Telluride Mountain Village Gondola

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Gondola Planning Update: December 2021

Originally built to improve air quality in the region by keeping cars off the road, the Gondola has been shuttling approximately 3 million visitors, residents, skiers, hikers, festival-goers and commuters over 10,500-foot Coonskin Ridge since December 1996. It is the first and only free public transportation system of its kind in the United States.

Gondola Facts and Figures

• 3 million trips per year
• 20,000+ riders per day during peak seasons – one of Colorado’s busiest transit lines
• 1st and only FREE transit system of its kind in the US
• 113,000+ hours in operation since 1996 – no other system in the US has moved as many riders or ran as many hours

The Economic Lift

• 32% increase in ridership (combined winter and summer) between 2011 and 2017
• Nearly 4 million projected riders in 2037 but current system is at capacity
• 70% of riders are non‐resident visitors – significantly reduces the number of cars and the vehicle miles traveled within both towns
• 25-35% of trips are work or school related for local residents
• Local economy is driven almost exclusively by tourism – the free gondola itself is a critical attraction for both overnight and day visitors
• Allows Telluride and Mountain Village to share markets and leverage the strengths of its neighbor – avoiding the mountain/core town separation that plagues many other resorts

Gondola Background

• Built in 1996 and connects the Town of Telluride and Mountain Village
• Owned and operated by the Town of Mountain Village
• Originally constructed to improve air quality and reduce traffic impacts
• Operating agreement expires at the end of 2027 with no plan for the system’s future
• TMVOA, Telski, Telluride, Mountain Village and San Miguel County began evaluating a long-term gondola plan in 2015

Existing System Funding and Costs

• Annual costs: $3.5M for operations and maintenance; $50k - $2M in capital and major repairs –projected to increase by at least 10% in the next 2 years
• Town of Mountain Village is contractually obligated to provide the majority of the gondola’s funding through a 3% Mountain Village real estate transfer assessment through 2027
• Additional funding comes from operating and capital grants (+$10M total), 1% of lift sales by Telski ($200k per year), Town of Telluride extended hours contributions and event operations funding

Increased Necessity for Updated Gondola System

• System is at the maximum number of cabins (57)
• Wait times are increasing during peak periods and projected to grow
• System is 25 years old – many parts are no longer manufactured and need to be special-ordered which leads to increased system downtime
• Parking constraints and projected increases in traffic
• No agreed-upon operating and funding plan for after 2027

Key phases for Gondola Plan

1. Understand the existing system and define future options (2015-Present)
2. Assess needs, evaluate options and identify desired updates (Early 2022)
3. Plan for long-term funding and operations (Late 2022)