Committee exploring possibility of expanding Tipsy Taxi service
SUMMIT COUNTY – When Tipsy Taxi first started, the original plan was to gradually expand the service outside of Breckenridge. But five years later, that’s only beginning to look like a possibility.
Summit County’s Drunken Driving Prevention Committee is exploring how to create a reliable transportation alternative for diners and drinkers because simply expanding the existing Tipsy Taxi is not feasible. The service operates on an annual budget of $140,000 – an expensive item for the nonprofit Summit Prevention Alliance (SPA), the Summit Stage and the many volunteers who run the service.
According to SPA coordinator Beverly Gmerek, several factors have reduced the number of DUI arrests and alcohol-related accidents in the county, and make the originally proposed expansion possible.
One factor is the Summit Stage, which has extended its service through 2 a.m., and the town of Breckenridge has added an hour to its routes, stretching to 11:30 p.m. DUI arrests have dropped by about 50 percent this year, Gmerek said. The average blood-alcohol content of drivers arrested also has dropped significantly.
But, the growth of business in the rest of the county has citizens and restaurant association members outside of Breckenridge clamoring for the options available in the south end of the county.
“The countywide need is there,” Gmerek said. “But we’re running out of money. It’s time for things to change.”
Tipsy Taxi first began as a service modeled after Aspen’s taxi voucher system. In Aspen, where taxi rides can cost as much as $75, bars and restaurants provide patrons with vouchers for free or discounted rides with private companies. The businesses, along with court fines from drunken driving cases, pay for the vouchers.
Gmerek said Summit County’s committee tried to institute similar services, but the effort failed as private taxi providers couldn’t survive. After that, Tipsy Taxi bought its own vans.
“We were subsidizing rides,” said attorney Todd Barson, a committee member for eight years. “The problem was, when somebody needed it, it wasn’t there. We wanted to make it simple and reliable.”
The committee, which includes representatives from law enforcement, the Summit Stage, restaurateurs and Coors Brewing Co., is now ready to give the expansion another go. Committee members Tuesday brainstormed ideas on how to approach the issue again. More questions than answers came out of the meeting, however.
The members’ consensus was to seek out a private taxi vendor and develop a voucher system, eventually doing away with the Tipsy Taxi vans. Bob Chestnut, of the newly formed, private Summit Taxi, said his company could be the answer.
“We hope they go with a private vendor,” he said. “We got our official PUC (Public Utilities Commission) license (Tuesday) and we want to expand and move into Breckenridge.”
Committee members said they were appreciative of the help, but also expressed concerns because taxi companies have come and gone before. Another issue, members agreed, is funding. Currently, money from court fines is distributed randomly by case number to a variety of nonprofits; there is no guarantee that money from a DUI case benefits Tipsy Taxi. Fixing that is a priority, Barson said.
Other issues included approaching towns about parking.
In Frisco, for example, the only place to legally park overnight is the Summit Stage’s transfer center lot. In Dillon, overnight parking is available, but patrons often aren’t able to move their cars to those lots after a night of drinking.
The committee plans to revisit the issue at a July 9 meeting. Gmerek urged anyone with ideas or an interest in participating to contact her at (970) 668-2077.
Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 237 or email@example.com.
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