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Reservations for mountain bus take off

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What a huge difference $15 makes.

After the Salt Lake Organizing Committee slashed the round-trip price to $5 per person, reservations for its Mountain Venue Express soared like an Olympic ski jumper. The service transports spectators to Park City area venues (from Salt Lake City), Snowbasin (from Ogden) and Soldier Hollow (from Provo).

Salt Lake resident Floyd Johnson tried to buy seats for two friends from Australia who have tickets to events on five days but was told none were available.

"That's ridiculous," he said. "They fill those buses and now they don't (care)."

Johnson said he his friends anticipated making reservations 24 hours in advance as the Olympic transportation guide suggests.

"Somebody needs to put pressure on (SLOC) to get more buses," he said.

SLOC spokeswoman Caroline Shaw said there will be no more buses. But Olympic organizers have decided to withhold 10 percent of the tickets for international visitors.

The International Olympic Committee, she said, prevented SLOC from selling reservations directly to people in foreign countries. They had to contact their national Olympic committees, she said.

Because many weren't aware of the process, SLOC decided to reserve 10 percent of the seats on each bus. SLOC President Mitt Romney said Friday he's not sure how Olympic organizers will verify whether people are from out of the country.

Folks who call the reservation line at 866-566-4428 to check availability had better prepare for cauliflower ear. On Friday afternoon, the recorded message told callers to expect to be on hold for 45 minutes to 60 minutes.

As of Friday, Feb. 10-13 and 16 were sold out, according to SLOC. Morning shuttles on Feb. 10, 12, 13, 16, 17, 19, 22 and 23 are full. The Feb. 14 shuttle to Snowbasin also is sold out.

At the first of January, SLOC chief operating officer Fraser Bullock said 30,000 seats on the buses had to be sold for the Olympic transportation plan to work. Only 4,000 seats at the initial $20 cost had been booked at the time.

Some 38,000 more people have signed up since SLOC dropped the price two weeks ago.

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com