Area residents and employees are using public transportation more and more. That much is clear, according to David Averill, the San Miguel Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) executive director.

Averill went over the performance report during a SMART meeting Thursday at Mountain Village Town Hall.

“This is our first time that we’ve done this so there’s not a lot to compare it with. As we move on, we’ll start reporting on more metrics,” Averill said. “ … I hesitate to make a call on whether these are good or bad numbers.”

Since taking over the Town of Telluride’s Down Valley and Lawson Hill Galloping Goose routes, SMART is looking for ways to increase ridership, including expanding services on those routes and potentially adding new options.

SMART is working with LSC Transportation Consultants, which has offices in Colorado Springs and Denver, on a strategic operating plan. LSC

was chosen for the $50,000 project in December.

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, during SMART’s June meeting. Board members were given some homework, as LSC project manager Jason Miller and transportation planner Megan McPhilimy asked them to fill out a form rating their top organizational priorities and preferred proposed service options.

According to the results, members would like to add an Ophir stop along the Southern route between Rico and Telluride and Ilium stop to the Down Valley service, create a Montrose route with a new commuter van, and increase the frequency of the Lawson Hill route to every 30 minutes. Any new service would take some time — a year-plus in most cases — to implement. Plus, there’s always a price tag, though SMART’s budget is in good shape, according to officials.

Since the inception of the Southern route, there have been talks about adding an Ophir, as well as San Bernardo, stop. Averill explained stopping on Highway 145 at the intersection of Ophir Road isn’t safe. One possible pick-up location is near the post office, though that would take some additional time and winter weather could complicate things.

“I’d like to look at this more in-depth,” he said.

Same with the Down Valley route, Averill has heard from several community members who want a bus stop in Ilium. With Telski’s 31-unit affordable housing project adjacent to the Two Rivers subdivision moving forward, more people will be living in the Ilium valley. 

“I’d love to get ahead of this one,” Averill said about expanding service to that area.

The Lawson Hill route was discussed at length, as the proposed option of increasing the frequency to every 30 minutes and adding a Mountain Village stop would be like the offseason service. Averill explained the Lawson Hill route may be the most used SMART service. With the intercept lot opening recently, he expects ridership will continue to increase.

Expanding or creating routes in Montrose County is also on SMART’s radar. Currently, a volunteer-driven commuter van makes trips between Ridgway and Telluride, but it isn’t an every day option — only when requested. Adding a regular route from Montrose to Ridgway to Telluride could cost up to $128,00, including a new vehicle.

The Norwood route could also be expanded to Naturita. The Telluride Foundation approached SMART about a pilot program. The route would start in Naturita in the mornings, then make stops in Norwood and Telluride.

“I like the idea of putting this together and seeing what happens. It’s the right idea at the right time,” said Lance Waring, SMART board member and San Miguel County commissioner.

The strategic operating plan and service options will also be discussed during September’s meeting.