Friday, February 15, 2013
Anyone who has ever paid sales tax in Steamboat Springs has paid their share for the bus service. The majority of the funds for our local transit system come from sales tax. The problem is not that someone else needs to pay for the bus. The problem is that there is no dedicated bus fund for transit to pull money out of each year. Steamboat springs City Council takes funds for the bus out of a general fund, leaving an unpredicted amount of money for transit services each year. If transit had a dedicated fund for the bus, it could plan for the future to make the Yellow Line more efficient.
According to Steamboat Springs Transit (SST), it takes up to three years to establish a route and gain ridership on any given bus route. Since its beginning in the late 1970s, the Yellow Line has changed its route and schedule nearly every year to try to provide a higher level of service and accommodate more riders. In addition to keeping a set route that riders can begin to know and trust, a dedicated fund for the Yellow Line as part of the SST services would give the Yellow Line a chance at gaining ridership.
A lot of talk surrounds Colorado Mountain College and its contributions to the Yellow Line. Colorado Mountain College should not feel forced to be partners with SST. The money that goes to the college should be used for education. The only reason CMC gave any money to the Yellow Line was because it was in the construction budget for the new building and during construction parking on campus was limited. The new building will bring in more students to the campus and to town. Students will spend up to $5,000 in Steamboat Springs per year, paying more than their share of sales tax (the main source of funding for the bus service). Also, CMC students are not the only people using the bus.
The Yellow Line never will compare to ridership on the Red or Blue lines and we should stop singling it out as a weak link. Riders from the Yellow Line connect to other bus routes in the system — for example, they take the Yellow Line to meet up with the Red Line to get to the mountain or to shop in town. More people need to be aware of how it runs and how to connect to other buses. Once we start seeing the Yellow Line as a part of a bus system, we can find ways to make it more efficient.
If you believe in free transportation and this amazing gift that the city gives us, then ride the bus. More than 600 signatures were turned in to City Council on Oct. 2 to keep the Yellow Line; I would love to see all of those people ride the bus, just once a month. Riding the bus is what needs to happen in order for SST to become a more efficient system.
I’m urging people to talk to others about the bus, to tell them how it works and that it’s easy to use. That’s what is in the works for February 2013 — a ridership campaign through Students for Sustainability at CMC to tell people about the bus and explain how it works. We hope to get people to ride the bus, even if it is just once per month. As always, riding the bus helps save on gas, cuts down on carbon emissions, and you never have to find a parking spot. There are many perks to riding the bus, let’s show more locals how to get the most out of this extraordinary free bus system.