Transit service to be expanded for next year

Mesa County commissioners voted 2–1 Monday to extend Grand Valley Transit service three hours later in the evening beginning next year, a split decision that underlined the county’s emphasis on pinching pennies as it searches for savings in its 2012 budget.

With Commissioner Janet Rowland dissenting, the board authorized MV Transportation of Fairfield, Calif., taking over operation of GVT from First Transit of Cincinnati and running buses until 10:15 p.m. on all 11 routes. Both changes take effect Jan. 1.

Buses now run every hour from 5:15 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. six days a week. The Grand Valley Regional Transportation Committee, which oversees GVT’s operations, has sought to expand bus service for the last few years.

The commissioners’ decision lines up with the recommendation from the transportation committee, which preferred MV Transportation’s bid because the company offered nighttime service for virtually the same price as First Transit proposed to maintain the current level of service.

Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said even as ridership has grown, one of customers’ complaints is that the bus can get them to work in the morning but can’t get them home in the evening.

“Here we have an opportunity before us that probably won’t come before us again for a long time,” he said, referring to the chance to offer longer service hours at no additional cost.

Rowland, however, noted that the county would save money by maintaining current service levels rather than adding hours. Todd Hollenbeck, manager of the county Regional Transportation Planning Office, said the county and the three other local governments that fund GVT — Grand Junction, Fruita and Palisade — would save a little more than $108,000 next year by maintaining current service levels rather than adding hours. The county’s share of those savings would be about $70,000.

While she agreed that nighttime bus service would be beneficial, Rowland it’s an inappropriate time to enhance any county service, particularly when every other county agency is being asked to trim spending.

“I just can’t see why, when we have an opportunity to save money and maintain the same level of service, we wouldn’t do that,” she said.

Commissioner Craig Meis said he appreciates the points raised by Rowland but wants to honor the transportation committee’s recommendation.

He emphasized, though, that the county needs to scale back GVT service if there are routes that aren’t performing up to expectation.


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