Transportation officials voted Thursday to continue subsidizing free bus service between Aspen and Snowmass Village, and between the Brush Creek intercept lot and Woody Creek, for the next three years.
The Elected Officials Transportation Committee (EOTC) voted 10-3 to keep the buses going. The EOTC consists of the Aspen City Council, Pitkin County commissioners and Snowmass Village Town Council. They jointly manage the proceeds from a .5 percent sales tax that funds transit.
Board members praised the free service as both an amenity for locals and a marketing tool for tourists.
Opposing the measure were city councilmen Torre and Steve Skadron, along with Pitkin County Commissioner Jack Hatfield.
“I still don’t see it being sustainable in the long run,” said Hatfield, who lives in Snowmass Village.
The free buses had been slated to stop running after April 11. Since the no-fare bus began running in 2008, the EOTC has voted to keep funding it on a season-to-season basis.
Running the bus costs nearly $600,000 a year, with money coming out of an EOTC discretionary fund. The resolution that passed yesterday calls for that funding to continue through 2013, and also calls for Snowmass Village to raise cash for any funding shortfall that the EOTC can’t cover with its discretionary coffers. This year, the shortfall is about $30,000.
The board also voted to continue its funding commitment for possible construction of a new roadway at the entrance to Aspen on the west side of the city. A chunk of the taxpayer money controlled by the EOTC goes to a fund for that undetermined future project. Members of the Snowmass Village Town Council said recently that they would withdraw support for that allocation if the board dropped the free bus service, but that didn’t happen.
The EOTC meets on a rotating basis at one of the jurisdictions of which it consists. Thursday’s meeting was hosted by the city of Aspen and run by Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland, who expressed his apparent boredom throughout the proceedings by pointing his finger at his head and pantomiming shooting himself, and feigning choking himself while other board members spoke.