BROOMFIELD - The board of the FlatIron Improvement District is recommending operation of the area's Zip Shuttle be suspended after Dec. 31.

If approved by the Broomfield City Council at its meeting Tuesday, the move would halt service on the little-used free bus line that links the FlatIron Crossing mall, nearby big-box stores and hotels and the RTD Park-n-Ride off of U.S. 36.

The recommendation is not for termination of the service, said Debra Baskett, acting executive director of the FlatIron Improvement District, a special taxing district formed by Broomfield to operate the shuttle.

"We're looking for ways to reinvent it in a way that's useful for our community,â said Baskett, who also is Broomfield's transportation manager.

Ridership has declined dramatically since the shuttle was introduced in 2001. Use peaked in 2003, with 175,860 riders. Through November, 70,916 people had used the shuttle in 2008.

The Broomfield City Council is unlikely to bail out the service. Last year, before approving the Zip's nearly $1.6 million budget, the council told the shuttle's operators to find ways to increase the number of riders.

Those efforts failed, and the frequency of stops went from 10 minutes to 20 minutes. Ancillary programs for mall workers, such as discounted bus passes and the Eco Pass, were cut.

Rising fuel and maintenance costs and falling sales tax revenue also had a hand in making the shuttle unsustainable, Baskett said.

The shuttle's main source of financing is a 0.


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2 percent sales tax on purchases at FlatIron Crossing and adjoining retailers. The city's financial department estimates revenue from the tax will be $951,000 in 2008 and $956,000 in 2009, but those numbers are vulnerable to declining retail sales. In 2007, tax revenue was $1.06 million.

Support also came from Broomfield, which had budgeted $239,000 for the shuttle in 2009. The city's contribution is linked to the sales tax collected by the district, so it, too, has declined in recent years.

Staff members will recommend that the City Council cancel the 2009 payment, Assistant City and County Manager Kevin Standbridge said.

The fate of the sales tax and the six buses used by the line is up in the air. Councilman Todd Schumacher, Broomfield's representative on the FlatIron Improvement District board, said the sales tax will be collected as the district looks at new ways of providing bus service to the area.

If service is renewed, it will have to prove it can bring additional shoppers to the mall and generate additional tax revenue, Schumacher said. The shuttle's current passenger base is mall employees.

If a viable alternative can't be found, the tax likely will go away, Schumacher said.

New options are being developed for mall employees who depended on the shuttle, Baskett said.

It's still too early to write off the shuttle for good.

"There are a lot of ideas out there, and there are some successful models in other cities we could use,â Schumacher said.

If the shuttle does die, it will go out with a whimper. Only two people attended a recent public hearing on its future, and both were shuttle drivers, Baskett said.

Archived comments

Not mentioned in this story, but darn important to know, is that the original Zip line was actually a pretty cool propane-powered (I believe) shuttle that looked like something you'd see in Disneyland. My kids used to like going to the mall just to ride the Zip.

Then they had maintenance issues and replaced the cool zip line with these dork Ford mini-buses that take all the fun out of it and have about as much personality as a brick, and wonder why ridership is down?

Add less and less frequency, and the last time we tried using the Zip to go from one area of the (amazingly poorly laid out) Flatiron Crossing Mall and we stood there for 20+ minutes waiting, which is difficult to do with impatient kids. Result? Fail. We drove.

d1taylor@gmail.com

12/14/2008 9:22:56 PM

Never let it be said that Debra Baskett might base her advocacy on reality. From day one, the NW corridor rail had the lowest projected ridership. But, Debra "says" otherwise, based on nothing but the fact that she wants what she wants at any unsustainable cost.

Yes, let's spend millions reinventing the lumbering Zip. What about those electronic train whistles and shuttle drivers dressed up like Tom Hanks in Polar Express.

If only we can make it molecularly transport us to Macys, or suspend time so we can live the do-dee-do life she thinks everyone else should ascribe to, that might work. In the meantime, let's find officials that are capable of directing funds to projects that actually work, rather than beating the same old proven, ineffectual and wasteful projects over the head.

calongnek@aol.com

12/15/2008 8:38:24 AM

Hmmm--

$1.6 million divided by ~80k riders = $20/ride. Great investment.

What was the total cost of this boondogle over the years? Who got the money?

Bet no one answers this.

Billprez

12/15/2008 8:52:48 AM

At least the shopping center will look busy from a distance with all the employees parking in the lots. There truly will be no other way to get to this shopping center without the shuttle service.

oryoki@go.com

12/15/2008 2:35:00 PM

It's called adaptive management - if they fix it, folks will b^tch. If they don't change a thing, folks will b^tch. Managers attempting to act wisely can't win - nobody's ever happy.

JustSayin

12/15/2008 4:07:40 PM

Well, so much for me shopping at Flatirons. I don't drive, and the only way to get around the darn thing is via that shuttle. Oh, well. I never much liked the place anyway. Crowded with snotty, smart-mouthed teenagers and self-entitled SUV-driving soccer moms with loud, obnoxious, terribly spoiled kids.

daravaleriah@yahoo.com

12/22/2008 2:48:55 PM