SST's January ridership
* through Jan. 30
Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs Transit followed a record-setting 2007 with all-time high ridership numbers in January.
From Jan. 1 through Jan. 30, Steamboat Springs Director of Transportation George Krawzoff reported 206,713 passengers using SST buses. The previous peak month was March 2007, which saw 190,559 passengers taking advantage of the city's free bus service.
Although pleased with the numbers, officials also are apprehensive about the service's ability to meet demand going forward.
"It's a source of joy in a way," Krawzoff said. "I'm also concerned because our season ramps up in the spring. We're going to have to try to add as much service as possible."
SST has overcome a bus-driver shortage it faced at the beginning of the winter that forced limited service and the temporary removal of some bus routes. But even with a full compliment of drivers, Krawoff said his drivers are already working a significant amount of overtime. Already feeling the pressure in January, Krawzoff said March, typically the bus service's busiest month, could prove a challenge.
"We feel like we're at the practical limit of what we can do," Krawzoff said. "There's always this question of how successful do you want to be."
Krawzoff said he is exceeding his department's overtime budget this year. He said he would make up for that with cutbacks in other areas in order to meet the overall budget allocation for the transportation department.
In 2007, the city bus service surpassed 1 million passengers for the first time, with 1,144,580 riders, compared to 945,917 in 2006. On New Year's Eve 2007, drivers served a record 11,655 passengers, surpassing the previous peak day by about 1,600 passengers. SST served an average of 3,136 passengers a day in 2007, up from 1,068 a decade ago.
The transportation department is attributing its surge in popularity to a number of factors, including the Night Line route instituted last year, more locals using the bus as their primary method of travel and tight parking at the Steamboat Ski Area. Officials say transit use has been encouraged by packed parking lots at the ski area and the temporary loss of about 150 parking spots in the Knoll lot because of the presence of a temporary concert tent in January.
Officials also think this season's hard winter and its accompanying temperatures and road conditions have encouraged transit use.
While weather conditions may be encouraging use now, political conditions in the years ahead could be ripe for an even greater expansion of SST. Both city and Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. officials say the encouragement of multi-modal travel will be a key strategy accompanying the dense redevelopment occurring at the base of the ski area.
"We have a great number of people who are going into our parking environment one person per vehicle," Andy Wirth, chief marketing officer for Ski Corp. and its parent company Intrawest, said two weeks ago. "This is something we're going to have to look at as a community."
In its area plans, the city has laid out a goal of promoting "the use of alternative modes of transportation by both locals and tourists." John Eastman, planning services manager for the city, said the city hopes to meet that goal in coming years with increased transportation funding and the creation of pedestrian districts in areas such as the ski base and downtown Steamboat.
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