Two new coach buses should have commuters from Craig to Steamboat Springs riding comfortably this winter. Officials hope the new, more luxurious buses also will encourage more people to use public transit.
This week, the city received the coach buses, which are worth $375,000 each. They feature forward-facing, upholstered, high-back seats with individual air and light controls.
The buses also have three bike racks on the front and two luggage bays, which can hold skis and snowboards.
"We expect a big step up in the quality of service," City Transportation Director George Krawzoff said.
The current buses, which are similar to the ones used for the city bus service, had open seating where people sat sideways and faced each other.
"We believe these have more personal space, a little more privacy and are a little quieter," Krawzoff said.
The older buses were not well-insulated, which could make for a long, chilly ride from Craig to Steamboat on winter mornings.
Krawzoff hopes to have the businesses operating by mid- to late October.
About 80 percent of the funding for the buses came from a Federal Transit Administration grant. The city submitted another grant request to fund a third coach bus.
The regional bus service uses three buses in the morning and in the evening.
In 2003, the regional bus service had an annual passenger count of 28,000.
Krawzoff said that in the winter, the first bus to leave Craig in the morning is close to its 38-person capacity. The other two buses average 15 to 20 people.
The new buses have a capacity of 57 people, and Krawzoff hopes the more comfortable seating will encourage more people to ride.
The goal is to get more people who are not transit-dependent riding the bus, which will get more vehicles off the road, Krawzoff said.
The city is considering increasing regional fares, which have not risen since the service began 14 years ago.
A one-way trip costs $3.50, but riders can purchase a 25-ride punch pass for $35.
The city may increase the price to $5 for a one-way fare and a punch pass that would discount the trip to about $3.50.
Other area transportation partners have to be contacted about the possible increase in fares before it could go into effect, Krawzoff said.
Rising costs for fuel and other expenses in the past 14 years necessitate the increase, but Krawzoff said it would be nice to provide better quality service for the increase.
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