Next stop, Grand County mass transit
May 29, 2008
How expensive does gas have to get before we seriously start looking the creation of a public transportation system for Grand County?
What is the tipping point that will make our public officials see bus service as a need for the economic success of this community?
As the eighth-graders at East Grand Middle School showed us recently when they researched and created a proposal for “Grand Transit” bus system, we are the only mountain community in northern Colorado without a public transportation system.
The students analyzed Eagle and Summit County models for the scope of their study and found that both systems were implemented 20 years ago at a time when population sizes were comparable to Grand County’s population today.
Studies have been conducted. Meetings have been held. Winter Park Resort and the town of Winter Park have been spearheading this effort since 2000.
There has been ongoing discussion about how to fund and implement a move from what we have now ” the resort-run bus system operated for part of the year ” to what we need, a publicly run, countywide, year-round transportation system.
We believe that gas prices will be and must be the crux that tips the Grand County transportation issue from the discussion phase to a plan of action.
We are a commuting community. Our towns are small and spaced far apart. Our jobs are located in one town and our affordable housing is located in another.
As gas prices continue to rise, with no end in sight, our tourism-based economy will begin to suffer as our work force can no long afford the drive to work.
Finding employees is already an issue for employers in Grand County. Rising gas prices, with no alternative transportation available, will make it that much more difficult to attract workers.
Now is the time to map out a solution and to create a timeline for implementation.
It is time to start seeing this item on town and county meeting agendas and for the towns and county to start meeting together in earnest to come up with a solution every town can buy into.
It is still early enough in this economic shift that we can act, rather than react. But we don’t have the luxury to sit on this issue until it becomes a crisis.
If we wait, the economy will begin making decisions for us and we could end up with piecemeal solutions that are unsustainable.
As it is now, workers stand on the side of the highway with their thumbs out in the summer. This is not a solution. This is a jury-rigging.
For now, the patch is holding, but for how much longer?