Group asks city to use buses for art route

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— City Council President Kathy Connell told representatives from ArtLink Steamboat to "bring it on."

Connell joined the majority of council members who were enthusiastic about the nonprofit's plan to rent a city bus every Thursday that would stop at different art and cultural spots in Steamboat Springs. ArtLink presented its plan at Tuesday night's council meeting.

"It is a wonderful opportunity to have more people on buses and out of cars in the summer," Connell said. "Let's bring it on."

Running weekly during the peak tourist season and once a month during mud season, the bus would operate from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., have an ArtLink representative and a recording about the sites available at each stop.

During the summer, ArtLink has plans for the bus route to begin at Torian Plum Plaza and the Sheraton and then travel to the Yampa River Botanic Park for the Strings in the Mountains lunch concert. Stops would also allow riders to get off at downtown galleries, artists' studios, shops and at the Depot Art Center.

ArtLink is a combination of artists and businesspeople with the goal of building Steamboat's art tourism industry.

The group has already created a Web site and will feature a TV segment on Channel 10 about local artists.

JoAnn Baker-Paul told the council the nonprofit would like to create an art-designated city similar to Phoenix, Santa Fe and Tucson.

ArtLink Director Susan Schiesser said the bus service would also encourage more people to ride the bus, expand the demographics of current bus users, diversify Steamboat's economy and stimulate business.

The bus would be additional to the regular bus rotation. By law it would be open to anyone.

Councilman Bud Romberg expressed concern about the proposal. He asked if the city had the drivers and buses to cover the plan. He also said it could be an idea that restaurants or clothing shops would one day want to take up, which would be an added demand on city services.

"If we do it for one, we really have to do it for others as well," Romberg said. "Are we setting ourselves up for a problem later?"

But City Transportation Director George Krawzoff said that would be a problem he would welcome.

He also said the Thursday bus route should not impact the regular schedule and adding more drivers in the summer would help, rather than hinder, his department.

The council decided to charge the group $25 per hour, which would cover the variable costs of the driver and gasoline. Krawzoff said the full cost would be $43 per hour, which would cover overhead costs of housing the bus, maintenance and the city's administrative staff.

"I fully support the $25 fee," Councilman Paul Strong said. "We already pay for the building and transit director."

The private sector, a fee from participating businesses and possibly a Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association grant will be the initial funding for the bus program. The first day of the program is set for May 29.

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