Ride Glenwood fare plan up for discussion
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – City officials are set to discuss a fare of $1 to $1.50 for the Ride Glenwood city bus service, which has been free to riders for the past several years.
The fare proposal would prevent further cuts to the in-city bus system. Last year, the city ended the South Route and reduced hours of operation on the main route due to budget shortfalls.
Glenwood Springs City Council gets its first look at the proposal during a Thursday work session beginning at 6 p.m. at City Hall. Formal action will not be taken, but will be scheduled for a future regular council meeting.
Recently, the city’s Transportation Commission reviewed the options and recommended the lower $1 fare for now. Children under age 5 who are riding with an adult would be able to board for free under the recommendation.
“This would have the least amount of impact to the ridership of Ride Glenwood Springs while, based on projections, would generate enough revenue to supplement the transportation system,” Glenwood Assistant Public Works Director Dave Betley indicated in a memo to City Council for Thursday’s discussion.
The city has operated the free in-city bus service since 2005. A fare of between $1 and $2 had been charged prior to that time.
In recent years, however, declining sales tax revenues and the implementation of the South Glenwood route made it harder to operate within the bus system’s roughly $1 million budget.
Based on a projected budget shortfall last year, City Council eliminated the south route. The city also reduced hours of operation on the main route, which runs between the Roaring Fork Marketplace (Wal-Mart) and the Glenwood Springs Mall in West Glenwood.
Also last year, the city accepted a $210,000 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant to pay for installation of a fare box collection system. At the time, it postponed a decision on how much fare to collect.
“The focus of this fare is to ensure the financial viability of the main route,” Betley stated in his memo.
A fare of up to $1.50 would still fall within the range charged in other nearby communities, he said.
“Instituting this fare would raise an income between $200,000 and $250,000 for Ride Glenwood,” he said.
The trade-off would an expected decline in ridership, which could be as much as 50 percent, Betley also stated.
“It is unpredictable how much ridership would decrease until a fare is enacted and data is collected to show the impact,” he said.
In addition to a dedicated portion of the city’s sales tax, Ride Glenwood also relies on a $223,000 grant from the Federal Transportation Administration for operations through this year.
“With the current economic downturn and cuts in federal grants, there is no guarantee the city will continue to receive this amount for operational funds,” Betley said.
In that case, the fare would only offset the federal grant and allow the city to continue operating at existing levels, he said.
Also on the table for discussion is a possible fare system that would allow senior citizens and students to reboard a bus at no added cost within a period of time during off-peak hours after paying the initial fare.
For seniors in particular, this would allow them a chance to complete tasks such as grocery shopping or picking up medications while paying a single fare.
Earlier suggestions had included continuing to make the service free for seniors and students, and allowing reboarding for all riders within a given time frame.
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