town Hall and Blue Mesa during gondola closures.
Colter said the change would go into effect this fall.
Council recommended that Colter pursue a blended DAR/fixed-route service in the western half of Mountain Village, in which buses would leave the Meadows and Town Hall at set departure times, but be allowed to deviate from the fixed route to pick up passengers on demand along the route and adjacent roads. Passengers would meet the bus at the bottom of their driveways instead of receiving service at their front door.
The plan will be implemented as of a yet-to-be-determined point later this summer after the public is notified of the changes, said Colter.
Finally, council agreed with Colter’s fourth recommendation that DAR and fixed route bus service remain free for users.
Not only would charging fees put DAR in direct competition with both free and pay parking, but “a fee based DAR service is fundamentally contrary to its core mission to separate people from their cars,” Colter wrote in his memo to council.