A vehicle leaves Oak Creek and heads toward Steamboat Springs via Colorado Highway 131 on Friday. About half of South Routt residents commute to Steamboat for work, according to the South Routt Transit Needs and Feasibility Study. The South Routt Transit Working Group will convene Tuesday to discuss alternative transportation options for South Routt.

Photo by Matt Stensland

A vehicle leaves Oak Creek and heads toward Steamboat Springs via Colorado Highway 131 on Friday. About half of South Routt residents commute to Steamboat for work, according to the South Routt Transit Needs and Feasibility Study. The South Routt Transit Working Group will convene Tuesday to discuss alternative transportation options for South Routt.

Study suggests vanpool transit

South Routt team to discuss draft report's recommendation for 2-route service

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— Given the logistical and ridership constraints involved in developing transit between Steamboat Springs and South Routt County, the subscription-based commuter vanpool has been identified as the preferred service plan by the ongoing South Routt Transit Needs and Feasibility Study.

Ideal implementation would be two vanpools, one originating in Stagecoach and traveling along Routt County Road 14, and the other beginning in Yampa and heading to Oak Creek on Colorado Highway 131 before heading to Steamboat Springs, according to the most recent draft report from Colorado Springs-based LSC Transportation Consultants.

The South Routt Transit Working Group will convene Tuesday to discuss details of the options laid out in the most recent draft report, working group member Paula Golden said.

LSC's initial proposal includes leasing vans through a private company or partnering with an existing vanpool or transit provider in the area, rather than purchasing vehicles outright - at least, until demand proves purchasing to be a worthwhile venture.

The two-route service plan would cost an estimated $44,400 to operate in 2009, according to the draft report. LSC's fare recommendation is $4 to $6 per rider.

After its discussions, the working group will send its recommendations back to the project's consultants for a final report that will be presented to the public later this fall, said Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush, program manager for the transit study.

Members of the working group include representatives from Oak Creek, Yampa and the Stagecoach and Phippsburg communities, as well as large Steamboat employers, including Yampa Valley Medical Center, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. and TIC. Other members of the working group include stakeholders and transportation providers ranging from Alpine Taxi to Colorado's 14th Judicial District and the Routt County Council on Aging.

In a phone survey conducted in spring, 43 percent of respondents indicated they were very likely to use transit for trips between Steamboat Springs and their homes in South Routt. A quarter of them hoped to hitch a ride at least fives times a week, and 37 percent expected they would use transit two to four days a week.

The study estimates that half of South Routt residents commute to Steamboat for work.

Although excitement about the project has been high since the kick-off meeting in March, the study's arrival at a conclusion about the most feasible and practical options for South Routt will not necessarily be a green light for transit service. Developing a funding system is "one of the principal challenges facing any transit service," according to the draft report.

Members of the working group have been optimistic that a workable solution to paying for transit can be found by combining rider fares with local and state grants and funding sources.

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