SMART

San Miguel County Administrative Assistant Nina Kothe and CDOT Regional Transportation Director Mike McVaugh ceremoniously cut the red ribbon at the newly constructed Lawson Hill intercept lot May 29. (Courtesy photo)

The San Miguel Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) is well into developing a strategic operating plan, which SMART Executive Director David Averill has called a “road map” for the organization as it aims to expand services and route options.

LSC Transportation Consultants, which has offices in Colorado Springs and Denver, was chosen for the $50,000 project in December. LSC project manager Jason Miller and transportation planner Megan McPhilimy were in town Thursday to host a work session regarding potential service options, and to provide the SMART board with an update on the plan’s progress. McPhilimy explained that the plan is to have a final draft in September, and the board is to be updated each month until then.

LSC proposed 17 new service-options, including new or modified Southern (Rico), Down Valley, Norwood, San Miguel County-Ridgway-Montrose, Lawson Hill and Mountain Village-Telluride offseason routes. Board members mulled the options, but did not immediately offer feedback at Thursday’s meeting in Mountain Village Town Hall. Members were given a rating form to take with them and complete within the next couple of weeks following the two-hour work session. Highlights of LSC’s options include service to Ophir and the Ilium areas, as well as expanded services to Naturita, Montose and Ridgway. One proposal, which Miller said could be considered “controversial” is the elimination of a Down Valley route (though the service wouldn’t halt, but be covered via other routes like those to Norwood or by the commuter route to Montrose).

Board members agreed they’d like to see more Lawson Hill-Mountain Village options. Mountain Village Mayor Laila Benitez explained that it would be beneficial to look at new routes into town, especially for employees who have to transfer to town shuttles at the moment.

“There is an option here that emphasizes connections between Telluride, Lawson Hill and Mountain Village. … It hasn’t been totally fleshed out,” Averill said. 

Miller and McPhilimy also had the board members in attendance — Mountain Village Mayor Laila Benitez, Mountain Village council member Dan Caton, Telluride Mayor Sean Murphy, Telluride council member Todd Brown and San Miguel County Commissioner Hilary Cooper — identify their top four organizational priorities by placing stickers on a poster with several options. Increasing total ridership, ease of use, and reducing traffic and greenhouse gases received the most votes.

On the topic of reducing traffic, the possibility of expanding SMART service to the Bridal Veil area was also discussed at length Thursday. The county, Cooper said, is working with the Town of Telluride, U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to reduce traffic in the area, especially during the summer season. She explained that an average of 300 cars travel to the east end destination each day, according to a study by the Forest Service.

There are plans to offer shuttle service to the area for a fee. Telluride officials are also considering expanding Galloping Goose service. Interested parties met Friday morning at the Miramonte Building to discuss options.  SMART board members elected Thursday to gather traffic data this summer before making any decisions about expanding services.

LAWSON HILL INTERCEPT LOT

Local and CDOT officials celebrated the opening of the Lawson Hill intercept lot May 29 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The $1.5 million project features 120 new parking spaces, an electric vehicle charging station and restrooms, and is powered by solar panels.

“Not only can locals take advantage of this facility and its amenities when they ride the Galloping Goose and SMART buses, but regional travelers will benefit as well,” CDOT Southwest Regional Transportation Director Mike McVaugh said in a news release. “The Bustang Outrider program offers intrastate connections with bus service from Durango all the way to Grand Junction and many stops beyond (and) in between. This will be a pleasant stop for those traveling the Western Slope route.”

Nina Kothe, county administrative assistant, spearheaded the CDOT project over the past two years. On Thursday, Averill and SMART committee members praised Kothe for her work.