Summit County adds paid fares for Quandary shuttle: Here’s all you need to know about the shuttle system to Quandary Peak and McCullough Gulch for the 2022 season
Summit County made a few tweaks to the pilot program it launched last year.
Looking to hike either Quandary Peak or McCullough Gulch this summer? The Summit County government made a few tweaks to its pilot program launched last year, and hikers should be prepared as they plan their trips.
Last year, the shuttle was free to all users and picked up riders from the Airport Road Parking Lot. Parking was also available at the trailheads at a cost. At Quandary Peak last year, parking cost anywhere from $20 for a half-day to $50 for a full day. At McCullough Gulch in 2021, parking costs $5 for a three hour parking reservation.
This year, the Summit Board of County Commissioners is tweaking the program to make it more sustainable. The board gave some final direction about these changes during its work session on Tuesday, May 3.
To start, both Summit County Commissioners Elisabeth Lawrence and Tamara Pogue agreed that they’d like to see a one-way fare offered this season. Commissioner Josh Blanchard did not attend the meeting.
Lawrence and Pogue said some hikers who get dropped off at the Quandary Peak trailhead might decide later on that it’s not for them. Quandary Peak is a 6.6 mile heavily trafficked, out-and-back trail that is rated as difficult and can take four to seven hours. It ascends to elevations of 14,247 feet and is considered to be one of the most popular 14ers to hike in the state.
“What if someone gets dropped off and then they decide, ‘OK, this isn’t for me, I’m going to turn back around and the rest of my group is staying and is going to get picked up later,’” Lawrence said. “How are they going to get back if they are not parked up there? If they want to ride the shuttle, great. They’d probably happily pay the $15 fare, but how would they do that up there?”
Gareth Lloyd, a representative from Interstate Parking, pointed out that the company has solar-powered kiosks available, which could be placed at the Quandary Peak trailhead. He said it will not process credit cards because of connectivity issues, but it will spit out a ticket for those wishing to hop onto the shuttle.
Jordan Mead, resource specialist for the county, noted that while this may be the case, the team is still identifying whether or not this would be a viable option.
In addition to giving direction about one-way fares, the commissioners also agreed on the cost of the shuttle. Riders will be picked up from the Breckenridge South Gondola lot. From there, verified locals will pay $5 to ride the shuttle, and non-locals will pay $15. These costs are in addition to parking fees.
In total, three shuttles operated by Summit Express will run from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.
One of the reasons the county is charging a fare for this year’s shuttle is to help with the costs of running it. For example, if 12,000 people were use this shuttle system, it would still cost the county about $126,138 to operate, according to the presentation. If 15,000 people used the system, it would cost about $84,138.
As for parking at the trailheads, the commissioners agreed to a peak season pricing model. Prices to park at the trailheads will be more expensive on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays as opposed to weekdays. The lot has 67 spaces, 62 of which will have reservations.
The commissioners agreed to $25 for a full day of parking on weekdays and to $50 for a full day parking on peak days. Unlike last year, there will no longer be an option for half a day of parking. Mead said in an email that this option was underutilized last year and that it was common for those with half-day reservations to go over their time limit and receive a fine.
For McCullough Gulch trailhead’s three-hour parking spots, the commissioners agreed to $5 for non-peak days and $20 for peak days.
The fine for parking illegally is $100. Free parking will be available after 3 p.m.
When deciding on this structure, Mead presented parking costs at other popular attractions too, including Maroon Bells in Aspen.
“For (Maroon Bells), it is $16 per passenger to ride the shuttle and it is only $10 per vehicle to park at that trailhead, which is a paved trailhead with a pit toilet and there’s 35 spaces there,” Mead said. “Again … (a) limited amount of parking at that location is really driving the demand for that shuttle and they have a pretty high demand for that shuttle.”
Lawrence said she was surprised by this model and that ultimately, prices needed to be set in a way that encourages hikers to use the shuttle system.
Mead said that not including shuttle operations, the county is budgeting between $20,000 to $40,000 to implement this program, which does not include staff time. These costs include updating and improving road signage, road maintenance, striping and maintaining the parking lot and helipad and improving communication strategies.
Mead said in an email that parking and shuttle reservations will both be available on ParkQuandary.com.
Reservations can be made beginning May 18 for the start of the season on June 1. Shuttle reservations can be made beginning June 1 for service beginning June 15.
Parking reservations can be made through Sept. 30, and shuttle reservations can be made through Sept. 18.
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