Fare reductions, service improvements ahead for winter season

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The Eagle Valley Transportation Authority (EVTA) and ECO Transit are pleased to work together to reduce fares, increase capacity and launch the first stage of EVTA-funded fare-free service this winter season. The service enhancements include a 25 percent reduction in standard ECO Transit fares, fare-free service on the Vail-Beaver Creek Express and more buses to service the Highway 6 route—ECO’s busiest service. These enhancements are supported by revenue from the new voter-approved EVTA sales tax and will go into effect on November 26 with the start of ECO Transit’s winter service.

Vail-Beaver Creek Express:

Beginning this winter season, EVTA will begin funding fare-free operation of the Vail-Beaver Creek Express through a contract arrangement. The Vail-Beaver Creek Express connects the two busiest stops in the ECO Transit system – the Vail Transportation Center and Avon Station – with the important employment and activity centers of Beaver Creek Village and Lionshead Village. Over 70 percent of those using this route last season were ECO pass holders, reflecting its importance to local users. Frequency on this route will be increased from hourly to every 20 minutes, beginning at 6am and ending at 7pm. This increase in hours will also appeal to short-term visitors, reducing the number of cars on the road and in parking garages.

This new operating arrangement increases travel options and allows ECO Transit to dedicate more resources to the busy Highway 6 corridor, a pain point in the ECO Transit system. Over the last several winters, many riders have told us they could not board buses along the Highway 6 route because of capacity issues. The contract arrangement will allow ECO Transit to re-assign drivers and vehicles from the Vail-Beaver Creek Express to Highway 6, increasing overall capacity. In addition, a frequent, fare-free connection between Avon and Vail will attract passengers traveling directly between these destinations. We expect many riders to opt for the new direct route, opening up more seats for those whose best option is traveling to and from intermediate stops on Highway 6.

Providing fare-free service on the Vail-Beaver Creek Express is an important first step towards full implementation of a fare-free zone from Vail to Edwards, a prominent piece of the ballot proposal that voters approved last year. The biggest challenge to implementation of that zone is a projected 50% increase in demand that would overwhelm existing staff and resources. Drawing on outside resources to begin implementation in a smaller, more focused area will enable us to test our assumptions regarding ridership impacts, vehicle, and staff needs, providing us with valuable data to inform our planning for broader service improvements and the transition of ECO service to EVTA in 2024.

ECO Transit fare reduction and capacity increases:

EVTA resources will also be used to provide additional benefits in the ECO service area. Beginning November 26, it will cost 25 percent less for a regular ride on an ECO Transit bus, with a single regular ride dropping from $4 to $3, a 24-hour pass going from $8 to $6, and a 30-day unlimited pass moving from $85 to $63. ECO’s youth and senior rates, which are already discounted, will remain the same, as will all fares on the Premium Route to Leadville.

ECO Transit will also increase service on the Highway 6 route this winter, with 40 buses eastbound and 42 buses westbound, compared to 36 buses each direction last winter. This includes a transition to 30-minute frequency all day along this route from 60-minute frequency for off-peak hours.

These are the first of many steps towards implementation of the broader-scale transportation improvements envisioned for the valley as part of the EVTA. All of these enhancements demonstrate EVTA’s commitment to delivering on its promises from the ballot question. 

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