Summit County officials discuss further reforms to parking, shuttle system for Quandary Peak and McCullough Gulch trails |

Summit County officials discuss further reforms to parking, shuttle system for Quandary Peak and McCullough Gulch trails

After revamping its transportation systems last year, officials could reduce certain fees and expand options in a bid to boost sustainable visitation

The trailhead sign for Quandary Peak is pictured May 21, 2021. The 14,265-foot peak is one of the most popular 14ers in Colorado, attracting hikers, climbers and skiers year-round.
Jason Connolly/Summit Daily News archive

Parking and shuttle rides for Quandary Peak and McCullough Gulch trails could get cheaper and more accessible this year after Summit County officials discussed incentives to boost sustainable visitation to one of Colorado’s most popular 14er mountains.

During a Jan. 31 Summit Board of County Commissioners meeting, officials with the county’s Open Space and Trails Department proposed a slew of reforms to the area’s shuttle system — introduced during last year’s hiking season — as well as its parking rules. 

Last year, officials changed the shuttle’s pick-up and drop-off location from Breckenridge’s Airport Road parking lot to the South Gondola lot as well as increased parking fees at the trails. These changes were hailed by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office for helping mitigate traffic congestion for nearby neighbors as visitation swelled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For a public safety response, it’s made all the difference,” said Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons.

But while shuttle ridership received high marks from a commissioner survey last year, the new parking measures did not. The goal of further reforms is to “make sure that we’re making it accessible to everybody and not pricing people out of it,” said Kathrine King, the county’s open space and trails director. 

Last year, a round-trip shuttle ride cost visitors $15 and $5 for local residents. But that was also on top of the $15 parking at the South Gondola lot. Officials proposed making that parking free and even eliminating the $5 shuttle fee for locals.

According to Allison Mitchell, resource specialist for the open space department, discounted locals tickets only accounted for 54 out of the 2,600 shuttle tickets sold last year — about 2%. She added that in total, fees collected from tickets only accounted for about 11% of the shuttle program’s funding, highlighting how a reduction or even total elimination of shuttle fees would have little effect on the program’s funding — which is supported partly from grants. 

About $294,000 was spent on the service last year, with the county subsidizing about $162,000 after revenue from parking and shuttle fees were received, according to Mitchell. 

“This is offering another way to help support our local community,” Mitchell said of the proposal to reduce shuttle fees, which she also said could help increase ridership. 

Changes to the shuttle’s operating days and times were also considered. Last year, the shuttle ran from June 15 to Sept. 18, according to Mitchell, who said those dates could be extended by about two weeks on both ends.

Officials also contemplated reducing fees for the reservation-based parking at the Quandary Peak trailhead — which also gives access to McCullough Gulch. Last year, parking cost $25 for a full day on weekdays and $50 for a full day on weekends and holidays. Half-day parking, which was offered for 3.5 hours, cost $20.

County Commissioner Tamara Pogue said she found that pricing to be a “little high” when it was increased last year and suggested she was in favor of reducing those fees. 

“I lean towards equity, although I think it’s hard to find the right point,” she said. 

Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said she would be in favor of increasing those parking fees if officials were to also reduce or remove costs for the shuttle, something she said could disincentivize trailhead parking and increase shuttle ridership.

“We know that we’re not going to make money on this, and that’s not our intention,” Lawrence said. “The basis of this is rooted in public safety.”

Other ideas for changes include allowing more flexibility for the parking reservation system at the trailhead such as with a cancellation feature or an ability to change reservation days and times. Officials also spoke about increasing short-term parking from 3.5 hours to 4 and providing an option to accommodate overnight backpacking.

With more discussion on the changes expected later this year, open space officials said they were confident the program would be up and running by the first week of June.

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