A passenger gets off the Yellow Line at the Seventh Street stop Wednesday afternoon. A group met Wednesday to talk about short- and long-term solutions to fund the free bus route, but its future still is in flux.

Photo by John F. Russell

A passenger gets off the Yellow Line at the Seventh Street stop Wednesday afternoon. A group met Wednesday to talk about short- and long-term solutions to fund the free bus route, but its future still is in flux.

Group meets to discuss future of Steamboat Springs Transit Yellow Line bus route

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— If you’re invested in the Steamboat Springs Transit Yellow Line, now is not the time to relax.

Although buses are running twice per hour this year, the future of the Yellow Line still very much is in flux.

The outpouring of public support the route saw after it was threatened by budget cuts gave it some breathing room, but now, the work continues.

A group of stakeholders and interested parties met Wednesday afternoon at Colorado Mountain College’s Alpine Campus, the students of which are a major user of the route, to discuss the state of the Yellow Line and what’s in store for it going forward.

“Transit is a core resource, but it’s also a service that faces constraints,” Steamboat Springs Public Works Director Chuck Anderson said.

The changes made this season to the Yellow Line — adding an extra stop per hour, using a hybrid bus and changing the way on-call stops are scheduled — have worked to increase ridership on the route by about 61 percent this winter, Steamboat Springs Transit Operations Manager Jonathan Flint said.

That ridership increase has, in turn, decreased the per-rider cost, which was significantly higher than other Steamboat Springs Transit lines.

"It’s a very reliable, good experience,” Flint said, adding it is the goal to keep the current schedule consistent year-round.

But the Steamboat Springs Transit budget trimming that first sparked the furor about the Yellow Line isn’t a thing of the past. The city receives a Job Access and Reverse Commute program matching grant for about $75,000, Flint said. Including the city’s matching funds, about $75,000 per year still needs to be found to continue the line for the next two years of the grant. After that, the discussion becomes even more open ended. In the past, CMC contributed funds to the operation of the Yellow Line.

When the Steamboat Springs City Council voted to keep the Yellow Line, council member Sonja Macys said, a commitment was made to find a long-term solution for the route.

Wednesday’s conversation cast a wide net, including gripes about the way the costs of lines are measured that may disadvantage the Yellow Line, potential revenue from paid downtown parking and the future of a dedicated sales tax that benefits only air travel.

Lexi Miller, a CMC student who organized a group to support the Yellow Line, said a ridership drive is being organized to educate residents along the route and hopefully increase the number of people who use it.

Macys said she’s encouraged the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association to reform its transportation-focused committee.

“This is not the end of targeting programs” for budget cuts, Macys said. She said those interested in keeping the Yellow Line around need to have a plan for the next budget cycle and work toward a future beyond the two-year grant period.

“We need to get everyone at the table,” Macys said.

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com

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