New bus driver Rick Dewhirst listens as safety and training supervisor Donn Fowler explains the buttons, switches and other instruments on the dashboard of a city bus. Dewhirst is one of several new drivers hired by the city to drive buses this winter.

Photo by John F. Russell

New bus driver Rick Dewhirst listens as safety and training supervisor Donn Fowler explains the buttons, switches and other instruments on the dashboard of a city bus. Dewhirst is one of several new drivers hired by the city to drive buses this winter.

Steamboat Springs Transit drivers gear up for winter

SST training crews, expects stable numbers

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By the numbers

Steamboat Springs Transit ridership

Season / Total riders / Percent change

Winter 2008-09 / 816,459 / n/a

Winter 2009-10 / 684,894 / - 16

Summer 2009 / 336,168 / n/a

Summer 2010 / 294,896 / - 12

Get on the bus

View or download city bus schedules on the Web through the “SST Bus services” link at www.steamboatsprings.net. For more information, call transit offices at 970-879-3717.

— Things are looking up for Steamboat Springs Transit as the busy winter season approaches.

The city bus service has three hybrid buses in its fleet — two were added in August — and is driving on a newly resurfaced Lincoln Avenue with longer bus stops that are downstream of traffic lights. Those bus stops have riled some downtown business owners who decry the loss of parking spaces, but they’re winning praise from transit staff.

Steamboat Springs Public Works Director Philo Shelton said the city’s new bus shelters will be installed next week, and a $65,000 federal grant will enable SST to keep its Yellow Line in the budget and operational for 2011.

The shelters will be placed on both sides of Lincoln Avenue near intersections with downtown’s odd-numbered streets, from Third to 11th, except for the location in front of Riggio’s Ristorante near 11th Street. That building’s design prohibits installation of a bus shelter.

The Yellow Line provides service between Colorado Moun­tain College and the Hilltop Parkway area. Shelton said the grant is through the Federal Transit Administration’s Job Access and Reverse Commute Program, for which the city qualified because of the Yellow Line’s service to CMC. The city is matching the grant funds.

Training began this week for about 10 new SST drivers.

“We are just doing local hire, and we’re able to get everybody hired here locally,” transit operations manager Jonathan Flint said. “We’re setting up the service to carry approximately the same number of passengers that we carried last winter.”

City buses carried nearly 685,000 passengers last winter, Flint said, which was down about 16 percent from the winter of 2008-09. But he said rider numbers seem to be stabilizing and he’ll have 40 drivers on staff for this winter. That number is on par with recent years, even before the recession.

Shelton told Steamboat Spri­ngs City Council this mon­th that the city’s tightened budget shouldn’t affect SST service.

“We’re able to maintain the current level of transportation services next year that we have in this year’s budget,” he said.

City Council also discussed whether to extend bus service to 2:20 a.m. during the winter, rather than the typical 1 a.m. cut-off, to help the bar crowd get home safely and mitigate noise disputes between downtown businesses and homeowners.

Shelton said extending service in the winter would cost about $58,000. Doing so in the summer, he said, would cost more than $200,000 because summer bus service ends at 10:30 p.m.

Council members asked for more information related to extended winter service, including DUI arrests by hour and the potential for financial contributions from business owners and lodging groups that could benefit from longer bus hours. The conversation could continue at City Council’s next meeting, Tuesday in Centennial Hall.

SST’s winter service starts the weekend of Nov. 20 and 21 in preparation for the Nov. 24 opening of Steamboat Ski Area.

On Wednesday, Fairview resident Rick Dewhirst began his first day of training as a new driver for SST. Dewhirst said he’d been laid off from a surveying job and was out of work for about 18 months at one point. He said the job with SST will enable him to earn a Class B driver’s license for large vehicles. It’s his first time working for the city since moving to Steamboat in 1982.

He said he had some experience with driving buses in a previous job with ResortQuest Steamboat.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Dewhirst said about the winter season. “It’s always interesting working with the tourists.”

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

Michael Iadaresta 3 years, 9 months ago

My wife and I enjoyed the transit system last ski season. The drivers were all great. Thanks to all the employees and see you soon.

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