Merging bus systems in Breckenridge could save money

Caddie Nath
Summit Daily News
Daily file photo Breck's Free Ride bus

BRECKENRIDGE – Combining the Town of Breckenridge and Breck Ski Resort bus systems could improve customer service and image without significantly increasing costs, contractors who conducted a recent study of both systems said.

“You can achieve real benefits in terms of customer service, quality of service and image projection for pretty much the same thing you’re spending now,” said Suzanne O’Neill, whose company, TransitPlus conducted the study. “To me, that makes sense to pursue.”

The same company has been commissioned to create an implementation plan based on the results of the study. The plan will likely integrate certain aspects of the two-bus systems in a phased approach over the next three to five years, O’Neill said.

However, the earliest changes and improvements might be made before the end of the year.

“We are really excited about it,” Councilwoman Jennifer McAtamney said of the study results. “There are tremendous opportunities that have very little cost and can be implemented for the upcoming winter season. It also gave us a clear path forward toward some type of consolidation with the ski area that will benefit our locals and our visitors.”

Specifically, both Breckenridge Ski Resort and the town are encouraged to merge the aspects of the two transit systems that are visible to riders and the general public: service design – the routes and times buses run – and marketing.

“Right now there is some difference between the two systems in how those routes are structured,” O’Neill said. “We think if they begin making decisions jointly, they may be able to reduce the overlaps and simplify it for riders.”

Together the two transit systems boast 31 buses, 1.3 million annual riders and a $2.5 million operating budget, according to data provided in the TransitPlus study.

Long term, the management structure could also be merged and the fleet, particularly the ski area buses, might be improved.

If done carefully, the integration should not increase costs for either the town or the ski resort, according to TransitPlus findings.

Town officials initially discussed asking voters to approve a tax on lift ticket and other admission sales in Breckenridge to generate revenue to improve and combine the two transit systems.

But with strong opposition to the tax from the resort, the town instead entered into closed-door discussions with BSR executives last year to work toward a public-private partnership to improve town transit systems.

With those talks coming to fruition, the council killed the tax question for the November ballot and the foreseeable future in May, calling it premature.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.