GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - A buck will get you on and off the Ride Glenwood bus more times come April than it does now.
Glenwood Springs City Council on Thursday agreed to go along with a transportation commission and city staff recommendation to switch to a $1-per-day fare, rather than the current $1 cost for each ride.
The new fare would allow riders to board the in-city bus multiple times during a day, rather than paying a fare for each ride.
In addition, the new rate structure will allow senior citizens age 65 and up to ride the city buses for free, same as the valleywide Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) bus system. The city is under contract with RFTA to operate Ride Glenwood as well.
The city experienced a 60 percent decline in bus ridership in 2012 after the $1 fare was implemented last spring. Ride Glenwood had been free to riders up until that time, although there had previously been a fare in the early 2000s.
The new fare was implemented due to a recent shortfall in sales tax revenues to run the bus system, which costs about $1 million per year to operate.
Even with the drop in ridership, what would have been a $10,000 shortfall for Ride Glenwood last year without the fare ended up being a $100,000 surplus, according to Glenwood Springs Assistant Public Works Director Dave Betley.
He said he couldn't predict how much the fare adjustment might affect revenues.
"The theory is that ridership would come up, so you would make up for that in volume," Betley said.
Council members talked about other fare options, including a $2-per-day fare, but decided to go with the $1-per-day recommendation. Children under age 5 will also continue to be allowed to ride for free.
Councilman Mike Gamba said he would like the city to consider reinstating some of the service hours that were cut in 2011, especially at night when late-shift workers are returning home.
City Manager Jeff Hecksel said a broader analysis of the bus system would be needed before any recommendations could be made about expanding service hours.
"Historically, service has been added when times were good economically, and they went away when the bottom dropped out," Hecksel said.
Outgoing city transportation commission member Chris McGovern supported the fare change, but said she still believes the city should return to a free bus system at the appropriate time.
"We have taxed ourselves significantly to support this bus system, so we're already paying for it," she said. "When we changed to a fare system, people voted with their wallets and stopped riding the bus.
"I think we've really hurt our bus system, and there's not an excuse for it," McGovern said.
The city will also look to adopt some of the same pass programs offered by RFTA for its valleywide buses, including monthly and stored-time swipe passes.