Good news for Rico and the region as SMART is expanding to Rico. SMART has been servicing Rico, however with November’s vote, the town voted in favor 65% to fund the program. Rico is the first town to commit from a government subsidizing standpoint with tax payers’ dollars and will be the blue print for future towns to follow. Telluride, Dan Henschel, Real Estate. Here’s the article, enjoy:
SMART welcomes Rico
Newest member shows other communities path to membership
It’s official — the Town of Rico is now a voting member of the San Miguel Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART), effective Jan. 1. The SMART board approved the membership unanimously during its regular meeting Thursday afternoon at Mountain Village Town Hall.
The vote was met with a round of applause, as Rico has been working with SMART on becoming a member for over a year, after the two entities entered a service agreement in January 2019.
In introducing the resolution, SMART Executive Director David Averill recapped the process Rico took to becoming a member, including a successful ballot question voters approved Nov. 5 with 66.5 percent of the vote — a “resounding yes,” as Averill put it.
“I see a lot of (advantages) as administrator and as a regional planner. I think by accepting Rico into SMART it adds to our dedicated source of revenue, which is the name of the game in the transit business. It’ll help offset the cost of the service we provide there now,” he explained. “We broaden the regional dialogue on transit and transportation, which I think is a win. It also illustrates the benefits of joining SMART, and the process you need to follow to do that. I don’t know any disadvantages from a staff perspective on this move.”
Rico will contribute approximately $6,500 in sales tax revenue, Rico Town Manager Kari Distefano said, according to estimates. Averill previously explained the operating cost of a Rico route would be between $45,000 to $50,000 a year, based on around two hours of service a day at the vendor’s — Telluride Express — hourly rate of $75. The only revenue the route has collected is from fares; $3 one-way or $20 for a 10-trip pass.
“I was very excited about the outcome of the election,” Distefano said during the public comments portion of the meeting. “Thank you, all. I know you also did a lot of hard work.”
Rico will have one voting member on the SMART board, as well as an alternate. Distefano said she’d like recently elected trustee Joe Dillsworth, who was in attendance Thursday, to fill the role.
“Well, what do you think?” she asked.
Dillsworth, who works for the Town of Telluride’s Public Works Department as a transit operations manager for the Galloping Goose, agreed to serve on the SMART board. The Rico Board of Trustees will make Dillsworth its official SMART representative, as well as select an alternate, at its Wednesday meeting.
Since SMART started providing service to Rico with a 10-person shuttle van, the Southern Route has become increasingly popular with residents. A $70,000 grant allowed SMART to upgrade from the shuttle van to a 25-person passenger bus.
Rico’s path to SMART membership will serve as a road map for other communities that want to join the transit authority in the future, officials explained.
In creating a strategic operating plan with the help of LSC Transportation Consultants, SMART is already looking toward the future in considering expanding route options and gaining new members over the next five years.
Averill spoke with Montrose County commissioners over the summer as a “neighborly gesture” about increasing service to the West End and potentially adding a van for the Montrose route
“I’ve been cultivating a conversation with the Montrose County commissioners,” he said. “ … They’re definitely interested in what we’re doing. What that translates into I cannot predict. I see something like a service agreement (similar to Rico) with them being the first move.”
In expanding into communities outside of San Miguel County, like Montrose or Ouray counties, conversations with respective officials must take place first, but the benefits — service- and revenue-wise — are apparent.
“We would need to reconsider a lot of things before bringing Montrose County or the City of Montrose into the regional transit authority,” said Hilary Cooper, SMART board member and San Miguel County commissioner.
During an update on the strategic operating plan Thursday, several new or upgraded route options were discussed, including a fixed route between Telluride and Montrose, with a stop in Ridgway; adding an Ophir stop to the Southern Route; and creating an Ilium-Two Rivers stop on the Down Valley route.