Breckenridge council shares insight on preliminary winter bus schedule
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct that the morning Airport Road express route would be cut under the proposal.
The town of Breckenridge expects a mostly normal upcoming winter season, meaning ridership on its Free Ride bus service is likely to increase compared with last winter.
At a Tuesday, June 22, work session, Assistant Public Works Director Jen Pullen presented a proposed transit schedule, looking for feedback from the council.
The town expects the 2021-22 winter season to have ridership similar to pre-pandemic levels. The town had 42 drivers in 2019-20, 27 drivers in 2020-21 and hopes to hire 35 drivers for the upcoming winter.
The proposed changes from previous seasons would cut the morning Airport Road express bus, one of the purple routes and one of the trolleys as well as the morning employee bus. The proposal also recommended ending service at 10:15 p.m. for most routes as opposed to 11:15 p.m., and the trolley would end at 8 p.m. based on ridership data.
The town currently employs 21 full-time, year-round drivers and would require an additional 14 seasonal drivers to operate its proposed service. Pullen said in the meeting that on a scale of 1-10, her level of confidence that the town could hire enough drivers is at a four or five.
“In an ideal world, we would be able to fill every position possible that we have out there for seasonal drivers, but we do everything we can as far as recruitment,” Pullen said. “As soon as we are able to create a schedule off of what Town Council has recommended, we will start recruitment sometime in July.”
Applicants for these positions have dwindled, and the ability to provide housing is a major factor in the town’s recruitment efforts, town officials said. Town Manager Rick Holman said the town is holding onto some of its buy-down properties in anticipation of providing housing to bus drivers.
“We’re hearing this dynamic everywhere right now. There are less people I think going back into the market, the work environment right now for numerous reasons,” Holman said in the council meeting.
Mayor Eric Mamula said having both the A and B purple routes is imperative to the town’s workforce.
“That’s the bus I ride,” Mamula said. “I know how many workers ride that, and there is the same consistent group of people that ride the bus at the same time all the time.”
He said if the town were to have to sacrifice any route, the trolley should be the lowest priority.
“The trolley doesn’t actually move people to work,” Mamula said. “The trolley is strictly for people that don’t like to walk up and down Main Street for the most part.”
Some council members expressed concern that the trolley takes riders to the ice arena, but Mamula said there are other routes that go to the ice arena.
Holman proposed the trolley could be run at peak hours on an as-needed basis.
Council members were in general consensus that they would rather see both purple routes included, potentially sacrificing the trolley should it come down to it.
Pullen said the town will take council’s feedback and develop a schedule internally that will work with the town’s drivers. Should the town not hire enough drivers, she said it would have to further modify the transit schedule, which she said is possible.
She added that the schedule likely won’t be finalized until close to October or November depending on how recruitment efforts go.
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