Photo by Brian Ray
A line of cars makes its way toward South Routt County along Highway 131 outside of Steamboat Springs on Friday afternoon.
Steamboat Springs A survey last summer showed that 70 percent of South Routt residents were interested in commuter transit to Steamboat Springs, but as transportation feasibility studies continue, it's becoming clear that transit services are desired beyond the 9-to-5 crowd.
Colorado Springs-based LSC Transportation Consultants and the project's citizens advisory committee are discussing numerous options for South Routt, including traditional fixed-schedule transit, rideshare and vanpool programs, and park-and-ride.
In January, the Routt County Board of Commissioners approved a contract laying out the study's shared funding agreement. Routt County is contributing $5,000, half in cash and the remainder as in-kind services. The Colorado Department of Transportation is funding the remaining $20,000.
"We're hoping that it will show that something in terms of transit is feasible," County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said.
CDOT's portion of the funding stems from the Federal Transit Authority's 5311 program, which provides grant funding for transit services in rural areas. The study will be completed by June, so South Routt transit projects can apply for operational funds in the next 5311 grant cycle, Mitsch Bush said.
Consultants are using various assessment techniques, including examining traffic counts and census figures, to give them an idea of who's going to ride. The study also includes a scientific telephone survey, LSC consultant Kyle Kosman said.
The goal of the study is to determine appropriate service levels, appropriate service vehicles and how to fund it, Kosman said. A transit system in South Routt is unlikely to be able to sustain itself without charging user fees, however those fees cannot be so high that the community will not support or use it, he said.
The study will take into account rising gas prices - and whether $4 a gallon gasoline will make people get out of their cars - as well as South Routt's continued growth and development and relieving traffic congestion on Colorado Highway 131 and Routt County Road 14, Kosman said.
Residents from across South Routt - as well as employers from Steamboat Springs -turned out in force Wednesday night to share their input about how a transit system could best serve them. One common discussion thread was that Routt County's service industry is not 9-to-5, which complicates fixed-schedule buses, particularly to small communities.
Residents also voiced concerns that senior citizens and Steamboat shoppers would like to ride during non-commuter hours - and that many people would enjoy late-night rides rather than driving back to South Routt after a night on the town.
"You need some flexibility in the routes and how often," Yampa Town Board member Karen Tussey said. "It needs to be more continuous during the day, so housewives and people with children can get into town to do things separate from the commuter traffic, and so elderly people can get to their doctor appointments."
Additional public meetings will be held as the study progresses, to share findings and proposals and reassess them based on public comment, Kosman said.