Residents could see a significant reduction in bus service for mud season, as the city tries to rein in the transit budget.
City Transportation Director George Krawzoff is proposing that spring bus service run every half-hour and end at 7:30 p.m. Bus service in the spring typically has ended at midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends, with hourly service starting after 8 p.m.
Krawzoff, who is coming before City Council on Tuesday night, also suggested other cuts to the bus service during the summer and fall to stay under budget.
As the council was going through its budget process in the fall, it opted not to make any of Krawzoff's proposed cuts to the transit system. Instead, it decided to wait until after the winter season to see whether any of the proposed reductions could be prevented through extra money from an increase in winter sales tax revenue.
So far this winter, the city has seen a strong increase in sales tax numbers. In December, sales tax revenue increased 12 percent from the previous December, and in January, it increased 5.66 percent from the previous January.
In his memo to City Council, Krawzoff said two types of cuts are necessary to stay within the budget.
He suggests that in the spring, summer, fall and before 5 p.m., transit should go into Ski Time Square only if passengers ask to go there. The change would allow the summer route to be abbreviated so that three buses can continue to provide 20-minute service within an hour loop, despite increases in traffic in the summer.
Krawzoff also recommends that the fall season have a reduced 30-minute service and end at midnight seven days a week. Previously in the fall, buses ran every 20 minutes until 9 p.m. and every hour until midnight on weekdays and until 2 a.m. on weekends.
Krawzoff said that the reduction recommendations were made by looking at when buses were used most heavily.
"We are trying to reduce times where they will impact the fewest people," he said.
In his memo, Krawzoff said that 70 percent of the city's passengers ride in the winter, and he recommends that any extra money go toward boosting winter service.
To return to spring 2004 service levels, it would cost $16,500, and to return to fall 2004 levels, it would cost $64,000.
To offset traffic delays in the summer and add another bus, it would cost $100,000.
Krawzoff said that the possible reduction in bus service is the result of budget constraints caused by the increasing cost of fuel and personnel.
The city used to pay 90 cents a gallon for gas, and now it is up to almost $1.90. That is much more than the city had anticipated, Krawzoff said. The city conservatively budgeted fuel costs to peak at $1.60 per gallon.
"Fuel is a very significant cost elevator for Steamboat transit and just contributes to the budget woes," Krawzoff said.
The transportation department also has seen a 6 percent increase in personnel costs, Krawzoff said.