South Routt transit gets red light

Vanpool proposal lacks start-up funds

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— A proposed commuter vanpool between Steamboat Springs and South Routt County is stuck in a holding pattern, unable to garner sufficient funds to get rolling.

Last year, members of the South Routt Transit Working Group were optimistic that a workable funding solution could be found, combining subscription-based rider fares with local and state grants and funding sources. The first phase of the proposed vanpool project was scheduled to start ferrying riders late this year.

But with the economic slowdown, Routt County officials are showing the project a red light. To apply for operational funds from the Federal Transit Authority's next 5311 grant cycle in June, the county needs to pitch in with an $11,000 subsidy, Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said.

But the county commissioners are "very concerned" about contributing even that amount, given Routt County's tenuous financial situation, Mitsch Bush said. Searches for private money and non-matching grants funds for the vanpool start-up - estimated at $44,400 for the first year - have been unsuccessful, though transit funds from the federal stimulus package still could be a possibility, she said.

"It's very feasible in terms of money; we just need to get it," Mitsch Bush said.

The South Routt Transit Needs and Feasibility Study, which began in 2007, ultimately recommended the vanpool service as a feasible and cost-effective transit solution for South Routt. The study's final report, released late last year, recommended two initial vanpools - one originating in Stagecoach and traveling along Routt County Road 14 and the other originating in Yampa and heading through Phippsburg and Oak Creek on Colorado Highway 131 en route to Steamboat Springs.

Although the study has fallen short on the results side, working group member Janet Fischer said she hopes the information still could be useful in the future. Regional vanpools have been identified as a focus area for the Transportation Solutions Committee, though its focus is countywide and not South Routt in particular, and the findings could play into future work by a regional transportation authority, Fischer said.

According to the South Routt Transit Needs and Feasibility Study, half of South Routt residents commute to Steamboat Springs for work.

In a phone survey conducted in spring 2008, 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 five times a week, and 37 percent expected they would use transit two to four days a week.

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