Survey demonstrates demand for public transit in Grand County
April 30, 2010
When the Grand Foundation, the Grand County Board of Commissioners and the Grand County Needs Assessment Committee contracted with the National Research Center, Inc., to conduct a county-wide assessment to identify the needs of Grand County residents, the intended outcomes were to “understand and prioritize critical issues facing Grand County and to qualify and quantify the scope of current and future needs to help establish appropriate goals for the Grand Foundation and local government.”
In this column we have looked at this issue in order of priority: Natural Environment, Sense of Community, Economy and Employment, Planning and Growth, Health and Human Services, and Education, Transportation.
Ease of automobile travel and the availability of alternate modes of transportation affect the quality of life of residents by providing opportunities to travel quickly and safely to work, home, shopping and recreation. Local government planning must ensure easy traffic flow, but supportive government programs and policies must exist to offer options for resident mobility through multiple travel modes.
Traffic challenges are prevalent in Colorado and many resort communities; interestingly, ease of travel by car, bike and walking was given a better rating in Grand County than the national average. Congestion and commute times were not rated as significant problems, and the roads generally were perceived to be well maintained. For instance, snow removal from major streets received an 87 percent above “excellent or good” rating. However, transportation services garnered only 15 percent approval.
The key transportation challenge for Grand County is the need for increased public transportation services – especially in the Eastern and Central parts of the county. Resident ratings for senior transportation and bus travel during peak season and off-peak season employer-sponsored transportation were rated as poor. Residents dependent upon the bus for travel voiced the most discontent with limited public transportation services.
The Spanish-speaking focus group participants were particularly vocal on this subject. One said, “The transportation is only available in the winter for free, and it only caters to the tourists.” Another suggested, “We are forced to have a car, but we can not get a driver’s license, so people are driving without a license. They have no other choice.”
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Fewer workers in Grand County reported using public transportation to travel to and from work compared to residents in other rural resort towns. (In Pitkin County, 10.6 percent of workers use public transportation; in Summit, 5 percent; while in Grand the percent is 1.3.)
Safety of pedestrian and bicycle travel was also a transportation issue. Said one person in the 25-40 year old focus group: “I have walked to City Market from downtown, and that was a hazardous walk with my daughters because there is no curb. I think bike paths or sidewalks.” Others suggested paving the Fraser to Granby Trail would keep bicycles off Highway 40.
Key opportunities identified in the transportation category include exploring increased bus routes with shorter times between buses and more bus stops, reviewing the transit models used by other rural resort regions to create a master plan, examining public-private partnerships, creating taxing strategies for funding public transit, and determining the feasibility of subsidizing transit for low-wage workers.
Clarification: Last week’s column about the survey of attitudes toward Grand County schools incorrectly stated the year during which the survey was conducted. Residents were surveyed in 2009.