Glenwood Springs will look to users to help pay for bus
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Bus riders would account for about 20 percent of the cost to run the Ride Glenwood city bus system, under a $1-per-ride fare proposal being considered by Glenwood Springs City Council.
“Even after we do this, the bus is still subsidized by the taxpayers by about 80 percent,” Mayor Matt Steckler pointed out during a Feb. 2 council work session to discuss the fare plan.
The reality is, city staff urged, continuation of the in-city bus system hinges on finding another source of revenue to supplement the existing dedicated sales tax and federal grants that go to support Ride Glenwood.
Council will consider a formal resolution at its Feb. 16 meeting to implement a $1 fare for those who use Ride Glenwood buses. The service has been free to riders since 2005, but did operate on a fare system before that.
Under the new plan, children under age 5 who are riding with an adult would be able to board for free. Council may also consider a provision to allow senior citizens and students to reboard a bus within a certain amount of time after paying their fare. Discounted punch passes will also be looked at.
Ride Glenwood costs the city roughly $1 million per year to operate. In recent years, declining sales taxes to fund the system have meant the city had to dip into other funds to cover the cost.
Last year, the city also eliminated the south route along Midland Avenue to the Glenwood Park area, and reduced the hours of operation on the main route in an effort to cut costs. Ride Glenwood runs between the Roaring Fork Marketplace (Wal-Mart) and the Glenwood Springs Mall in West Glenwood.
For now, the fare would simply maintain the existing level of service, bringing in an expected $200,000 to $250,000 per year.
If revenues increase at some point, it’s possible the city could reinstate service hours later into the evening for people who get off work late, Steckler said.
Last year, the city accepted a $210,000 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant to pay for installation of a fare box collection system. However, only about $46,000 of that will be needed, Glenwood Springs Assistant Public Works Director Dave Betley said. The remainder will be returned.
If formally approved by City Council, the bus fare would go into effect in April, he said.
During a separate work session at the Feb. 2 meeting, council was open to doing a community survey to gauge citizens on possible Glenwood Springs City Charter amendments and other issues.
One charter amendment being discussed is whether city voters should elect the mayor. The mayor’s seat is currently appointed every two years by council itself, per the charter provisions.
“We have a voting population that could probably be better served if we try to engage them more,” Councilman Leo McKinney said. “One way we might do that is to move to a system where the people elect the mayor.”
Any changes to the city charter would require a special commission to be set up to formally recommend changes and craft the language. Proposed changes would then need to be put to voters at a regular municipal election.
Other possible amendments might include moving to citywide election of City Council members, rather than by ward, and doing away with term limits for council members.
Opening up the process might serve to involve more citizens in the process, Councilman Mike Gamba agreed.
“We have a completely apathetic electorate out there now,” he said. “I don’t know that I have any brilliant ideas to change that, but I do find it really unsettling that six out of the seven of us are only here because we got 25 people to sign a petition for us.”
Six current council members were automatically elected during the last two election cycles, since there were no challengers for their seats.
Other council members said the current system seems to work fine, and that the sitting council works well together.
“I like the current [mayoral appointment] system,” Councilman Ted Edmonds said. “I think maybe City Council has a better shot of picking a mayor that they can work with, rather than the electorate picking someone they don’t have to work directly with.”
Current Mayor Matt Steckler agreed that changing the system could result in a more dysfunctional council.
“I don’t want to fix something that in many people’s minds isn’t considered broken,” Steckler said.
Council agreed to formally consider conducting a public survey on those and other questions. It’s also an opportunity to pose questions not related to the city charter, such as code issues and economic development, council agreed.
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