Rolling again: Coalition develops alternate ski shuttle service for Fraser | SkyHiNews.com

Rolling again: Coalition develops alternate ski shuttle service for Fraser

Mike Ehmann, left, points out things to look out for to driver Tim Daniels during route training for First Transit Lift Shuttle drivers on Thursday morning in Winter Park. The shuttle service has been contracted to provide bus service this winter to the MeadowRidge area after Winter Park Resort dropped the area from it scheduled routes for the upcoming ski season. Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi News

All week Morgan Mallard, a homeowner at Meadow Ridge has been watching The Lift shuttle drive by her condo.

She says that in past years shuttle drivers would practice driving the route before the schedule began. But this year, funding for this route was cut by Winter Park Resort and there is no Red or Purple line in the Meadow Ridge area.

So why, she wondered, are the buses driving through Meadow Ridge?

There will in fact be a shuttle route through the Meadow Ridge area this ski season thanks to Brian Lence, president of Vacations Inc. and Condominium Management Company in Winter Park, and others.

In July, Winter Park Resort announced the Red and Purple shuttle routes were being discontinued for the 2011-2012 ski season due to budget cuts. Lence was affected personally and professionally by the decision to cut these routes and knew the cuts would have serious consequences for visitors and area homeowners.

Days after the cuts were announced, Lence set out on his quest.

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He wrote a letter to the editor voicing his concern about the cuts. He received feedback from the public that he was on the right track and took his cause to the Winter Park-Fraser Valley Chamber of Commerce board soliciting support.

Lence told the board there were many possible solutions but impacted parties need to come to the table and ask themselves these hard questions: “Am I contributing anything, to either route, day or night? If I am, is it enough? If I am not, why not, as I really should be part of the solution?”

He partnered with a competitor, Allegiant Management owner Jon De Vos. They begin calling and emailing other property management business owners in Winter Park and Fraser. They talked to HOA board presidents and homeowners who were affected by the cut route and asked for funding.

Lence and De Vos asked management companies, towns, and Grand County to step up to the plate. They asked the town of Fraser to look at the distribution of sales tax and asked the county to examine lodging tax revenues. They asked that transportation assume a greater proportion of the mix.

The town of Fraser and Grand County obliged, and homeowner associations committed.

“We are still trying to get more financial commitments from homeowner associations; there is still a shortfall,” said Lence.

The new line

However, the results of months of meetings, calls and emails is a restored “new line.” It will be operated by the same company, First Transit, using the same buses. The finalized route will be announced soon and the shuttle is scheduled to start Nov. 16.

The day shuttle will in essence be the new Purple line that combines the route previously serviced by Red and Purple lines last year. Once the shuttle enters US Highway 40 from County Road 8, it will take a direct non-stop shot to the ski area with the exception of limited “drop-offs.”

Night shuttles will replicate service to areas provided by the night Purple line in 2010-11.

A concerted effort

“It’s a good route”, said Catherine Ross, executive director of The Winter Park-Fraser Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“I give credit to the county commissioners because they were respectful to what is needed.” Ross continued. “This agreement is a short-term solution, not a sustainable one. There will be a group set up for a long-term solution for the entire transportation system.

“This agreement is a good example of private and public partnership that results in great service to our valley guests.”

The town of Fraser is now committing $52,000 per year for the day and evening shuttle, said Jeff Durbin, town manager. Last year the town paid $45,000 for the evening shuttle. This year it will pay $7,000 more to help restore the shuttle route.

“Brian and Jon did a great job getting support from homeowners to help fund the shuttle,” Durbin said. “Everyone is working together for good results.”

In his final words to the WPFV chamber board last August, Lence looked to the future and what is needed in Grand County regarding transportation in the resort communities:

“I am also of the belief that a sustainable transportation solution cannot rely on the ‘voluntary’ contributions of various entities, nor be at the whim of the Winter Park Resort to discontinue when they see fit. A scheme whereby contributions are mandatory, whichever vehicle is used to collect these monies, is the only one that makes sense and provides for the future.”

In the meantime, Morgan and her neighbors can count on a free ride to Winter Park Resort to snowboard and ski this season. And the shuttle stop is just steps from her door, as it’s always been.

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