Town of Winter Park to take over resort shuttle
The Town of Winter Park is poised to take over operation of the Winter Park Resort Shuttle, paving the way for Grand County’s first year-round public transit system.
The Winter Park Town Council approved a memorandum of understanding at its Tuesday, May 5, meeting, dictating the terms of the system’s transition.
“This is core infrastructure to allow people to live here year-round, to allow workers to live here, to allow employers to have access to workers and really builds community,” said Town Manager Drew Nelson. “So we view this as a really responsible step by the Town of Winter Park to take this on.”
Intrawest Resorts Holdings Inc., which operates Winter Park Resort, has not yet approved the MOU, though Nelson described negotiations between the resort and the town as “positive.”
C.A. Lane, Winter Park Resort’s assistant general manager and vice president of resort operations, said the resort had just “a few steps to review” with Intrawest.
“Our general position is that we’re in favor of all of this, and we’re excited because this is an opportunity for us to improve the entire system,” said Steve Hurlbert with Winter Park Resort. “We just need to do our due diligence to make sure that it’s right for visitors and guests.”
Winter Park Resort currently operates the system through a service contract with First Transit, which will eventually be assigned to the town. The contract is valid until August 2017.
The town hopes to complete the transition by Nov. 15, according to the MOU. If that deadline isn’t met, the transition could be delayed an additional year.
The parts of the system that will be transferred include both day and night shuttles from the resort to Winter Park and Fraser, as well as employee shuttles, ADA and paratransit shuttles and on-call transit services.
Winter Park Resort will continue to operate parking shuttles as well as certain charters.
The MOU also dictates that Winter Park Resort and the town will work toward establishing a capital replacement plan to replace both the existing transit fleet and current maintenance facility located at Winter Park Resort.
“We’ve got some strategic plans I think going forward that will allow us to look at where we can reposition that maintenance facility in maybe a more appropriate location,” Nelson said.
Enhanced funding eligibility
The system’s transition from private to public will open it up to federal and state funding, Nelson said.
“As we’ve noted, we’ve missed out on some significant operating and capital funds in the past,” Nelson said. “There are other organizations that have benefited by us not being in the game as it relates to public transit.”
The town will need to establish a year-round transit system before it’s eligible for federal and state funds, Nelson said.
Nelson estimated that, once eligible, the system could expect between $100,000 and $200,000 in annual funding.
The town council will also consider establishing an additional voter approved funding source for the system later this year. The council has already discussed possible avenues including a sales tax increase.
Winter Park Resort will continue to contribute funding to the transit system.
Additionally, the MOU establishes a transit advisory committee to oversee the transition.
The TAC will include two representatives from Winter Park Resort and one from the town.
If voters approve an additional funding source, one of Winter Park Resort’s representatives will be replaced with a community member, according to the MOU.
Regional transit outlook
As part of the MOU, Winter Park Resort and the town agree to work toward developing regional transit services.
Both parties will “actively engage with CDOT to improve regional connectivity” though bus and rail services, according to the MOU.
More widespread service is contingent upon financial participation from other stakeholders.
“As of right now, the contributions that come in from outside don’t necessarily meet the subsidy that comes from both the resort and the Town of Winter Park,” Nelson said. “We fund the vast majority of the transit system.”
Nelson added that the town would solicit funding from stakeholders and those that benefit from the current system as negotiations continue.
“This preserves the existing routes as they are today,” Nelson said. “That being said, there may be changes and tweaks that we need to make in the future for levels of service that match where contributions are being made.”
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