Stacy Hayes leaves work at the Routt County Justice Center on the west side of Steamboat Springs to pick up fellow South Routt commuters for the trip to Oak Creek.

Photo by Tom Ross

Stacy Hayes leaves work at the Routt County Justice Center on the west side of Steamboat Springs to pick up fellow South Routt commuters for the trip to Oak Creek.

South Routt van pool riders a loyal group

Fledgling commuter program, though small, proves effective

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To sign up

Sign up for the South Routt Van Pool by calling Debbie Asbacher at 623-300-5426 or 602-300-0811.

— Stacy Hayes is entitled to a free roundtrip to and from work every day. But she prefers to share the benefit among her friends on the commuter van.

Hayes is a probation officer who lives outside Phippsburg and works on the west side of Steamboat Springs. She also is the designated driver for the Routt County Van Pool that delivers commuters daily from South Routt to Steamboat and back. Her only compensation is a waiver of the $6 daily van pool fee. But she’d rather share with her commuting friends.

“We spread it around and that way it drops the cost $20 per month for everyone,” Hayes said. “Everyone shares the chores. They could all drive if they filled out the forms. I just happen to work on the west side of Steamboat, so it makes sense for me to be the driver (and pick everyone else up on the way back through town).”

Through the winter, as many as 12 passengers rode in one of two subsidized vans. The first made a morning run from Steamboat to Oak Creek, and the second came in the opposite direction.

The fledgling commuter van is in the midst of its second month of existence and is funded with a $25,000 federal grant spread throughout two years. The program was pursued by Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush.

The county’s $25,000 grant match got a boost locally through a $13,000 grant from the Trappers Lake Chapter of the Sierra Club and will be further reduced by rider fares, Mitsch Bush said.

The commissioners would like to see ridership increase on the two 12-passenger vans owned and operated under the auspices of a national company, VPSI International. However, they know the end of the school year offers some challenges in that regard.

The original expectation was that there would be two round­trips to Steamboat late this winter, one from Oak Creek and another from Stagecoach. There was interest from Stagecoach, but not enough to justify the van. In its place, the organizers found there were six teachers interested in making the trip each morning from Steamboat to South Routt.

“We’ve had some interest from Stage­coach, and we’ve said we would run the van initially for as few as three passengers, but we need some more,” Com­mission Chair­­wo­­man Nan­cy Staho­viak said.

Barb Bond, who supervises the county’s Motor Vehicle Depart­ment, drives her Ford F-150 pickup three mornings a week from Phippsburg to Oak Creek and leaves it in the Town Hall parking lot before meeting the commuter van at the Mug Shot. She likes the freedom of having her own vehicle the other two days of the week.

“Three days, for me, works pretty good,” Bond said. “I come out slightly ahead on gas costs, but saving the wear and tear on the truck is huge. And I’m being a little green.”

Hayes, who works for the state of Colorado, said the six people who ride to Steamboat in the mornings work well together on scheduling and taking turns using the van to do errands in Steamboat. Flexi­bility is the key, she said.

“People don’t have to ride every day. They can buy 10 trips and use them when they want to,” Hayes said. “If someone needs to do errands, they can just take the van to where they work that day. We just communicate.”

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