December 21, 2007

The bus stops here: Riders say Pine Junction Park-n-Ride should be saved
By Pamela Lawson
Staff Writer

Riders of the RTD bus line in Pine Junction say the agency's plans to close that park-n-Ride, after more than 30 years there, and move them to the Mountain View stop, are unacceptable. They have formed a committee and are hosting an evening public meeting on Jan. 8, before Park County commissioners and at least one Jefferson County commissioner.

Photo by Pamela Lawson

Citizens are taking advantage of a delay by the Regional Transportation District in its plan to close a 30-year-old Pine Junction park-n-Ride, to find ways to save it.

The grassroots movement, calling itself the Riders 285 Coalition, will host its first public meeting Jan. 7 at Platte Canyon High School. All three commissioners from Park County are planning to attend, and at least one Jefferson County commissioner will be there as well, according to coalition member Pam Beckhorn.

The mission of the coalition is to form a working partnership with RTD, the Jefferson and Park county commissioners, the local community and CDOT, which owns the land where the current park-n-Ride was established at U.S. 285 and Highway 126 in Pine Junction.

The goal of the coalition is to keep the current stop operational until a permanent park-n-Ride can be built on property purchased by RTD in recent years for that purpose.

In October, the RTD board announced plans to close the stop and divert commuters to a nearly new Mountain View stop built in Green Valley, about 5 miles north, even though plans to build a permanent site in Pine Junction have been in place for years. The agency cited safety concerns and, more importantly, a lack of funds in deciding not to build a new stop there.

But the Pine Junction site is much older than the Mountain View site, and is used by many more riders. And that begs the question: Why wasn’t a new site built in Pine Junction first?

According to RTD spokesman Scott Reed, issues involving the Pine Junction site were a little more “complex” at the time of the decision, he said.

The Pine Junction site was considered temporary, on dirt ground, located on land owned by CDOT next to a rock quarry. It was a site that could eventually disappear if highway expansion by CDOT continued in that area as planned. 

At the same time, a temporary site in Kings Valley on private property became unavailable, according to Steph Millard, a former RTD board district representative. In addition, riders who accessed a bus stop on the side of the road in Green Valley had no place to park. 

Building the Mountain View site could serve multiple purposes, the agency believed.

“RTD built the Mountain View location on property that did not have the commercial value that land has around Pine Junction, so we were able to obtain a larger parcel that, in a pinch, was big enough to handle the Pine Junction customers, had we not been able to obtain a location at Pine Junction,” Reed explained. “And, when the future Pine Junction site would overflow, customers would have had Mountain View as an alternative.”

But Mountain View didn’t become the popular alternative RTD had hoped for, according to Millard. 

The Green Valley riders passed by the Mountain View site in favor of Aspen Park, and the Pine Junction riders continued to use the site that best served their needs. In addition, a CDOT highway-widening project in Green Valley made the park-n-Ride difficult to access, and the number of users dropped even more. (That construction was recently completed.)

The coalition has already begun to amass statistics for the meeting in January. Frequently, 85 to 105 cars are parked in Pine Junction during peak usage times, not including those who drop off family members, as compared to 30 or so cars at Mountain View. 

The predicament is a sensitive one for riders who never asked for the Mountain View stop in the first place. 

“I have been riding the bus from that (Pine Junction) location since 1978, almost 30 years,” said Juanita Kursevich, a legal secretary who works at a law firm in Denver. “I should be getting a little pin or something.”

It is unclear when the stop was first built. Bruce Daley, the current district representative, drove a bus on that route himself more than two decades ago. Kursevich says the stop was there when she began riding in 1978. Two decades ago, riders parked on the opposite site of the road, there was no stoplight, and traffic could be difficult to navigate. 

But when RTD cited safety issues in October as one of the reasons for the closure, Pine Junction riders weren’t convinced. They believe the agency was basing that concern on old information — before there was a traffic light and before cars parked on the north side of the highway, Kursevich said. 

Taxes are another sensitive topic: The Jeffco riders pay taxes that cover RTD service, while the Park County riders do not, and many Parkco riders use the Pine Junction stop.

The coalition believes that Parkco citizens may in fact pay taxes because most of their purchases are in Jeffco. But Reed said major purchases like cars, appliances and construction items based on residence are not “point of purchase.”

The items purchased in the district often include food, prescription medicine, gasoline and home heating fuel, all of which are exempt from the sales tax in the first place, according to Reed. 

Either way, these issues and more will be addressed at future community meetings, including the possibility of expanding the district’s borders or brainstorming ways to find funding to build a site on the property already owned by RTD in Pine Junction. 

Coalition members are determined to keep the discussions “respectful” and to serve as a productive means of communications between all those involved, Kursevich said.

But their focus will not waver: Pine Junction riders want to keep the current site, until a new one can be built on nearby property owned by RTD. 

The public meeting will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 7 at Platte Canyon High School in the Canyon Room.

To learn more about the Riders 285 Coalition (R2C), contact Pam Beckhorn at 303-838-6673.

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