Cutback throws transit system under the bus, Fruita city leaders say

Marty Chazen

One victim of Grand Junction’s pared back 2014 budget is funding to Grand Valley Transit (GVT), the agency that coordinates the Grand Valley’s bus network.

Grand Junction city councilors tend to grumble each year about having to pay for a share in the service, but this year they opted to lop off nearly $20,000 in monies next year. The move was noticed by Fruita city councilors, who scolded Grand Junction’s leaders in a letter.

“Rest assured, we are all in equally difficult financial times, but we believe that cutting these dollars from the transit system is misguided,” the letter states. “Each dollar we as partners contribute to the transit system is matched at a rate of up to 4 to 1 with grant funds. This local contribution is critical to receiving these grant funds which in turn make the transit system a highly efficient use of local tax dollars and an economic benefit to our communities.”

The letter further outlines the contributions each entity has paid since 2009, noting that no increases in funding were requested for 2014.

Grand Junction was asked to pay $419,885. In comparison Mesa County is asked to pay $909,754; Fruita, $41,989; and Palisade, $27,993. The breakdown represents a percentage. Mesa County pays for 65 percent; Grand Junction, 30 percent; Fruita 3 percent; and Palisade, 2 percent.

Grand Junction City Councilor Marty Chazen said the cut was not something councilors wanted to do but was necessary to trim costs. Grand Junction’s 2014 budget is 10 percent leaner than its 2013 budget. The city is looking to end this year with a total budget of $145.8 million, and councilors are trimming the 2014 budget to about $130.8 million

“We’re trying to make both ends of the budget connect,” Chazen said. “I think that for the time-being, GVT may want to look at operations, routes and times of service. If we are able to re-instate, if and when later on in the year, they can make adjustments accordingly.”

To save costs, Grand Valley Transit last year trimmed some nighttime and early morning bus routes on some of its 11 routes. The transit doesn’t run on Sundays, the most common complaint of some of the Grand Valley’s residents who ride the buses daily.

GVT has saved about $100,000 to date in fuel costs by operating two natural gas buses, said Todd Hollenbeck, manager of Grand Valley Transit. Two more natural gas buses will be added this month, he has said.

These buses cost more to purchase than diesel-powered vehicles, but savings from the alternative fuel and fewer pollutants are worth the investment, he has said.

A recent independent survey found the transit system pumped $2.1 million into the economy in 2011.

Clint Kinney, Fruita city manager, said Fruita city leaders felt Grand Junction’s cuts to GVT were unfair, because, Grand Junction riders make up 80 percent of the bus network’s ridership.

“The ratios have been in place since 2006,” he said. “Why is it fair for one partner to cut? None of us are cutting.”


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