A Disjointed San Miguel County Transit Authority Proposal

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the last Town of Ophir General Assembly meeting due to a two month sinus infection, but had really wanted to hear the latest updates.  On the first go around, I was actually very supportive of the general proposal – which seemed to provide balance and a degree of autonomy to each of the municipalities under consideration.

It was clear then and perhaps even moreso now, the committee was trying it’s best to balance the varying interests at play.  Currently, the only real players with respect to an existing infrastructure in the regional transit scene are the Town of Telluride and the Telluride Mountain Village.   Ophir, Norwood, Sawpit, and the greater San Miguel County are lesser players to an extent, but all play a role in regional economy in terms of bed base and affordable housing.   Such a role might increase dramatically in the future if housing costs escalate in Telluride / TMV and “regular” people are forced to live further away and work in the tourist / second home economic landscape of the east end.

I guess I’m still in the dark regarding the specifics of the updated plan, but on the surface and by most of the accounts in the newspapers, it seems at least the coupling of an initial funding mechanism into the equation has been introduced whereby it hadn’t been on the table in the first go around.  Apparently, this is due to concerns by TMV second homeowners – who are able to vote at the municipal level in the TMV – that they would ultimately not be able to vote under the terms of regional transit authority.

Personally, I am adamantly opposed to counting my vote – as well as my fellow regional permanent residents – along side of second homeowners.   While I have zero issue with the actual individuals who might be second homeowners, I have major problems with the notion of equating democratic rights with monetary investments (which happen to be dwellings).    Perhaps I am simply unaware of the nuances of how the initial vote will be structured; however, if there is any sort of relational correspondence of the outcome of what might be deemed a “self-contained” vote in the TMV to that of vote outcomes in other entities (i.e. Ophir, Norwood, Sawpit, Telluride), then a substantial relationship exists and I will object.  I was opposed to it way back when in the TMV and am similarly opposed at present.  Moreover, a challenge to such an allowance may take on a different form, even though SMC attorney’s may have “vetted” this angle and given a green light.

Another big issue is that of the gondola – the 800 lb gorilla in the room – which has been left unaddressed this time around as well.  My concern is there will ultimately be a “grand bargain” to transfer the financial obligation of operating this facility to entities other than the TMVOA – which is currently responsible for it’s funding until something like 2027.    While it might ultimately be in the Town of Telluride’s best interest to horse trade on this item, why should smaller towns such as Ophir, Sawpit, Norwood, and the rest of San Miguel County have to subsidize the cost of running the gondola?   The giant real estate mouse trap known as the Mountain Village was hatched as it’s own entity and ought to navigate the waters on it’s own with respect to major issues such as the gondola unless other entities are directly willing to entertain a deal.  Unfortunately, the way things are looking now (or maybe it’s simply due to a lack of granular reporting from the newspapers), smaller municipalities will enter with an initial funding mechanism already initiated & could potentially be outvoted as to how such funding is applied.   In the prior iteration of the transit authority proposal, Ophir would’ve been able to vote on specific funding issues and would only be bound by the results of the Ophir vote … which would’ve given us the ability to “pick and choose” which issues are important.  However, this seems to have been axed in favor of an up front funding mechanism.   Again, I’m lacking details and having difficulty finding anything online at this point.

My third big issue is that it appears the transit authority, by setting up an initial funding mechanism, will disperse the current operational costs of existing transit activity to a wider swath of individuals.  Again, I might not have all the facts at this point, but why should an Ophir resident subsidize the Goose in Telluride?  Or, more precisely, why should an Ophir property owner chip in the same amount to run the Goose as Telluride property owner?  If there were some ration or quotient applied, I could live with it … I’ve ridden it before and will probably ride it again at some point.

It’s really a shame, since I’m ultimately in support of a transit authority.  It’d sure be nice to take a bus into town vs. having to drive every time.   Personal interests aside, it could help take cars of the road and provide people with greater opportunities in so far as living / working arrangements.   It may also help local area governments to become more efficient and reduce redundancy.   All good things aside, it seems the committee has a very difficult balancing act to juggle among many disjointed interests.  Will this come to fruition?  … I’m not sure

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