A cost of living comparison business telluridenews.com gas bike alley

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The Planet posted a question in the Facebook group Telluride Sweet Deals this week, asking how much commuters pay in travel costs and where they come from. In the 30-plus responses, people said they come to Telluride from Ophir (12 miles), Rico (27 miles), Norwood (33 miles), Ridgway (39 miles), Ouray (49 miles) and as far away as Montrose (65 miles) every week for work. Many said they spend more than $300 per month on gas with additional costs for vehicle maintenance and time.

“My husband and I both commute because he works at the ski area,” said Liza Tanguay of Norwood. “So when the gas prices were up over $4 a gallon, he basically had to carpool at that point because it was like $350 a month just for his gas. So when the prices came back down it seemed like that was enough relief, but he still carpools quite a bit.”

Many who answered the Sweet Deals question said they take advantage of carpools and the Galloping Goose bus service, which helps reduce costs of the commute, but they said they would like to see more bus hours to accommodate working hours better. Tanguay said the decision to live in Norwood was due to a combination of things including space as well as cost.

“Basically we came to Norwood 12 years ago now, because it was too expensive to live in Telluride,” Tanguay said. “We’ve got a family and animals now. But when we did the decision, we were looking at a one-bedroom condo in the deed-restricted area of Telluride with no storage and one parking space for the same price as a three-bedroom house on a half acre in Norwood.”

According to Galloping Goose numbers, the bus service recorded around 18,546 rider trips between Norwood and Telluride in 2013 and 9,491 rider trips between Telluride and Placerville. Of those trips, Telluride transit manager Jason White said between 80 and up to 99 percent of the riders on the bus are going to or from work.

U.S. census numbers from 2012 show that just over half of Telluride’s rentals go for $1,500 or more per month and 40 percent of renters pay 35 percent of their total income to paying rent. In comparison, 92 percent of Norwood rental units go for between $300 and $1,499 per month, however, about half of Norwood renters pay 35 percent or more of their income for rent. In Ridgway more than 60 percent of rentals are between $1,000 and $1,499, and in Rico 93 percent of rentals go between $300 and $1,499 per month.

The census numbers also show that around 51.2 percent of Telluride housing units are not occupied compared with just 14 percent in Norwood. And out of Telluride’s occupied units, 51 percent of them are renter-occupied while the rest are owner-occupied.

“I choose Ophir first of all because of the price, but secondarily because it’s smaller and it avoids all the craziness of festival season,” Rutledge said. “It’s a different lifestyle. I think the initial reason for buying a house in Ophir was because of the unaffordability of Telluride. I moved here in 1998. At the time the only affordable housing options were deed-restricted units in Telluride and Lawson Hill. But pretty much all of them were out of my price range, even one-bedroom condos in Telluride. So I started looking further and ended up renting a room in Ophir and ended up falling in love with it.”