The route between Cripple Creek and Victor, often connected in the past by trains, donkeys and of course, by foot, could soon get linked together through an expanded bus and shuttle service as early as next year. That’s good news for southern Teller residents, seniors, tourists, business owners and social service providers. Transportation woes in this part of the county have been cited as a major hurdle.
Plans for an expanded transit service received a key boost last week, as the Cripple Creek City Council passed a memorandum of understanding that sets the wheels in motion for a collaborative agreement with the Community of Caring and Victor. Cripple Creek’s involvement is a key piece in the deal, as the city will become the main operating agency for the transit service, part of a federal transportation grant administered through the Colorado Department of Transportation.
The city, through its transportation department, will provide continued shuttle service throughout Cripple Creek and will offer regular, daily rides to and from Victor, according to the proposed plan. With the projected extra funds, the city will obtain two additional shuttle buses and will hire more personnel. And that’s just the beginning. The project, which could offer funding up to $400,000 a year, may extend to other parts of southern Teller, according to project proponents. “I am very optimistic,” said Mary Bielz, executive director of Community of Caring, who also is part of Teller County’s Local Coordinating Council, which deals with transportation issues. “This has a lot of potential.” She said the transportation committee has done much of the legwork to get the program off the ground.
City Administrator Ray White advised the council last week that the program would allow Cripple Creek to expand its service for the local community and to offer rides between Cripple Creek and Victor for the first time in recent history. Plus, the city won’t have to foot any extra dollars than what it is now paying for its shuttle service, which currently runs from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. The city currently spends about $120,000 a year for transportation. During several years of negotiations regarding this service, Cripple Creek leaders had given the thumbs-up, as long as the city doesn’t get hit with more transportation expenses and had to reduce its service hours or change the current system in town. The city has experienced many complaints in the past, when they considered changing to a fixed route system. “It allows us to protect our interests and to offer extended service to Victor,” explained White. According to White and Bielz, the possibility of bus service between the two communities really helped to secure the deal in the eyes of CDOT. Although CDOT has not dotted the final i’s, the agency has tentatively approved the pact, which would set the stage for the transit service to begin next year. However, the exact dollar amount for the program hasn’t been finalized. Under the proposed pact, Cripple Creek will serve as the main operating agency, while Community of Caring will provide planning, and will employ a transportation consultant.
Victor also will contribute funding and could pick up the insurance tab. Still, many questions persist, such as the amount of rides that will occur between Cripple Creek and Victor, the total dollar figure of the grant and how long the grant program will last. During last week’s meeting, the council was quite enthused over the agreement. Councilman Milford Ashworth cited the collaboration between Cripple Creek and Victor. In fact, the reaction of the council was much more positive than when the preliminary plan was presented last year. At that time, Bielz expressed the importance of getting a buy-in from the various partners. She said that emerged as a huge flaw in the Ute Pass Express bus, which offered service for several years between Woodland and Colorado Springs, with stops in Divide, Green Mountain Falls, Cascade and Manitou Springs.