Like Steamboat, Summit County facing transit budget woes

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— The city of Steamboat Springs isn’t the only ski community in Colorado struggling with its free-to-rider transit budget this fall. The Summit Daily reported Monday that Summit County is facing a transit budget shortfall for 2013 despite a countywide transit sales tax of 0.75 percent that raised $7.2 million in 2011 and was up 3.1 percent through August 2012.

The Summit Daily report attributes the budget shortfall for Summit Stage in part to the high cost of fuel but also because of personnel costs and unexpected repairs to an aging fleet of buses. Like Steamboat Springs Transit, Summit Stage does not collect fares from bus riders, many of whom are ski vacationers.

The 2013 budget draft originally presented by city staff to the Steamboat Springs City Council anticipated cuts of $350,000 to the transit budget, including a reduced summer schedule and the elimination of the Yellow Line, which runs from neighborhoods in the vicinity of Fish Creek Falls Road through downtown to Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus. However, the Yellow Line service was restored by City Council, which heard citizen protests over the cuts. The city is counting on general sales tax growth next year to offset the cost.

Unlike Summit County, the city of Steamboat does not have a tax dedicated to its bus system.

Comparisons between the two systems are more complex than that. The Summit Stage carried 1.75 million passengers in 2011, according to the transit operation’s Web page, and Steamboat Springs Transit carried 1.05 million. However, Summit Stage serves more towns and ski areas, including Breckenridge, Dillon, Frisco, Montezuma, Silverthorne, Keystone and Copper Mountain.

The SST’s only regular service outside the city is a commuter route to Craig.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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