By the numbers
Steamboat Springs Transit passenger data:
Total riders, 2009: 1,175,237
Total riders, 2010: 1,050,324
Percent change: -11
Winter riders, 2010-11 season: 697,379
Winter riders, 2009-10 season: 684,894
Percent change: +2
Nighttime riders, 2010-11 season: 86,720
Nighttime riders, 2009-10 season: 79,730
Percent change: +9
*Nighttime rider totals start from Dec. 16 to the end of ski season, counting riders on buses from 8 p.m. until service stops. The final bus left downtown at 1 a.m. nightly during the 2009-10 winter and at 2:20 a.m. during the 2010-11 winter, which featured the city’s new late-night service.
The good ol’ days
Winter riders, 2007-08 season: 802,443
Winter riders, 2006-07 season: 754,882
Source: Steamboat Springs Transit
Steamboat Springs Just like that, it’s summer in Steamboat Springs.
Steamboat Springs Transit promptly switched to its summer bus schedule Monday, one day after Sunday’s end to the 2010-11 ski season. The summer transit schedule is effective until the beginning of the 2011-12 ski season in November.
Transit operations manager Jonathan Flint said the most noticeable changes for riders include the end of late-night bus service and a decrease this year in weekend buses to and from Craig.
The city’s free buses saw increased rider numbers this winter compared to the 2009-10 season, both in total riders and in the nighttime hours supported by the late-night service the city implemented Dec. 16.
“It was definitely a strong year for us,” Flint said. “Seeing an increase is something that we were very pleased to do.”
Flint said city buses carried a total of 697,379 riders this winter. That’s an increase of about 2 percent from the 684,894 winter riders in 2009-10, but it’s about 13 percent less than the 802,443 riders who boarded a city bus in the winter of 2007-08.
Not only did that winter fall before the full impacts of the economic recession, it also saw a record 489 inches of snow at Steamboat Ski Area.
Like flow levels at the city’s wastewater treatment plant, bus ridership can be an indicator of tourism and local economic activity. But Flint said it’s hard to draw a direct line from rider numbers to tourism because of other factors, such as the cost of gas, that influence people’s transit habits.
The cost of gas also could influence whether the city reinstates the late-night bus service next winter.
“We’ll have to do a thorough financial analysis,” City Manager Jon Roberts said Monday about that decision, citing gas prices as a factor.
The city offered expanded late-night bus service from downtown to the mountain area from Dec. 16 through Sunday. The final bus through downtown ran at about 2:20 a.m. nightly. Last winter, the city’s last bus left the Transit Center at 1 a.m. nightly.
Flint said nighttime riders increased to 86,720 this winter, compared to 79,730 in the winter of 2009-10. That’s about a 9 percent increase, but it includes all riders from 8 p.m. until the end of service, not just the late-night riders.
The city spent $45,000 for the expanded service, allocating mineral lease and severance tax dollars in 2010 and 2011. The service was part of efforts to mitigate nighttime noise conflicts between bar owners and residents downtown, while also reducing the number of drunk drivers.
“It’s a very safe, great alternative for preventing drunk driving,” Steamboat Springs Police Capt. Joel Rae said. “It’s just purely a budgetary situation, I think, why we can’t continue that in the summer.”
Rae said his staff is preparing specific data to examine whether late-night bus service affected numbers of local DUI arrests.
While gas prices could influence whether the late-night service returns, they also could influence transit use — Flint recalled summer 2008, when gas prices approached $4 a gallon in some locations.
“We saw some of our highest ridership numbers that summer,” Flint said. “I’m anticipating it being another high ridership (season) for us this summer.”
Summer bus schedules are available through the city’s newly revamped website at www.steam
boatsprings.net. Click the “SST Bus Service” link in the “Quicklinks” menu.
The last bus through downtown Steamboat now leaves the Stock Bridge Transit Center at 10:40 p.m. nightly. It will arrive at Seventh Street and Lincoln Avenue, for example, at about 10:44 p.m.
Flint said SST is offering just two weekend buses — one round-trip Saturday and one round-trip Sunday — to and from Craig in summer. Each weekend bus will leave Craig at about 6:50 a.m., he said, and leave Steamboat for the return trip at about 4:50 p.m.
“That’s in response to low ridership that we saw last summer on the weekend regional,” Flint said.
To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or email mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com