A bus moves along Lincoln Avenue in Steamboat Springs on Wednesday afternoon. Saved from budget cuts in autumn 2012, the Steamboat Springs Transit Yellow Line grew passenger numbers by 62 percent during the ski season.

Photo by John F. Russell

A bus moves along Lincoln Avenue in Steamboat Springs on Wednesday afternoon. Saved from budget cuts in autumn 2012, the Steamboat Springs Transit Yellow Line grew passenger numbers by 62 percent during the ski season.

Public responds to rescued Steamboat Springs Transit line; ski season ridership up 62 percent

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By the numbers

Winter 2012-13

Yellow Line: 16,399

Total: 661,529

Winter 2011-12

Yellow Line: 10,126

Total: 594,637

— The city of Steamboat Springs’ decision to save the Yellow Line from budget cuts in October has paid off with a 62 percent ski season increase on the bus route that links Colorado Mountain College and the Hilltop residential neighborhood with downtown.

Steamboat Springs Transit Operations Manager Jonathan Flint said the Yellow Line carried 16,399 passengers during the winter compared with the 10,126 who rode the relatively short bus line in winter 2011-12.

“That’s 6,273 more people, which is outstanding,” Flint said. “It was a really successful story in that we were given the mandate to make this thing successful. This was really a community collaboration. There was a lot of work put in by community members, especially up at the college, but also day cares and concerned citizens who worked together to improve this route to meet people's needs.”

The city was considering chopping the Yellow Line from its free-to-rider bus service in the fall in order to shave $350,000 from its 2013 budget (the actual cost for the city to operate the Yellow Line the year before was $289,179), but after residents protested the cuts, the Steamboat Springs City Council decided it would balance its budget by increasing revenue projections and gave city staff until Jan. 1 to make the service run more efficiently than the previous year’s $10.07 subsidy per passenger.

Flint said the increased ridership on the Yellow Line was realized in the context of the overall winter program, which saw 661,529 people ride Steamboat Springs Transit buses during the winter compared with 594,637 in winter 2011-12.

Flint has observed a correlation between big snow days and blips in ridership that can translate into more frequent mass transit use throughout time.

“I’ve got a rule I call the eight-minute rule,” he said. “If it is going to take a customer eight minutes or less to wait for the bus versus eight minutes to clean the snow off their car, start it and warm it up before they can travel, they will just go ahead and take the bus. Sometimes, that will turn somebody to transit.”

In the case of the Yellow Line, Flint said he and his staff listened to the suggestions of Hilltop residents and CMC students about what schedule changes would better meet their needs. The result was a bus schedule that varied for each neighborhood. Two buses were timed to arrive at the CMC campus just before classes typically began and right after they let out, with one service interval of 20 minutes and another of 40 minutes. That was intended to allow students and faculty to make a quick trip downtown to run errands or a slightly longer trip to grab a quick meal. For Hilltop residents, service was timed to fit their commutes to and from work and school.

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

2013 summer bus schedule

Steamboat Springs summer bus schedule

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