A city bus rolls down Lincoln Avenue after picking up a number of riders at a nearby stop. Some Steamboat Springs businesses are hoping to see the city extend bus hours in the summer.

Photo by John F. Russell

A city bus rolls down Lincoln Avenue after picking up a number of riders at a nearby stop. Some Steamboat Springs businesses are hoping to see the city extend bus hours in the summer.

Steamboat businesses want late-night bus service

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— Snow Bowl owner Dewey Whitecotton said Steamboat Springs Transit’s extended winter hours increased his business more than 50 percent on some nights. He said the scaled-back summer service has done the opposite.

Instead of his customers catching a bus from the bowling alley on Steamboat’s west side until after 2 a.m., they’re forced to head home sooner. The last summer bus leaves the bowling alley at 10:24 p.m.

Whitecotton has met with city officials about having the bus service extended year-round.

“It’s good for business, and it’s good for the community, I feel,” he said. “It’s good for my staff, too. I have a couple employees who don’t drive.”

Whitecotton said the city has been receptive but has told him that extended summer service hours wouldn’t start until next year at the earliest.

Transit Operations Manager Jonathan Flint said because the city employs half as many drivers during the summer as the winter it would take too long and be too expensive to find and train new drivers this summer. He said it takes three to four weeks to get them through training.

But Flint has prepared an estimate to extend bus service year-round, which would cost an additional $250,000 annually for the buses to run from 6 a.m. to past 2 a.m.

Based on what the city saw this winter, Flint said there was a demand for the extended service. He said late-night ridership increased 6 percent from the 2009-10 winter, and the cost per passenger decreased about 10 percent.

“It sometimes takes time for people to become familiar with this as a great option,” Flint said. “The fact that the cost per passenger kept going down led me to believe that was true.”

He said the winter season, which begins in mid-December, was again scheduled to have extended hours.

It hasn’t been determined whether there is funding in the 2012 budget for an additional expense, Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said. She said the budget process has just started.

DuBord said City Manager Jon Roberts would review department budgets this month and next month before preparing a draft in September. She said the draft would be presented during Steamboat Springs City Council hearings in October.

After three consecutive years of budget cuts, DuBord said extending the bus service would be a substantial cost increase.

“This is one of many requests we’ll have for 2012,” she said. “We’ll put them together with revenue projections and present them to City Council.”

Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett said downtown bars and entertainment venues also have expressed interest in having the bus hours extended. She said extended bus service helps Go Alpine get people out of downtown, limiting noise and providing a safe alternative form of transportation.

“We want a vibrant downtown, but it causes conflict if (people) are waiting around for a ride,” Barnett said. “And we want to help them. We don’t want them to drive if they’ve had too much to drink.”

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

addlip2U 3 years, 5 months ago

The city has the buses and customers.
What a novelty to have the customers pay for the service and convenience.

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cait holmes 3 years, 5 months ago

this is why I don't go downtown to the bars anymore cuz I live on the mountain and the last downtown bus is at 10:45, thats practically when I would be getting down there. Or I can always drive and get a DUI that sounds like a great idea...

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rhys jones 3 years, 5 months ago

There are times in the summer, I will walk the two miles home, rather than drop $10 on a cab. There are many more times I make sure I'm on the 11:37, last bus west. And still other nights I just don't bother.

When I worked as a night auditor and front desk agent, the buses were of no use, in the summer. They stopped running either an hour before I had to be at work, or an hour after I got off. Either way, I was riding my Trek both ways, Sleepy Bear to the mountain, rain or just dark. Having encountered bears on the bike trail before, I just stuck to friendly lighted Lincoln after dark.

These days, being driver's-license-challenged and not really caring, I won't even consider a job which entails a late-night commute.

So I'm neither spending money, nor making it, past 11:30 or so. One more reason I hope to make a splash with this computer, soon. They just roll the sidewalks up around here. It you need to get around after 11:30, better have cash.

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rhys jones 3 years, 3 months ago

The Hillbilly Hellcats are a fun band, and they are playing at the Tugboat tonight. Unfortunately I am going to miss that show. Since they start at 9:30-ish, by the last bus, before 11:30, I would just be starting to enjoy myself, would likely miss that bus. Then by closing time, the cab home to the west side would run me $15 or more. I can't justify that on my extremely limited budget. So I think I'll just save my money altogether, stay home and play with my computer.

If there was a late-night bus, even only hourly, and even just on weekends, the Tugboat might have gotten some of my money tonight. Probably a good thing; it goes farther at RMR anyway.

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