A bus makes its way along Hilltop Parkway on Monday. The Hilltop Connector Route is one of several the city might be forced to cut because of a lack of drivers.

Photo by John F. Russell

A bus makes its way along Hilltop Parkway on Monday. The Hilltop Connector Route is one of several the city might be forced to cut because of a lack of drivers.

Winter bus routes may be cut

Steamboat Springs still 20 bus drivers short for season

Advertisement

photo

A bus makes its way along Hilltop Parkway on Monday. The Hilltop Connector Route is one of several the city might be forced to cut because of a lack of drivers.

Steamboat Springs' winter bus service likely will be curtailed because of a shortage of qualified drivers.

Transportation Director George Krawzoff said despite recent hires, Steamboat Springs Transit still is 20 drivers short of filling all 40 of its positions.

"Our situation is improving," Krawzoff said Monday. "But we're a long way from being fat and sassy. : We will start the winter service with very limited service."

The extent of the cuts remains to be seen. Krawzoff said the city is weighing two options: maintaining frequency on the most heavily used routes while cutting lesser-used routes, or "spreading the pain out across many routes."

From an efficiency standpoint, Krawzoff said the former option is the most appealing. The most heavily used routes are those that service downtown, the mountain and "condoland," Krawzoff said. The routes used the least - and those most likely to be cut - include the Hilltop Connector route and the route servicing Colorado Mountain College.

"Until we can recruit 20 more drivers, we will have to cut back somewhere," Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said. "You can't run a bus system with 20 less people than you have buses for."

Last winter, nine seasonal, foreign workers drove Steamboat Springs Transit buses. This year, there will be no foreign drivers, mostly because of an energy boom in Australia that has lured away potential recruits. The Western Slope's own energy boom has decreased the number of local recruits, as well, City Manager Alan Lanning said.

"People can make more money," he said.

The city has gone to great lengths to lure drivers, including adding $45,000 to Krawzoff's recruitment budget. That money can be used to give drivers holiday pay and paid time off, installing tip jars on the buses, purchasing Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. silver medallion passes for driver use and further subsidizing housing. The hourly wage for drivers is $15.02, which would increase to $15.60 an hour Jan. 1 if, as expected, the Steamboat Springs City Council passes a budget that raises city wages 4 percent across the board.

In addition to bus driver housing being provided through city lease agreements at 525 Dabney Lane and 690 Amethyst Court, DuBord said the city may make rooms available at the Iron Horse Inn, which the city has announced its intention to purchase and convert into employee rental housing.

Initial plans were to continue operating the Iron Horse as a hotel through the ski season, but DuBord said three to five rooms may be made available for bus drivers.

"We still have to honor the nightly rentals, but they're not full," she said.

Krawzoff said subsidized housing would be offered to drivers on a first-come, first-served basis.

Lanning said Steamboat's difficulty hiring bus drivers is not uncommon to communities across the country.

"I think the No. 1 issue in my mind is the CDL," Lanning said, referring to a commercial driver's license. "Not everyone out on the street has a CDL."

The cost of living in Steamboat also is a challenge, Lanning said.

Krawzoff said the shortage is particularly frustrating because of Steamboat Springs Transit's increasing popularity. He said bus ridership is up 35 percent this year.

"Transit ridership has just boomed," Krawzoff said. "It's frustrating to have a system that's succeeding and not be able to keep it up."

Lanning said the bus driver shortage is just one example of staffing difficulties throughout the city. He estimated the city turns over about 45 employees a year.

"At any given time, we have about 15 percent of our positions open a year," Lanning said. "It's not exorbitant. It's like a toothache. It never goes away."

- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

nightbird 6 years, 6 months ago

I think we are just beginning to see the "cracks" in our community's infrastructure associated with the lack of a labor force. Does anybody know if the hospital is having trouble staffing positions?

0

twostroketerror 6 years, 6 months ago

Easy fix, drop the drug test. Worked for the Mtn. didn't it? 'Awesome bra! I'm like, totaly drivin' the loser cruiser!'

0

Lovesteamboat 6 years, 6 months ago

There are an abundance of locals living in Steamboat with CDL's who would be available to pick up a shift here and there. There could be dozens of people who are available to drive one or two shifts a week.

The problem is that the city is looking to hire people who want to drive busses as their primary full-time job.

...and they require candidates to spend 3 WEEKS of on the job training to learn how to drive a bus around in circles.

Who can take a month off from their real job to train for a part time job?

Bad shuttle service directly impacts guest experience, which directly impacts sales tax revenues.

0

trollunderthebridge 6 years, 6 months ago

Lovesteamboat, you are absolutely right on. Why not employee locals, even those who want to work part-time. But alas, we have a City Council that would like to rid this town of second homeowners and tourists, so ultimately we won't really need the busses.

0

little_liza 6 years, 6 months ago

Our bus system already has problems. The first night of snow and the drivers are skipping stops. We stood in the snow Saturday night at a bus stop, instead of driving to and from the bar, only to have the bus blow past us. At least he was courteous enough to honk and wave as he blew past us.

0

tsegler 6 years, 6 months ago

The city should be adding routes and shortening wait times, not the other way around. There has to be a solution: what do other resort towns do??? Improve recruiting practices.

0

little_liza 6 years, 6 months ago

Why is that the routes to be cut are those that service the residents? I realize that the tourism industry pays our paychecks, for most of us. Doesn't CMC contribute quite a bit of money to the valley and now we are talking about cutting service to the college. It doesn't make to much sense to me.

0

STEMBOATwannabe 6 years, 6 months ago

Who thought this through??? Did they consider the students at CMC??? Will they be a. pedestrians
b. cause parking problems because they will be driving? c. transfer to schools where they will have transportation?

Maybe Steamboat doesn't really want to have CMC be a viable learning center?

0

dumptruck 6 years, 6 months ago

As a former SST driver and for those who already have CDL, we don't need but a 2 day training period. If we can drive dump trucks, taxi busses, trailer trucks, driving a bus around in circles would be no problem.

The problem is with SST management over-kill training. Local drivers are not going to kiss -up.

0

luv2boat 6 years, 6 months ago

Seems to me that there are plenty of retirees and locals that want just a part time job, put the two together, you would have plenty of drivers.Don't they(locals) know that streets better than the Aussies from down under?

0

Routty2007 6 years, 5 months ago

The CMC bus scheduled is critical last time I looked there was no sidewalk up the hill. Also for the recent comment...nothing is FREE I pay very high taxes and for a good reason...the bus system is needed and money a good work. Is traffic not a problem in Steamboat? What's Gore been talking about?

0

little_liza 6 years, 5 months ago

Yes, the bus does not require payment when you ride only when you pay taxes. Additionally, why should CMCers have to walk down to 11th street? I do have my own vehicle that I could drive to the campus for my classes but would prefer to ride the bus. When I first moved to the valley, the residences had bus passes, the tourists paid. I personally would not mind paying a small amount to ride the bus on snowy days instead of fighting with traffic in my little truck. It would still be cheaper than gas. As far as why I dont walk, some days the snow is not so fun to walk in. On a nice sunny day I have no problem waling down the hill from CMC. Walking downhill in the middle of a snowstorm is another story. Call me a whiner if you want, I dont care.

0

corduroy 6 years, 5 months ago

instead of whining about how service may be cut to some areas, what happened to being grateful Steamboat has a FREE bus service like this. Every town I've been to you have to pay to ride the bus, even if its just across town

As for the CMC shuttle.. couldn't they just walk down to 11th and Lincoln.. or did everyone's legs break?

/walked everywhere in college and didn't complain

0

JQPUBLIC 6 years, 5 months ago

Sorry Routty.... haven't you figured out yet that you just don't count? Unless you are a tourist with a big fat wallet, a high priced business catering to said tourist, or own a 3 million plus 2nd home the city doesn't care how you get around steamboat, or anything else about you for that matter. Maybe they will give you back your bus service to transport you to their new rec center... naah, that would mean the lower class mingling with the elite and we can't have that.

0

STEMBOATwannabe 6 years, 5 months ago

Students at CMC should count! Their parents pay taxes somewhere. When they come into town to visit - they are "tourists" too! I have been to Steamboat more than I would have been while my child was in school at CMC. The transportation services is one of the selling points the college uses.

Additionally walking DOWN to 11th and Lincoln is not the problem... it is walking UP when it is snowy and icy!! Would the city like to take up the liability for the kids having to walk UP to classes?

Where are the current students going to park if they now start driving to class??

FYI in Vail the bus is still free!

0

nxoby36 6 years, 5 months ago

sbvor you hit the nail on the head ! I wonder how our so important tourists would feel if they knew that the bus drivers ( who hold the tourists life in the palm of their hand ) make less money then some guy hauling around a $500.00 load of rock . WE WOULDN'T NEED AFFORDABLE HOUSING IF THE PEOPLE IN THIS TOWN WERE PAID A WAGE EQUAL TO THE VALUE OF THE JOB It's time we got rid of the damed elitist Marxist idiots running the local government . Also it's time to remember that in a resort the name of the game is service . That doesn't come from some one who can't speak english , doesn't know the area , and doesn't smile because they can't afford to live, buy or do anything here.

0

Routty2007 6 years, 5 months ago

What causes more traffic the bus or personal/commercial vehicles? Why did Denver add light rail? Why does Steamboat have traffic problems? Think about what might reduce traffic. The answer will come.

0

Neil O'Keeffe 6 years, 5 months ago

Infrastructure, this is just another example of poor planning and management. Pay them more and we won't have a hiring problem. How do we pay them more? For starters don't support the wasteful expenditure of our tax dollars on a rec center for the few. Vote No on 2b and 2c. Believe!

0

Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 5 months ago

Routty2007- Sure buses over personal vehicles would lessen traffic. 2 problems though:

1- Can't force people to take the bus. 2- Can't even FIND enough drivers. Are the buses going to drive without a driver?

That then brings us to rokboat's point of paying drivers more. Guess what? The bus is funded through tax dollars. Paying them more would most likely either cut dollars from another Transportation allocation or raise taxes. Not voting for 2B/C won't make this more money for the buses. It will mean the same amount for the buses.

So then, taxes go up. What happens when a business has some increase of costs associated with running a business, such as higher taxes or paying higher salaries? My guess? They raise their prices to their consumers. That means that goes in a circle affecting other businesses by increasing their costs to help pay for other companies higher costs (and paying their own employees more) that they do business with.

So then, those employees that just got a raise find that all across most of the board, their raise is paying for increased living costs...and it all goes round.

0

JQPUBLIC 6 years, 5 months ago

Charge for the bus... duh, let the users pay.

0

Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 5 months ago

Yep, charge for the bus. Unfortunately, for people who have cars but actually take the bus a bit...would that cause them to think twice about riding it? Another added expense to the rider if you charge.

0

RoxyDad 6 years, 5 months ago

Kielbasa

Some of the bus money comes from a Grant not taxes. The Grant requires certain performance of the bus. I think it will be not allowed under the Grant to stop the Hilltop service, but they may do so anyway.

I agree with others to pay the employees more and you will have them. If you take the cost of the Iron Horse project, include the long term maintenance, insurance and operating at a loss and use that money for salary of empolyees I think you will have enough workers and the city will not have to become landlords and babysitters.

There wont be any increase in tax to pay for the increased salary.

0

STEMBOATwannabe 6 years, 5 months ago

OK....what would be the harm to accept donations on the buses? It would still be free, but riders would have the option to donate to help defray the cost of their ride. Most people would gladly give the change in their pockets or add more the next time they rode the bus. There could also be a sign with the suggested amount requested for each ride. This might also be a less painful way to start to charge for the bus...

0

STEMBOATwannabe 6 years, 5 months ago

come on people -- this is going to become a non-issue soon....Someone has got to have an idea that would keep some of the routes going....

Does anyone know exactly what routes are sceduled to be cut???

Can SST make any concessions to attract more drivers??

0

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.