The Durango Transit Department is cutting its budget and negotiating a fare increase with the Fort Lewis College student government this month.
Durango City Council authorized the Transit Department to spend $220,000 from savings this year, but staff members are working to minimize the hit by closing the Transit Center on Saturdays, starting Jan. 23. City bus schedules will remain unchanged.
“It’s something that we need to do for both staffing and budget,” said Amber Blake, director of transportation and sustainability.
The change helps the department ensure that all of its part-time employees do not work more than 27 hours a week, she said.
Under the Affordable Care Act, anyone who works an average of 30 hours a week is classified as full time and qualifies for health insurance.
The city chose to close the Transit Center on Saturdays because it is typically slow during the winter. The closure will save the city money on janitorial services and heating. Blake could not say how much the city will be saving.
The city is also asking the Associated Students of Fort Lewis College to approve an increase from $20 to $25 for transit passes valid through the school year.
Initially, the city had proposed increasing the student fares to $30 per pass, said Evan Wick, vice president of the student body.
“This was met with considerable pushback from Student Senate,” Wick said.
Now that the city has lowered the proposal to a $5 increase, Wick expects it to be approved. Students would begin paying the increased fare in fall 2017.
The contract between the city and the student government pays for a pass for every student. Transit passes are paid for by mandatory student fees. Student government manages just under $500,000 from student fees.
The Transit Department, at the direction of City Council, is also considering a new annual pass for veterans.
The new passes would cost $30 annually. A regular adult pass is $30 per month.
Councilor Sweetie Marbury and the other councilors Tuesday asked the department to introduce the new pass. The details of the program are being decided.
The Transit Department does not have other plans for cutting back at this time, but more budget cuts are possible.
“We’re still looking at what we can do that will allow us to achieve cost savings,” Blake said.
Starting Jan. 23, the Transit Center lobby will open in the morning from 6 to 8 a.m. so riders can buy tickets to Grand Junction from the Road Runner Stage Lines kiosk. Otherwise, the lobby will be locked.