Greyhound bus service through Northwest Colorado rolled to a stop Tuesday, leaving state and local officials looking for ways to replace it.
Although government subsidies are available, if a private provider cannot be found within the next three months to reinstate service to Denver, that money will be used elsewhere in the state.
Government officials doubt that Alpine Taxi, the most obvious local alternative for providing the service, would be willing to tackle the route because of logistical issues. Alpine Taxi officials did not immediately return calls.
The Greyhound bus service, which came through Steamboat Springs four times a day with two buses heading east and two buses heading west, provided the cheapest public transportation from Denver to Steamboat Springs. About five people a day used the route, which went from Denver, through Granby and Steamboat, and then on to Salt Lake City.
Alpine Taxi continues to provide transportation to Denver, but at $70 for a one-way ticket, it may be cost-prohibitive for some riders who could afford Greyhound's $39 one-way fare.
"It's not the end of the world for the resort business. But those five people a day will have a tough time finding an alternative," City Transportation Director George Krawzoff said.
The Northwest Colorado bus route had been subsidized by an annual $130,000 federal grant designed to provide inter-city transportation in rural areas. Another grant of $40,000 allowed Greyhound and the city to share the cost of an employee in the city's Stock Bridge Transit Center. The employee sold tickets and staffed the transit center building during business hours.
At a Northwest Transportation Region Meeting on Thursday, Colorado Department of Transportation employees and regional elected officials discussed possible alternatives to replace Greyhound.
Tom Mauser, director of mobile planning at CDOT, said the state would like to keep the federal dollars in the same area and is looking for interested private providers.
"When someone pulls out from funding, we give a chance for someone else in that area to provide that service," Mauser said. "If it doesn't happen here in Northwest (Colorado), the money will end up going into Northeastern Colorado."
CDOT will look for a private provider in this area for the next three months, Mauser said, before sending the money elsewhere in the state. If private help cannot be found in the northwest region, Mauser said the money likely would go to two private providers who have stepped in to cover another abandoned Greyhound bus route from Omaha to Denver.
Alpine Taxi has been considered as a possible alternative. The company runs five shuttles a day to the Denver International Airport in the winter and three shuttles a day in the summer.
Receiving federal funding and providing a subsidy will be a challenge, Krawzoff said.
"Alpine Taxi has not said no, but it seems unlikely," Krawzoff said.
Arrow Stage Lines and Coach USA also looked into replacing the Greyhound route, Krawzoff said, but they determined it wouldn't be feasible.
Greyhound continues to provide service between Denver and Salt Lake City, but the route now goes through Fort Collins. CDOT officials do not expect anyone to cover the Denver-to-Salt Lake City route through Northwest Colorado. Instead, they are looking for a company to reinstate service between Denver and Northwest Colorado.
"(The Denver-to-Salt Lake City route) was a loser for Greyhound, and we think it will be a loser for anyone to do it," Mauser said.
Even with the $130,000 a year subsidy, the Greyhound route lost money. Other more profitable routes subsidized it, Krawzoff said.
Last year, $65,000 in ticket sales and $1,200 in freight costs were sold out of Steamboat Springs, $64,000 in ticket sales and $600 in freight costs were sold out of Craig, and $25,000 in ticket sales and $85 in freight costs were sold out of Granby.
Because of the federal strings attached, it would be difficult for a small operator to qualify for the transportation funds, Mauser said.
Federal funding requires regular drug and alcohol testing for the staff of grant recipients. Grant recipients also must provide local matches for any funds -- 50 percent for operation expenses, 30 percent for administrative expenses and 20 percent for capital equipment.
Alpine Taxi is looking at a grant for capital funding, Krawzoff said, but coming up with the local match could be a challenge.
Deciding how the subsidy would work also would be hard with much of Alpine Taxi's service transporting visitors back and forth to Denver in the tourist seasons.
To receive the grant, Alpine Taxi might have to alter some of its routes to go through Granby and Winter Park, along the abandoned Greyhound route, to drop off riders at the Greyhound bus terminal in Denver.
"I am not confident Alpine Taxi will step in," Krawzoff said.
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