The number of Moffat County residents using the Steamboat Springs Transit to get to Steamboat continues to increase year over year.

Photo by Erin Fenner

The number of Moffat County residents using the Steamboat Springs Transit to get to Steamboat continues to increase year over year.

More Craig commuters board the bus to get to Steamboat

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Connie Preston used to drive her vehicle from Craig to Steamboat Springs five days per week for 15 years to get to work. The trip wasn’t always easy.

The cost of gas, oil, snow tires and basic maintenance was tough on her budget. And winter driving with traffic was a headache.

About six months ago, that changed when Preston no longer had the use of her car, forcing her to take the regional bus service that makes two one-way trips to and from Craig and Steamboat Springs each weekday morning and evening.

She loves it.

“I am so grateful I have the bus to ride,” Preston said.

Preston is one of many Yampa Valley residents who recently decided to start utilizing the Steamboat Springs Transit. Since 2010, the number of people using the bus to get to and from Steamboat has been steadily increasing, according to a report of regional ridership numbers released by Steamboat Springs Transit. Ridership has gone up by nearly 10 percent each year in the past four years.

As of September 2012, the report noted there had been about 18,600 riders, and that number jumped to 20,700 riders by September of this year.

Yet the numbers haven’t touched the previous spike that occurred just before the recession took a toll on the Yampa Valley.

In 2008, Steamboat Springs Transit, saw nearly 38,000 regional riders. But that number took a sharp dive as people lost jobs that necessitated the commute. In 2009, roughly 26,000 people took the bus, and that dropped significantly again in 2010. However, Jonathan Flint, transit manager for Steamboat Springs Transit, is confident the numbers will continue to be promising.

“Since (2010) we’ve seen a steady growth and it’s growing even more this year,” Flint said.

Riding the bus has been a thrifty choice for Preston.

“I was probably spending $68 to $80 a week on my car (on gas) and that’s not counting oil and tires,” she said.

She now spends just about $40 per week on her bus pass and gets a more comfortable ride overall.

On average, commuters can save roughly $10,000 per year on gas money by using the bus Flint said.

A $40 bus pass offers 10 rides for a commuter and isn’t limited to one week.

“There is no expiration date on a pass,” Flint said.

But affordability isn’t the only reason people choose to ride instead of drive.

“It’s very pleasant. I can sleep all the way through. I play music. People are friendly,” Preston said.

Part of the growth in ridership has to do with the recovering economy, but the type of people who use the bus also are becoming more diverse, he said.

“People were very much transit dependent who rode the bus,” he said. “What we’re seeing now is it is much more a transit choice.”

Commuters who have cars still are choosing to take the bus. If given the option, Preston said she wouldn’t make the drive anymore.

“I would rather ride the bus than drive. Now that I’ve experienced it,” she said.

Colleen Wilkonson lives in Craig but works at the Colorado Workforce Center in Steamboat Springs and started using the bus in 2010.

“It was so expensive and hard on my car to drive every day,” she said.

For her, the weather was a pretty strong factor as well. Winters would be too brutal of a time to drive, she said.

“If I didn’t have that bus, I wouldn’t have a job,” she said. “I totally feel safer in that bus than I do in my own car.”

Even one of the bus drivers, Darrin Bevel, agreed. He said he felt safer driving the bus.

“I’d much rather drive the bus than my car,” he said. “Our maintenance staff here does a really good job. They keep decent tires on it year round. I’ve never had to throw chains on it.”

Flint said he expects the numbers of riders will continue to rise as the economy gets better.

“It’s the canary in the mine letting us know the economy is coming back,” he said.

Erin Fenner can be reached at 970-875-1794 or efenner@CraigDailyPress.com.

Comments

John Fielding 5 months, 3 weeks ago

There is no doubt that at $4.00 a pass is a good buy.

But I have to review the math for Flint's figure of $10,000/year on gas savings. Lets see,

divide by 50 weeks of commuting = $200/week

divide by 5 days/week = $40/day

divide by 2 trips/day =$20 each way

divide by 50 miles = $0.40/mile

divide into $4.00/gallon = 10/mpg

Now I have used high gas prices and longer distances than I actually experience, but it sounds like this figure is about twice what my old pickup costs in gas for the trip, closer to what it costs to fuel a bus. The Cummings Diesel 40' RV I drove this summer, close to the size of that bus in the picture, got better than 7 mpg average, more like 10 on the highway. Maybe the figure actually includes repairs, tires, insurance and so on, there is where $0.40/mile could come in.

And if the pass is $4.00 each way, that is $8.00/day, $40./week, $2000/year, so saving $10,000 would mean your cost would have been $12,000. Now that would fuel a bus!

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Scott Wedel 5 months, 3 weeks ago

John,

Yeah, I think article was supposed to say "savings including gas". As you show, that would be about $.40 per mile which is excessive for gas, but reasonable when it includes repairs, maintenance and vehicle wear and teat.

Bus trips would also appear to be a good economic statistic indicator of workforce housing availability. It is reasonable to figure that many would live closer if they could.

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mark hartless 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Many would live in 5,000 sq ft homes on the ski mtn if they could. So what?? Doesn't mean the rest of us are in any way obligated to make that possible.

This person has been commuting from Craig through some up and down economic times. Please don't get back on this affordable housing kick-she has housing that has worked for many years and she now has even more affordable transit options. Can't you just let it go at that instead of having to "fix" every perceivable challenge any human being on earth faces?

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Scott Wedel 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Mark,

I am not suggesting that the various local attempts at government affordable housing programs were of any benefit. I think SB government was particularly ineffective by trying to create a handful of units within SB city limits.

I recall that in 2007/8 that it was not only workers whom were complaining about having troubles finding housing, but employers were having troubles finding employees.

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Mark Ruckman 5 months, 2 weeks ago

IRS mileage rate = .565 (gas, maint, wear & tear, etc) Steamboat to Craig ~ 40 miles x 2 commute 43 weeks of the year = $10K

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John Fielding 5 months, 2 weeks ago

It depends on what you mean by fix the challenge Mark. If we can remove restrictions that add significant expense to building or improving housing stock, we certainly should.

One example is the requirement that duplexes not be "mirror image", nor have the appearance of being a multiplex, but rather to look like a large single family home. This requires a new design for each, raising the cost.

Another is when one does convert a large single family home into smaller units, there are additional per fixture tap fees that can add up to the single largest line item in the renovation. In many cases there is no additional demand for water or sewer capacity, the justification for the fees. Another example is that as the kids grow into adolescence and bathroom time becomes a premium, a family might want to add a second one. No one will shower or flush more often because they have a choice of two locations. But one might consider moving to Hayden instead of investing in renovations.

Zoning regulations are probably where high land prices can best be addressed. But there is an anti-development mindset that fears we will lose our quality of life if many multiplex units, or worse still, mobile home parks are allowed in town. Just not pretty.

So yes, lets fix it. Lets empanel a commission of housing professionals to review the code and identify those regulations that artificially inflate the price of modest housing. Then lets revise them.

If any restriction (or exemption from restriction) is to apply in the name of affordable worker housing, let it be that the property be occupied by residents. On my little block of ten houses, two are almost always vacant vacation homes and three are often occupied by temporary residents in roommate arrangements.

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mark hartless 5 months, 2 weeks ago

But the restrictions are never (or seldom) removed. Instead, more regulations and more controls are put in place.

Open space, preservation easements, overly agressive building codes are also factors that drive up housing costs.

Taxes and fees such as the ridiculous costs of tap and availability fees are a large obstacle.

However, the reality is that even if we removed all these things prices of housing in a world-class ski town should be expected to be comparatively higher than Craig or Hayden. This is completely natural. Trying to "fix" that problem is like trying to "fix" the "problem" or "challenge" of a melting snowpack in May..

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Scott Wedel 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Trying to defy basic economic forces is not easy. SB, as a resort area, should be expected to have higher housing prices. Any affordable housing program within SB city limits has to bridge a huge gap between the affordable price and the market price. Which is why the efforts in 2007/8 failed so miserably by trying to create units within SB.

The economics of housing near SB is generally allows building affordable housing for the SB workforce. So SB could work with nearby communities to help create more housing units. SB could use their money to modestly subsidize the construction of housing in Hayden, Oak Creek or Stagecoach. And SB could its money for a more aggressive ride sharing program.

Last time when SB felt the need to do something, they argued that a lack of affordable housing was hindering SB's economic growth. Well, if that is actually true then spending $20K to subsidize an affordable workforce housing unit is a good deal for SB.

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mark hartless 5 months, 2 weeks ago

What you and others MISS, Scott, is that the "market price" IS the "affordable price".

The issue is that it's not "affordable" for everyone and that;s your stumbling block.

The American people's defective sense of egalatarianism infests their ability to think logically. Prime Rib, Caviar, Ferrari's and Bruno Magli's are not "affordable" for everyone either. Why not subsidize them?

Your answer will be that people don't "need" those things but they do need housing.

My response would be that housing isn't what's expensive; what's expensive is housing LOCATED IN A WROLD-CLASS SKI TOWN that's expensive. Less expensive housing IS available, just like less expensive cars, shoes and food is available.

Steamboat housing IS affordable for those who belong in Steamboat... ditto for the Ferrarri.

What you folks want is to give cheap housing to your labor force so that some of YOU who don't belong in Steamboast either can afford to have someone else cut your grass, etc. Like those who can't afford housing perhapr you should move to Craig and c ut your own grass too???

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