Durango Transit’s operating budget needs to be slashed by a third, and as a result, cuts to bus service are expected in April.
“It’s an overhaul to the system,” said Assistant City Manager Amber Blake.
The changes are needed because the Colorado Department of Transportation is redistributing grants, which will result in years of funding cuts for the city. Grants had provided $900,000 annually to Durango Transit, but even before the grant funding was cut, the city was finding it tough to pay for services and dipping into the department’s reserves.
To help make decisions about cuts in transit service, the city plans to conduct in-person surveys and hold an open house.
During the outreach, the city plans to talk to riders about their transportation habits and what alternatives are available to them.
The city also plans to hold stakeholder meetings with health and human service agencies, Mercy Regional Medical Center, Fort Lewis College, Durango School District 9-R, other transit providers, business groups and many other organizations.
City staff members are aiming to cast a broad net to gather the most feedback and make an informed decision about changes, Blake said.
“What we would like to do is mitigate as many negative impacts as possible,” she said.
The city’s most popular services are the trolley, which runs along Main Avenue, and the buses that serve Walmart and Fort Lewis College, city data show.
Durango City Council will review plans for the service cuts in December.
Dedicated funding for transit, through a sales tax or another source, will need to be part of a larger conversation about the city’s budget, including a projected shortfall in the general fund expected to happen in 2020.
“The conversation is much broader than just one of the pieces of the pie,” she said.
A survey about transit cuts is available online at durangogov.org/virtualcityhall