WP ‘ready, willing’ to expand transit
With county-wide discussions about public transportation ramping up this week, the town of Winter Park is ready and willing to begin the process of expanding The Lift into different areas of western Grand County, according to Town Councilor Chuck Banks.
“We have talked about this being kind of the basis for a larger transit system and at least getting it started,” said Banks. “We would be able to provide service as long as there’s some way to fund the cost of the service. That’s mainly the hang-up, is that we can’t expand service without more funds.”
The Lift currently services Winter Park and Fraser, along with parts of Granby in the winter. Winter Park is subsidizing the costs for both Fraser and Granby, with some help from Grand County.
Cost remains the prohibitive factor for further expansion of the transit system. For reference, the town of Fraser spent over $470,000 on the transit service last year, not including soft costs.
But there is obvious interest from around the county to get in on the transit system.
At a recent public meeting with the editor of Sky-Hi News, the expansion of the transit system was a main topic of conversation and an area of concern for residents around the county. Grand County also held a transit workshop at its board of commissioners meeting Tuesday.
The interest in expanding public transportation was reiterated by Granby Town Manager Aaron Blair, who indicated its an important factor moving forward with Granby’s plans for development.
“I think it makes sense, but it has to make sense financially across the board. We don’t want to do something where we’re subsidizing 100 percent of the transportation program,” Blair said. “I think the next step is learning more about the system, about the cost, and more about what private sector entities have interest in the transit system.”
Blair said one solution to the hefty price tag is seeking out help from private enterprises that could also benefit from the system, using Granby Ranch and Sun Communities as examples. Winter Park Resort already utilizes The Lift, contributing about $300,000 a year to the service.
Residents of Winter Park and Fraser voted to increase their towns’ sales tax — two percent in Winter Park and one percent in Fraser — to fund the service in 2015. The tax took effect in 2016. Both towns reported a marginal profit on the transit system last year.
Blair said he is hesitant to immediately recommend any tax increases for the service, but said it was necessary to explore all options to raise the money.
“I think what we would do is put all the options on the table,” he said. “I’m not a big supporter of full blown 100 percent taxation to meet all those needs. But we would need to at least look at all those options.”
The routes for the winter season have already been finalized, and will be the same as last year, with the exception of an added stop by Sawmill Station behind Hideaway Park in Winter Park, according to Banks.
The town of Winter Park prepared an Intergovernmental Agreement regarding the transit service for the town of Fraser about a month ago, according to Banks. The two towns have traditionally shared the transit service’s infrastructure, but could finally formalize their obligations.
Banks said Fraser has not yet responded to the agreement, though a resolution authorizing such an agreement with Winter Park is currently on the Fraser Board of Trustees meeting agenda for Wednesday.
Banks added that The Lift recently acquired two new cutaway busses, and that they’re expecting two new “state of the art” busses thanks to a grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation.
“They’re going to be gorgeous and people are going to really like to ride on them,” said Banks. “The system is up and running, and we think we’re doing a great job. We’re trying to provide service wherever we can.”
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Winter Park is hosting a dedication ceremony for its new public works building, named after longtime resident and former town official Jim Myers, on Tuesday with tours of the new structure planned.