Letter: Vote ‘yes’ for public transportation
October 20, 2015
To the Editor:
My heart always goes to my throat while watching a ski-toting, goggle-blinded small child take the first giant step down out of our funky school bus shuttles. My paranoid mental film plays a head long pitch to the pavement below. Our community can serve our visitors and residents better.
Winter Park and Fraser town residents recently received a ballot for the Nov. 3 election, which contains a solution to this problem. A vote for the Winter Park 2 percent increase in sales tax, or the Fraser 1 percent increase will fund upgrading our antiquated transport system. Winter Park or Fraser Town residents are eligible to vote in this election, if you have been a resident of either town for at least 22 days before the election you can register to vote anytime up to and including Election Day at the Winter Park, Fraser or County offices. If you register to vote before Election Day time taken for voting will be shortened – Town Clerks have to check with the County Clerk and Recorder to determine your eligibility.
The Town of Winter Park has already agreed to take over the bus system; previously run by Intrawest – owner of Winter Park Resort. By taking over the system and making it public, our system qualifies for federal grants, which could help purchase better rolling stock. Without a sales tax infusion new rolling stock and system improvements will be infinitely more difficult to fund.
Both Winter Park and Fraser depend on sales tax for most community funding. This makes good sense in a tourist economy. Our two towns contain about 2,400 people, but when full of tourists our populations explodes to 13,000 – all looking for full town services. The main way we recoup infrastructure costs (including transportation) is through sales taxes.
Growth brings jobs, which we all need (but understandably dread). Growth also brings traffic, which we all suffer. It is only responsible to manage this traffic onslaught by offering a year-round, professional transportation system. We have one of the only bus systems funded by a ski area. The ski area will continue to fund their own buses serving outlying lots and employee shuttles outside the valley.
Without additional sales taxes the present system will continue, although routes may be pared. Fraser, sans a voter approved sales tax, will have trouble "buying" a seat at the transportation table – so routes serving our community may be minimal.
No one, including myself, likes to pay more taxes. But sales taxes are the best way to fund public infrastructure in a resort town.
Trails are the final part of this equation. Anyone who climbed Byers Peak this summer noted the old road to the trailhead will likely never be opened to vehicles again – a large landslide has narrowed the old route dramatically. It won't be long before this slide possibly removes this route completely.
The Forest Service is tapped out. We depend on public land trails for both our mental health and for support of our ever increasing summer tourist industry. We will have to step up to remove downed beetle-killed trees; and erosion exacerbated by increased use and a funky climate. We need a sustainable source of funds for trail maintenance; a sales tax increase will provide this.
Take a brave step toward improving our community, vote yes for a sales tax increase in Winter Park and Fraser.