by Tara Walker
Winter Park gave a transit workshop presentation for the Grand County Board of County Commissioners earlier in September. County Commissioner Richard Cimino began the workshop by asking the question, “Can stakeholders evaluate whether a collaborative effort could be made to add to the transit system?”
Currently, the Lift system has 14 fixed routes with stops in Winter Park, Fraser, Tabernash and Granby. An estimated 500,000 riders use the transit system in Grand county annually. The Lift transit system provides around 30,000 service hours of free transit to the community at an operating cost of around 2.5 million.
In 2015, the Town of Winter Park took over operation of the Winter park resort shuttle and assumed the contract with First Transit, becoming the first yearround transit system in Grand County. The town of Winter Park has a 2% sales tax to help fund the Lift transit system while Fraser has a 1% sales tax to help with funding. Fraser voters originally voted for the sales tax to fund transit, trails and capital projects, but 100% of tax dollars has gone to the transit system so far. In addition to funds from tax dollars, the town of Winter Park receives a grant of around $150,000. The town actively seeks out stakeholders to contribute to funding to support the routes that are currently in use.
HOA contracts brought in $92,000 in 2017 with a projected increase of 7% in 2018. Winter Park Town manager Drew Nelson, “We assumed the contract that Winter Park had with First Transit and just entered into a new contract in August. We reduced costs significantly. We do have 16 contracts with HOAs, mostly in the Meadow Ridge area, and Beaver Village.”
If you visit Winter Park or Fraser, you will see signage and bus stations for the Lift transit system. However, it may not be as obvious that the transit system has 6 stops in Granby with 5 round trips daily that run until 9pm at night during ski season. It’s not as obvious because Granby isn’t currently funding the route and there is no signage or bus stations at this time.
Winter Park town manager Drew Nelson described the Granby stops as “flag stops where the resort tells the employees where they need to go.” Commissioner Cimino stated during the meeting, “Stakeholders and county may need to think of signage or bus stops.” An estimated 24,735 riders utilized the Granby Route for the 2017/18 year at an operating cost of $94,000. Drew explained that there is a need for the Granby route as employees have housing in Granby and need transportation to the resort and other jobs in the area.
The transit workshop on September 19th provided an opportunity for stakeholders and community members to ask questions while the town of Winter Park provided an overview and information about what more partnerships could mean for the county when it comes to transportation. The workshop outlined that the transit system was not originally meant as a solution to regional transportation issues and the cost of the transit system is currently largely on Winter Park and Fraser although the transit system offers transportation solutions for four municipalities. Drew Nelson explained that if stakeholders want more routes or more of a voice in the decision-making process, they will need to be contributing to the costs.