The Durango Transit is set to go through major changes within the next year due to budget cuts.
“We are faced with service reductions due to budgetary constraints,” said Amber Blake, the transportation director for the Department of Transportation and Sustainability of Durango.
On Nov. 1, there was an open house to discuss the change in the Durango Transit system due to budget cuts to the transit.
“There are a few different things that could happen to the Fort Lewis College station,” Ian Fullinwider, vice president of the Associated Students of Fort Lewis College said.
There are a few options that the Department of Transportation and Sustainability could take such as there could only be one bus that runs to FLC, he said.
Another option would be 40 minute headways instead of 30 minutes headways that the system currently uses. The Department of Transportation and Sustainability could also allow the transit to run five days a week or seven days a week as another option, he said.
Sarah Dodson, the assistant transportation director, had previously spoken to ASFLC and is actively trying to work with ASFLC on this issue, Fullinwider said.
The Department of Transportation and Sustainability is trying to get an idea for what the community’s true needs and services are, Dodson said.
“At this point, we are right in the middle of the public participation process,” Dodson said.
There is currently a survey put out by the Department of Transportation and Sustainability now that asks what the Durango Transit means to the public, she said.
“At this point, we are not sure what the impacts or the extent of the reductions are going to be,” she said.
This is a result of a Colorado Department of Transportation redistribution of budgeting, Blake said.
“We need to reduce our budget by about 50 percent,” she said.
CDOT just ruled that the classifications for transit systems for resort towns like Vail and Aspen are going to be the same as Durango, Fullinwider said, meaning Durango Transit will receive the same funding as those towns, which explains the cut to the budget.
“We have a lot more ridership year round, but we also have a big resort seasonal population,” he said.
The demographics in ridership, individuals who ride the transit in the Durango transit, the demographic is very different from those transit systems in resort towns like Aspen, Vail and Telluride despite them being classified as the same, he said.
“We are in the same funding category as some of those towns even though we are very different demographically,” he said.
This decision has put the Durango Transit in a different class of funding from the state, which means that the transit would increase its own costs locally, he said.
ASFLC is investigating what exactly CDOT enacted to make this decision happen and why, he said.
The Department of Transportation and Sustainability has taken qualitative data such as ridership and total miles travelled to look at ridership patterns, Blake said.
The most popular routes on the Durango Transit are Fort Lewis College, Walmart, and the Main Street Trolley, she said.
About 25 percent of transit ridership is FLC students, she said.
If the data were the only factor taken into account, those routes would stay, she said.
ASFLC, and by extension, the FLC student body, is the largest stakeholder with the Durango Transit, Fullinwider said.
The Department of Transportation and Sustainability have a contract with the ASFLC so that the transit can be free for students, she said.
“It is our goal to minimize any negative impacts to the FLC students,” she said.
The transit’s ridership is 73 percent dependent on the transit to get to work and school, according to Blake.
Some FLC students who ride the bus are probably in that 73 percent, she said.
FLC will not continue to pay what it is currently paying for reduced service, Fullinwider said.
“If there are significant cuts, we will be re-negotiating to ensure that we are not overpaying,” he said.
Reducing services of the transit could inhibit a student’s ability to get to school depending on which avenue the Department of Transportation and Sustainability takes, he said.
“We want to know how the students are riding, why you are riding, when you are riding, where are you going for us to know what those impacts are to the students,” Blake said.
The specific cuts to the routes have not been determined yet, she said.
“The only change that is guaranteed right now is the budget cut to the transit,” Fullinwider said.
The Department of Transportation and Sustainability needs to adjust what the routes to Walmart, FLC, and the Main Street Trolley because of budget cuts, Blake said.
If the other routes are cut, that could mean that someone does not get to work or that a someone does not get to school, she said.
The only concrete thing that ASFLC knows at this point is that people who live far away from town and people who ride the transit either early in the morning or late at night will have some reduction to transit services, Fullinwider said.
“It could be a lot of reduction to just one of those demographics or some reduction to both,” he said.
The immediate impact is that there will be a reduction of service from the transit while the long- term impact is going to be a return in service, but an increase in price, he said.
There should be a final decision by February, he said.
There is a survey available for public participation that asks those questions of when people are riding the transit and what it would mean for people to have the transit go to a specific stop, Dodson said.
The survey is active until Nov. 17 at 11:59 p.m., she said.
“Our vision and passion for the Durango Transit is just to get people to where they need to go, and we really love being able to provide the service to FLC students,” she said.
Students can expect some sort of position or stance on this from ASLFC soon, Fullinwider said.
ASFLC will be releasing a statement and a resolution on behalf of the student body on this issue in the coming weeks, he said.