Steamboat Springs Steamboat's private sector is growing increasingly worried about staff shortages in a public sector category dear to their hearts: transportation.
Earlier this month, Steamboat Springs Transit announced it would cut three traditional winter routes - at least initially - because of an inability to recruit and retain enough bus drivers. The strategy is to cut the least-used routes while maintaining frequency on the heaviest used ones.
Last week, city officials sat down with representatives of Steamboat's lodging and resort interests to discuss a situation that Colorado Resort Services' Kathy Connell called "unacceptable." Connell requested last week's meeting during a recent Steamboat Springs City Council meeting.
"It is a crisis for a lot of people," she said Tuesday.
City Transportation Director George Krawzoff said Tuesday that the initial winter bus schedule will not change as a result of last week's meeting. The principal debate is "order of restoration," he said, meaning which routes will be reinstated first.
"One of the debates that's going on is what are we going to do if we add drivers," Krawzoff said Tuesday.
Steamboat Springs Transit is 12 drivers short of the 40 it wants for the winter season. Last week, there were six additional drivers in training, but Krawzoff stressed there is no guarantee that all - or any - of those drivers would finish or pass the training.
Connell said the Rockies Condominiums is on one of the bus routes that will be cut. She said many people made ski-season reservations to stay there, under the impression that they would be served by the city's free bus service.
"We have to create some kind of transportation for them," she said.
Furthermore, Connell said the Rockies suspended its own shuttle service. That service could cost upwards of $75,000 to start up again, Connell said, which could put a large burden on the complex's less affluent residents.
Krawzoff said it would be difficult to decide which of the three cut routes to restore first. The resort industry's arguments must compete against those of Colorado Mountain College, which also will have its service cut. Krawzoff said the city has provided bus service to CMC for about 20 years, and the school's argument on historical grounds is a compelling one.
Officials with Alpine Taxi said SST's troubles could lead to increased demands on their business.
"On the routes they're cutting, I believe the first thing people will do is call Alpine Taxi," said Bobby O'Toole, the company's director of operations. He said he planned to attend the meeting with city officials. "When you go on vacation, your time is very valuable."
While still looking for a few positions, O'Toole said Alpine Taxi is not having similar problems hiring enough drivers for the winter season. He said the company held a job fair in October and has been padding its schedule in recent months.
"I would say we're probably a little bit ahead of the curve right now," O'Toole said.
O'Toole guessed that the city might have a harder time finding employees because their schedule is not as flexible. Also, although Alpine Taxi does not pay as much as the city, there is the potential to earn tips.
"I think our schedule is a little more flexible," O'Toole said. "Our base salary is not near as much, but our tip potential is huge."
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