City officials celebrated the opening of the Durango Regional Transit Center on Friday, and with good reason. The timing of the project could hardly have been better.
Built with money from an economic boom now very much in the past, the Transit Center positions Durango well to embrace and adapt to the transit needs of the future. And the injection of a few million dollars of state money into the local economy is a welcome addition to the present, as well.
The entire cost of building the new facility - $5.1 million - was covered by state transportation money. About $4.4 million went for the building and another $700,000 for sidewalks. The city already owned the land.
With the budget problems the state now faces, none of that would be possible today. In the arcane world of state transportation funding, money is divided into "pots" that occasionally "spill over." Funding for the transit center was in that sense a budgetary reflection of a better economy a few years ago.
The thinking behind it, however, is purely forward looking, perhaps even a bit ahead of its time - starting with the building itself. The city expects the center will qualify for certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, that the center meets Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.
The location is good, too, just a couple of blocks off Main Avenue near the center of Durango's historic downtown and Central Business District. That makes it convenient for commuters, tourists and residents.
And, at just more than 7,600 square feet, the center is a good fit. Big enough to accommodate 500,000 passengers per year, it still avoids the cavernous car-barn feel of major bus terminals. Constructed to compliment the look of downtown's newer buildings, it is evocative of Durango's past without mimicking it.
As to its actual purpose, the Durango Regional Transit Center reflects the idea that, while there is no single answer to the transportation needs of the future, the role of the automobile will be shrinking. If nothing else, downtown's parking situation will see to that.
As such, the new center will accommodate a variety of mass-transit options, from the Trolley's serving Main Avenue and the Lift taking residents around town to inter-city buses. And it has racks for 150 bicycles. Clearly, the city envisions riders using the transit center not only to catch a bus, but to connect back and forth from buses to bikes, and as a center of urban biking itself. It is a vision that plays to the direction Durango is taking.
And with all that, Durango effectively injected $500 million of outside money into the community economy. It is a welcome package.