Vail Resorts bought the town of Breckenridge a trolley. At least indirectly. The old-school form of transportation was paid for with funds from last year’s ballot measure levying a 4.5-percent tax on some lift tickets.
The free service — which will run every 20 minutes along Main Street — had its inaugural run Wednesday, Aug. 31 and is part of the town of Breckenridge’s multi-pronged effort to relieve congestion and ease parking.
The ribbon-cutting that morning was well-attended, with as many as 50 people gathering for coffee and donuts while they watched the new trolley roll across town for the first time. Its predecessor was retired 9 years ago amid wintertime safety concerns.
The town also used the occasion to announce some of its plans to reduce congestion and free up parking spaces for business access. Starting Nov. 10, there will be an additional Purple Line running in the opposite direction of the current one, and the Red Route from the satellite lot will run every 15 minutes from 6 a.m. to midnight. A second bus on the winter Brown Route will offer 15-minute service from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The cut ribbon still dangled from the middle doorway of the trolley as it trundled down Main Street later that afternoon.
“Transportation experts told us that if we add parking capacity in the core, we need to do other things to relieve congestion. ” Shannon HaynesBreckenridge parking and transportation
“I hope they keep it there. It’s festive,” said the driver with a chuckle. She said she hadn’t had too many riders but was confident it will become very popular once people know it’s an option.
“I like the progressive stuff they’re doing with parking,” she said. “And they’re adding more buses, more routes.”
It’s all with the goal of making it easier to get around Breck — and to its businesses.
“We’re trying to encourage people to leave their cars at home when they can or park them and then get around by walking,” said Shannon Haynes of the town’s parking and transportation team. “Our overarching goal is close and convenient parking, and the trolley is one piece of that puzzle.”
Wednesday was the new trolley’s whistle-stop tour of Main Street, and, at each of these dozen or so stops, curious passersby stopped to ask about its route and frequency. The town of Breckenridge is also planning a social-media blitz and a TV spot for SCTV to get the word out.
The town’s approach to transportation issues caused a row with Vail Resorts (VR) earlier this summer, when the ski-resort giant claimed the town council was reneging on a promise to build a parking structure at Lot F. When last year’s lift-ticket tax was proposed as a ballot measure, VR agreed to not oppose it after winning some concessions, including an exception for season passes and summer activities. While the ballot measure says nothing about a parking structure, VR said that was clearly part of the deal. The new town council hasn’t ruled out building a structure, but also hasn’t made it an immediate priority.
“Transportation experts told us that if we add parking capacity in the core, we need to do other things to relieve congestion,” said Haynes. That means laying the groundwork with things like extra bus routes before inviting more cars by building a parking structure.
For the Breckenridge Ski Resort, however, the sting of that change of course still lingers.
“We’re disappointed for our guests and for the citizens of Breckenridge who were promised a parking solution a year ago and instead the Town Council has walked away from their 2015 campaign promise to provide ‘Parking Now,’” wrote the resort’s vice president and COO John Buhler. “Instead of firm planning for the construction of a parking structure on F Lot as promised, the Council’s plan will squander the tax raised from skiers and snowboarders.”
“We have not abandoned the F Lot idea,” said Haynes. “In the next month or so, the town council will be deciding whether or not to add capacity there.”
The trolley, along with the other transportation improvements the town is planning, may not be what VR had in mind when it signed on for the lift-ticket tax, but according to Breckenridge communications director Kim Dykstra, a lot of people in the town have been pining for more transit service along Main Street.