Our View: Greyhound leaves the driving to us

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The announcement last week that Greyhound would no longer serve Steamboat Springs and other rural Colorado communities is unfortunate.

We cannot blame Greyhound for its decision. From a business standpoint, the route that served this region simply didn't make sense. About four people a day board the Greyhound bus in Steamboat Springs. And it's not as if Steamboat is relying on Greyhound to bring tourists here.

The bottom line is that few Steamboat residents rely on bus service, and demand doesn't justify the costs.

But there will be effects, including the loss of a viable partner for the Stock Bridge Transit Center. The park-and-ride facility hasn't lived up to its billing. But last year, the city and Greyhound reached an agreement to use the transit center as a Greyhound bus stop. Greyhound paid for a city employee to act as a freight and ticket agent at the stop. It was a good relationship that made better use of the transit center, and it's sad to see it go.

LIFT-UP of Routt County also depends on bus service to assist the homeless. A free bus ticket gets the homeless to larger communities with shelters and other services to assist them. It's not clear what will happen now.

The effect likely is greater in surrounding towns such as Craig, Dinosaur, Hayden and Kremmling. For segments of those communities, the bus is the most practical form of transportation.

Harold Ratzlaff has worked at the bus depot in Craig for 25 years and is worried about the seasonal agricultural workers who depend on the bus to get to and from their permanent homes. The loss of service "will have a disastrous effect on lots of local people who depend entirely on it for transportation in and out of town," Ratzlaff told the Craig Daily Press. "It's going to be a real hardship for the ranchers because 99 percent of their employees go by bus."

Residents of Meeker, Dinosaur and Baggs, Wyo., travel to Craig to catch the bus, Ratzlaff said. Now, they'll have to travel to Grand Junction or Rock Springs, Wyo. -- no simple task for people already in need of bus service.

Greyhound says its costs have risen since Sept. 11, 2001, as a result of new security regulations and that bus travel is on the decline. The company said it had no choice but to eliminate less-profitable routes.

In all, Greyhound will close 230 depots in August. Of those, the company says 50 percent did not sell a ticket in 2003. It's hard to argue with such numbers.

Still, for many, bus service is a critical and affordable mode of travel. Countless servicemen and servicewomen arrived at boot camp or basic training via Greyhound. Thousands and thousands more came home the same way. Cheaper and more accessible than flying or taking the train, the bus is the only option for many trying to get to funerals, reunions or other events.

When the last Greyhound bus pulls out of Steamboat on Aug. 18, many probably won't notice. But for some, the loss of service will mean it just got a little bit harder to live and work in Northwest Colorado. That's as unfortunate as it is unavoidable.

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