Signs of the beginning of this process include a series of public meetings in Telluride and Norwood, inviting bus commuters to attend to discuss proposed fare hikes and a pets policy.
Other issues are likely to arise, however. For example, during discussions among the San Miguel County Commissioners about adding a meeting in Norwood, where its status as a “bedroom community” for the town of Telluride may be anathema to longtime residents but a fact of life for all commuters on the two lines, many times running with full loads, back and forth, daily. Commissioner Art Goodtimes said there is some desire for late-night buses for people who work past 5:30 p.m., which is currently the last line back home available to riders.
“I think it’s highly appropriate to having a hearing in Norwood at this particular time,” he said during Wednesday’s regular session in the Miramonte Building. “Having a meeting in Norwood is absolutely essential.”
After the commissioners agreed to add another meeting in Norwood at lunchtime, intended not so much for the parents of high school students riding to Telluride on the daily routes, but for their parents, the slate of meetings is as follows:
• Tuesday, Jan. 22, noon to 1 p.m., Wilkinson Public Library, Telluride
• Wednesday, Jan. 23, noon to 1 p.m., Lone Cone Building Meeting Room, Norwood
• Thursday, Jan. 31, noon to 1 p.m., Wilkinson Public Library, Telluride
The county provides service by contract with Telluride to Lawson Hill, Down Valley (Sawpit, Fall Creek and Placerville), as well as to Norwood. The routing, stop locations and frequency of service is at the discretion of the county, which over the past several years has increased service with direct routes to Lawson Hill, an added noon route to Down Valley locations, and weekend service to Norwood.
According to a memo from Lynn Black, county administrator, to the commissioners, “A transit survey to Down Valley riders and residents, and results shared with Commissioners early this year, indicated they would like to see more frequent routes, and that Down Valley routes that go through Lawson Hill do not deter usage.
“Seventy percent of respondents felt that of fare of $1 or less would be reasonable.”
Black stated in the memo that ridership on the Norwood “has increased annually.” The 37-seat passenger bus, which leaves Norwood at 7:05 a.m. and Telluride at 5:05 p.m., “was filled to capacity during peak riding seasons on occasions.”
Meanwhile, operating costs have increased across the board while fares have been steady. In 2008, Black states, the Town of Telluride charged $224,919 for the three bus routes operating within the county.
The Norwood commuter route has been collecting a $1 one-way fare, but now the county is proposing a $2 fee for the 7 a.m. and 5:05 p.m. routes.
“An increase in fares would enable the county to more quickly expand service, and potentially relieve overcrowding on peak routes,” Black stated. “It would also bring the county fares more inline with other regional transit agencies.”
However, while it remains to be seen whether a $1 change in the cost of the early routes would actually coax some riders to wait an extra half-hour before heading to work, or heading home, an even stickier issue remains – the pets policy.
“A quick survey of other national and regional transit agencies indicated that pets are mostly banned unless small and crated,” Black states. “Those that allowed large dogs generally charged a fare equal to a person, and required leashes and staying off seats. Although the Galloping Goose has allowed dogs in the past, a policy of banning pets may be beneficial to most riders.”