Late Night Taxi service hits financial bump in the road
Written by Mark Reaman   
Wednesday, 26 September 2012
Mountain Express board chooses to not contribute...

A significant part of the funding that pays for the Late Night Taxi in Crested Butte is slated to go away and that could ultimately cut back on late-night transportation service at the north end of the valley. The Mountain Express board has informed the Crested Butte Bartender’s Association that the $7,700 it has donated to the service the last several years isn’t being budgeted for 2013.


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“In a nutshell, the Mountain Express is running more and more late-night service itself,” explained Mountain Express director Chris Larsen. “Last year we spent more than $10,000 to run extra buses for events that needed the service.”
The between-town shuttle typically runs extra buses during events like Vinotok, St. Patrick’s Day and the Fourth of July.
“We’ve had to go to both towns and CBMR to ask for money to help with these costs and the Crested Butte Town Council said this is the last time they would do this,” Larsen said. “The Mountain Express has been contributing $7,700 each year for a number of years and it was with the understanding that the Bartenders Association would look for other revenue sources such as the bars, restaurants, etc. As far as I know, the two towns and the Mountain Express are the only contributors.
“We have budgeted a $23,000 deficit this year and probably will again next year,” Larsen continued. “We need the money.”
Late-night service is definitely a need on big holiday weekends. For example, last Saturday on the final night of Vinotok, the Mountain Express carried 144 people between the towns after midnight. The Late Night Taxi also had a big night, transporting 74 late-night revelers to the safety of their homes.
“We are a tourist town and we need a late-night service for those people who are out enjoying themselves into the wee hours,” said Bartender Association president Joel Lewis, who owns the Talk of the Town. “I mean, we have people coming here to have a good time and without the Late Night Taxi, what are we supposed to do to someone staying on the mountain who came downtown for a drink in January? Tell them thanks and point them toward the lights on the hill when it’s 25-below zero?”
Lewis said the association plans to solicit both the Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte town councils for additional funding. “Losing $7,700 would be a big hit that would likely end up reducing the service,” he said. “If we can find the additional funds, we can keep up the year-round service.”
The town of Crested Butte has donated $3,850 to the service each of the last several years during its service grant process. Mt. Crested Butte contributes the same amount out of its transportation fund.
The taxi is run through Alpine Express and according to co-owner Stewart Johnson, the service transported 8,137 people between September 24, 2011 and September 24 of this year. It operates year round, seven days a week with the exception of a month in the spring and the fall when service is provided only on the weekends. “Winter is our busy season along with the height of summer but it is an important service for Crested Butte,” said Johnson.
Lewis said he will be approaching both town councils and asking them to contribute more in an effort to make up the Mountain Express shortfall. “As I understand it, it was originally set up that the Mountain Express would contribute money to the late-night service because that was obviously cheaper than having to run busses themselves,” he said. “Hopefully the newer board members aren’t losing sight of that. If there is no late-night service, I would imagine the towns would put some pressure on someone to fulfill the need.”
Lewis said the majority of local bars and restaurants, along with Gunnison County, also contribute money toward the service. The Bartender’s Association will also host its third annual Fall Down Golf Classic this October 8 to raise money for the Late Night Taxi. “Last year we made about $2,000,” Lewis said. “I’m not too worried about keeping the service going. I think everyone understands we are a tourist town and this is more than an amenity—it is a need.”