Park County commuters rejoice, your bus has finally arrived. Summit Stage will extend a commuter route to serve Fairplay and Alma beginning in April, creating a much-demanded commuter bridge for Park County workers that will also look to reduce parking and traffic congestion in Breckenridge.
County transit manager Curtis Garner said the county will be expanding the existing Blue River route to Fairplay and Alma, using two of Summit Stage’s existing buses running several times a day in the morning and evening.
The route would start in Fairplay, run through Alma and then on to the regular Summit Stage stops in Blue River before arriving in Breckenridge.
Garner said the town of Fairplay negotiated with the Colorado Department of Transportation to use an existing facility there as a bus barn, meaning buses can be stored and maintained in Fairplay, allowing for the route to start there instead of in Summit, cutting down significantly on turnaround time.
As far as the schedule, Garner said that Fairplay and the Town of Alma are both conducting surveys with residents to see what times they prefer for early morning departures and evening arrivals.
“We’re trying to find the best times when commuters need to arrive at work, so we’re letting the public tell us when we should be leaving Fairplay,” Garner said. “So, basically, whatever gets the most votes wins.”
A one-way ticket from Fairplay to Breckenridge will cost $2. Alma, Fairplay and Park County will be jointly funding the route extension. Park County will be contributing $45,000 a year, Alma putting in $5,000 and the town of Breckenridge investing $50,000.
“It’s going to have a number of benefits for everyone,” Garner said. “One, it should reduce parking congestion in Breckenridge, which is why Breckenridge is committed to funding this project. Secondly, it will allow people who have lower incomes or don’t have a car who work or want to work in Breckenridge to make the trip every day, offering more economic opportunity. A $4 round-trip each day is actually less expensive than owning, operating, insuring and maintaining a car.”
Garner added that there would be a related benefit of having fewer cars on the road: less traffic and less carbon emissions in the air.
Depending on demand, the number of buses on the route may be increased. Garner said that the similar route to Leadville grew 800 percent in ridership since it was introduced back in 2010 after light ridership at the beginning, and he can see the same trend happening with the Park County route. A 2012 survey estimated that 11,000 riders would use a commuter bus from Fairplay annually.
“We have a lot of people who come from Park County to work for the county, for the ski resorts, for Breckenridge,” said Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier. “The new route should help a lot of people.”
The route is scheduled to start service on April 21. Summit Stage will release a full schedule of the route closer to the opening date.