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Summit Stage considers minor service changes

Daily News staff report

SUMMIT COUNTY – The Summit Stage begins its winter schedule Nov. 23 but the transit advisory board is still mulling several possible changes.

One might be to halve the service between Keystone and Arapahoe Basin and use the saved money to run buses to Summit Cove, Stage director Bill Watterson said.

Another change could be a second bus between Frisco and Silverthorne, but to extend the run to Keystone, a trip that would total about 45 minutes.

Beyond these possibilities, one expected change is to add half-hour daytime service back to the Frisco-Copper route.

The advisory board will consider ski season service levels at its Sept. 24 meeting.

At its Wednesday meeting, Watterson told the board that if more service were added to the winter, savings would have to be found in the next offseason because of sagging sales tax collections.

“The dilemma we have now is our cupboard is bare,” Watterson said.

The Stage is funded by a .75 percent sales tax. Collections through June are down 6.1 percent compared to a year ago. The Stage has adjusted its budget from about $6 million to $5.5 million.

Watterson said he had hoped to consider additional services – such as an express bus from the Frisco Transfer Center to Copper Mountain, and more than a dozen other specialized services – but the reality of the budget won’t allow that this year.

Next year’s budget will reflect a 4 percent decrease from this year’s original budget.

Despite the budget woes, Watterson said the Stage is on track because it planned for a downturn.

One bit of good fortune is reduced maintenance costs, thanks to having 17 new pieces of equipment in the fleet, Watterson said. The savings so far is about $170,000 year to date over 2002.

If more money needs to be cut, Watterson said the Stage’s worst performing routes would be up for discussion. They include the Keystone-A-Basin route, which is subcontracted to Keystone’s transit system, the French Gulch and Boreas Pass routes in and around Breckenridge and the late-night service.

“Late-night service is always on our radar screen,” said County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom, a transit board member. “I think it is critical, and we have to do it, but we have to figure out better ways to do it.”

On another front, the Stage is about to hire a professional transportation marketer based in Tucson, Ariz.

Beverly Gmerek of the Summit Prevention Alliance, an advocate for late-night service, said next month she will be pitching a new marketing idea for late-night service. She said a campaign is being worked out in conjunction with the restaurant community.


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