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.
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.