By Curt Peterson
The Killington Select Board is investing $5,500 to finance two additional buses between Killington and Rutland during the summer months. The estimated total cost of adding two additional daily buses is $53,000, according to Selectman Jim Haff, who made the request at a May 21 meeting.
“A group of local businesses came to me last winter complaining that they lose their employees every spring because they can’t get home when work is done,” Haff told the Mountain Times. “During the winter they can catch the last bus at midnight, after the bars and restaurants close. But as soon as Easter comes, the late buses stop running – the last bus is at 5:30 p.m. and workers would be stranded. So they quit for the summer and get other jobs.”
The new bus service routes will begin June 1, Haff said. The schedule will cover Easter to Thanksgiving going forward.
“And remember,” Haff added, “this isn’t just for employees of local businesses – people come to off-season music events and activities on the buses as well.”
VTrans has agreed to provide 80 percent of the cost of the new bus routes, Haff said. The town’s contribution is 10 percent of the balance, and the Killington Pico Area Association will solicit the remaining 10 percent from its business members.
Fifteen years ago, Haff said, there was a midnight bus all year round, but usage fell off in the summer and the late buses were cancelled for lack of use. Since then Killington Resort and other entities and businesses have expanded off-season activities and events, and businesses are busy all year.
“Like all ski resort towns, Killington doesn’t really have affordable housing for the employees we need to keep businesses going. And the cost of providing housing is prohibitive. Most of the employees live in Rutland where rents and real estate are more reasonable. One alternative is to make it possible for workers to get here from Rutland and back when their shifts begin and end,” Haff said.
Haff discussed the issue with KPAA Executive Director Mike Coppinger. Haff, representatives of several business affected by the bus schedule and KPAA staff met with Ken Putnam of Marble Valley Regional Transit District – also known as “The Bus” – in the spring to discuss the issue.
Putnam made a proposal to add one bus at 7:30 p.m. and another at 11 p.m., and pitched the idea to VTrans. According to Haff, many letters from local businesses supporting the need for the additional routes accompanied the presentation to VTrans and may have helped sway their decision.
Haff said he is very confident businesses will agree to contribute their share.
“There’s no question in my mind that KPAA members will pay what’s needed,” Haff said. “But if they don’t, the town will foot the whole bill and probably cancel the buses next year.”
Coppinger told selectmen he thinks collaboration and co-financing of the new buses is a great example of how the town and KPAA can form a partnership to get important things done for everyone’s benefit.
Ken Putnam was unavailable over the weekend to discuss the exact scheduling of the new buses. Interested parties may check on thebus.com website to find the schedule once it’s available.