MOUNTAIN VILLAGE – The future of Mountain Village’s Dial-A-Ride taxi service may be coming into focus, now that Mountain Village property owners have weighed in on how and if it should continue.
More than 300 members responded to a Town of Mountain Village Owners Association-sponsored survey in the fall that sought to determine how property owners felt about the free town taxi service.
The survey results were released last week, with a significant majority of respondents showing support for continuing the service, but more division found in how to fund it.
DAR has historically been funded by the Town of Mountain Village, and it has served as a de facto extension of the gondola and chondola, providing free door-to-door transportation for Mountain Village property owners (residents of for-rent employee housing at Big Billie’s and Village Court Apartments, however, cannot use the service). But due to its ever-shrinking budget, caused by sharp declines in property values and thus property taxes, Town Council announced this summer that the town could no longer pony up the nearly $550,000 required for DAR’s annual operations.
That decision effectively punted the DAR question to the town’s Owners Association, which is also responsible for funding much of the gondola’s annual operating costs – as well as special events like the Summer Concert Series and the annual Festival of the Arts.
Mountain Village contracted with private sector operator Telluride Express for the winter, and will continue to fund DAR’s operations through the 2012/2013 ski season.
TMVOA President Jonathon Greenspan said the survey was designed to more formally determine whether residents wanted to see the service continue, and that if they did, what TMVOA’s role should be.
“We had a very general sense of what people were feeling about Dial-A-Ride, but we felt we needed to get some hard numbers,” he said.
With 310 people filling out the nine-question survey, it sparked the most responses of any TMVOA survey, Greenspan said. “People are passionate about this issue, because it is perceived as a quality-of-life service, so they want to be involved.”
More than 75 percent of respondents said they wanted DAR to continue, and agreed that it is a value for Mountain Village property owners. Most respondents (almost 93 percent) were members of the residential classification; the rest of respondents were split between lodging and commercial class members.
Respondents were more divided on what structure the service should take, however. One-hundred and twelve respondents (nearly 36 percent) said that DAR should continue with a private-sector operator charging a per-ride fee, more like a traditional taxi service, with no TMVOA involvement.
But 183 people, or roughly 58 percent of those who answered the survey, indicated that TMVOA should help fund DAR. Just over 21 percent (67 people) believed TMVOA should increase member assessments, to create a dedicated funding source for DAR, while 24 percent believed it should be a hybrid combination of TMVOA and private sector operator fee, with 13 percent calling for TMVOA to work toward eliminating other discretionary spending to support DAR.
“The way I interpret it is that people want TMVOA involved, one way or another,” Greenspan said of the survey results.
TMVOA released another survey this week that will look more deeply into the question of how, exactly, it should be involved. The new survey will show property owners how the different TMVOA funding options (including the assessment rate increase and the hybrid user fee plus TMVOA funding) could impact TMVOA and individual property owners.
If TMVOA does take over DAR’s operations, the organization plans to have a structure in place by the end of the ski season, so that there is a “seamless transition,” Greenspan said.
The TMVOA Board of Directors will convene for its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 5. The meeting will be held at 4 p.m. at Mountain Village Town Hall, and all are invited to attend.