Bus drivers needed for winter

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— A lack of drivers is keeping Steamboat's transit officials from providing the usual level of wintertime service.

Buses usually go straight from an off-season schedule to the more frequent winter schedule at about Thanksgiving. But this year, transit officials are using a rare transitional "pre-peak" winter schedule because of a lack of drivers.

Under the pre-peak schedule, which started Nov. 20, buses run every 30 minutes; they hit stops at 20-minute intervals on the usual winter schedule. The difference is one bus an hour, which translates to longer waiting times for riders.

The pre-peak schedule was set to end Dec. 10, but transit officials expect to use it until new drivers are hired, said George Krawzoff, the city's director of transportation services. He said the city needs six to 10 more drivers to provide peak winter service.

The only service change set to start Dec. 11 is that buses on the blue line will arrive five minutes later.

Krawzoff said he is concerned that the transit system will not accommodate the increased demand that tourists and locals bring in the winter. Demand this fall was at about 1,200 riders a day. The average winter day, however, brings about 5,000 riders, with peak days running up to 9,000.

Accommodating those riders takes more drivers, Krawzoff said.

"We understand that more frequent service is better service. Waiting out in the cold is no fun," he said.

Frequent buses also are needed in locations where many drivers wait, such as the ski area, he said.

"We don't like leaving people behind," he said. "That's not a good transit experience. We're doing everything we can to avoid that."

Krawzoff wants riders to understand that transit officials are working to use drivers in the most efficient way. Extra service will be provided in the busiest areas.

"We will begin to provide as much peak-hour support as we can," he said.

As drivers are hired and trained, Krawzoff said, they will be put behind the wheel as soon as possible.

"People should apply. We'll get them trained and out there as fast as we can."

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