Breckenridge considers changes to its transit and parking systems during ski season
Peak season is in full swing, as anyone traveling through Breckenridge on the weekend is sure to notice.
The Breckenridge Town Council had the chance to reflect on all things transportation — including traffic, parking and public transit — at its first meeting since the holidays Tuesday, Jan. 11. This includes the functionality of the new parking structure, as well as staffing challenges impacting Breck Free Ride services.
Parking and traffic
The new parking structure has been open for two months, and skiers are making use of the new resource.
Assistant Mobility Director Matt Hulsey said the garage saw 80% or higher occupancy for 14 out of 21 days prior to Tuesday. But once the ski day comes to an end, the garage is seeing minimal use: After 3 p.m., the garage is holding between five and 20 cars, with the average sitting at around 15 cars.
“We’re down to 20% or less by that end-of-ski-day time frame, so it’s very minimal,” Hulsey said. “Most people leave as soon as the mountain is closed, and that’s when we’re seeing our jam-packed roads out there from 3:30-5 p.m.”
Council members would like to see more people leaving their cars in the garage to head downtown after the ski area closes. This is why folks who pay the full-day rate are able to stay in the garage after 3 p.m. at no additional charge.
Since the garage is already seeing minimal use in the evenings, several council members supported the idea of making the garage free after 3 p.m. Town Manager Rick Holman was hesitant to make any changes until the town had a full understanding of patterns surrounding the garage, and he added that it might be hard to convince Breckenridge Ski Resort to get on board.
Mayor Eric Mamula emphasized that those who park during the day can stay for free anyway, and the North Gondola Lot has been filling up before any other lot has.
“Honestly, if nobody is using the thing, it’d be a great place for employee parking,” Mamula said.
A majority of council was on board with asking the resort to consider free parking after 3 p.m., which could benefit guests looking to visit downtown, as well as employees who work evenings in the service industry.
Hulsey also provided a COVID-19 update for the Breck Free Ride bus system, saying the health and safety of drivers is the top priority, so the town reinstalled driver barriers in all of its buses. Riders need to enter and exit from the back of the bus, where masks are still available for those who don’t have one. The grand room at the Transit Center is now closed to the public, but the bathrooms remain open.
In addition, the town is looking for security to help with mask enforcement on bus routes, Hulsey said, in an attempt to take a bit of the responsibility off the drivers.
While the town’s goal was to have a full staff of 38 drivers for Breck Free Ride, it has gone from 34 down to 30 this month, leading to unexpected route cancellations and additional changes.
As of Saturday, Jan. 15, the Purple bus route, which runs from Breckenridge Station to downtown, went back to its hybrid A/B split, Hulsey said. From 6:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., the Purple A route will run, and then from 3:45-11 p.m., the Purple B route will run in an attempt to help get the workforce in and out of town quicker. Hulsey said this will likely continue through the rest of the winter service. The Blue route, which runs to the ice arena, has been canceled for the majority of the season.
Hulsey said the resort is “cautiously optimistic” that it will be able to resume the Blue route service with a single bus every 40 minutes, starting Saturday, Jan. 22. He said the resort has a few new drivers in training and is hoping to get them started this week.
Mamula said the town needs to figure out a way to improve messaging for guests who might not know to download and check the My Free Ride app for live updates on bus routes, especially in the case of a route cancellation.
“Unfortunately, if you are a guest, and you walk out to a stop and stand there for a long time, we don’t have a way to let people know,” Mamula said. “… It’s something we need to really start to think about is how can we message that instantly to people that aren’t using their phones.”
Hulsey said this is definitely something to continue working on. He noted that all of the town’s bus stops have a sign telling riders that if they text their stop number to 41411, they will get a real-time update on the next two buses expected at that stop.
Council member Kelly Owens said she thinks it could be beneficial to reevaluate the route strategy. Hulsey said while nothing is definite, there has been some discussion on changing routes.
“I think we’re scaring a ton of people away from using the bus because you just can’t plan on it,” Owens said. “… I do think we have other issues that we’re just trying to message about and talk about but really we should just be fixing.”
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