Our View: Upwardly mobile


More and more readers of the Steamboat Pilot & Today are migrating to mobile devices every month, so for us, the news this week that Steamboat Springs Transit soon will place tablets on every city bus to allow precise tracking by cellphone is a logical next step.

Steamboat Today editorial board — January to April 2014

  • Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
  • Lisa Schlichtman, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Karl Gills, community representative
  • Will Melton, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

It’s a move that will allow winter visitors, in particular, to spend less time at bus stops in inclement weather, wondering how far way the next bus is. And we think that’s a big deal. In addition to its more pragmatic advantages, the new system sends a clear signal that Steamboat Springs is a progressive resort town that is willing to invest in technology that improves the guest experience. In addition to the tablets and mobile app, the plan calls for scannable QR codes at each stop that will allow transit riders to bring up a map that will help them visualize where they are on the route.

Travelers who have used a smartphone to help plan a subway itinerary from one of New York City’s boroughs to another can readily appreciate how useful transit apps can be. Steamboat’s bus routes are far less complex, but the consistency of our snowstorms can make transit apps more important to guests intent on a comfortable ride from their lodging to a dinner spot. With the new GPS system, they’ll be able to determine with certainty when it’s time to leave the warmth of a restaurant or store to catch a free ride home.

Similarly, transit managers will be able to inform bus drivers whether they are running behind or ahead of schedule and make adjustments to even out the flow of buses, or even roll out an additional bus during peak times.

Steamboat Today reported this week that use of the free to rider bus service grew 5 percent this winter to carry 686,107 passengers. When you think of that number in terms of vehicle trips reduced, you realize that our transit system is paying sustainability dividends.

But there is another side to this story. Steamboat Today also reported this week that Colorado Division of Housing statistics showing that as many as half of Steamboat workers in the arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food service industries make less than the $14 per hour needed to rent a modest apartment and still have enough money left to live on independently. The most common solution is to take on multiple roommates in cramped quarters.

We note that forgoing a private automobile, at least for the winter, and depending instead on an increasingly reliable transit system to get to work on time can create significantly more room in the monthly budgets of our all-important resort industry workforce.

We commend city of Steamboat Springs Transit Manager Jonathan Flint for taking the initiative to enhance the bus system that is becoming increasingly important to our community.

At a cost of $82,000 including $65,000 in state grants, it’s a wise investment.


Kevin Nerney 3 years ago

It's FREE riders should be lucky they get nice new clean buses instead of old beat up jalopies held together with bailing wire and duct tape. State of the art stuff should mean a raise in rates and when ridership decreases due to cost then the transit system will not buy state of the art stuff. Just more gov't waste.


Scott Wedel 3 years ago

It is more expensive to run old worn out equipment that breaks down often. The transit dept replaces buses that have well over a million miles when the maintenance costs escalate.

That said, $82K to locate buses seems like an awful lot of money. Plug in a wireless device with GPS and sign up with a location tracking app.

Since it is obviously not a critical safety related item then this is the sort of let local kids learn sort of project that should have been given to the high school technology class or CMC to figure out how to do on a budget.


Scott Wedel 3 years ago


So how old with how many miles do you think are the buses that are retired from service?

The hybrid buses are supposed to be a good investment. They are designed to get better gas mileage by using regenerative braking. They will certainly be driven enough miles that if it works as designed then it will would pay for the added cost several times over during the lifetime of the bus. I haven't personally been monitoring whether the hybrid buses are working as intended and whether the investment is paying off.

But clearly the reason behind the hybrid buses is that it is supposed to be a good investment and it is not merely supposed to be a feel good popularity program.


rhys jones 3 years ago

Sure Pat, just wave the red cape in front of the bulls. I'm glad to see everybody awoke with the gloves on and swinging.

It still amazes how a couple of the regular contributors here, who complain about us stealing their money all the time, seem to have all day every day to opine in the forums, crying doom and gloom...

While the beneficiaries of these services go to work at sub-par wages, many living in roommate or otherwise crowded situations, just for the privilege of being here. They're too busy for this.

Count me among the latter group -- now I've got some work I should do -- and I'll see many of you at the free shows this summer!! WOO-HOO!! Can't wait.


jerry carlton 3 years ago

That "entitlement" you refer to for the elderly was paid for by me for 51 years.


jerry carlton 2 years, 12 months ago

I do not consider it help. I consider it money the Federal Government took from me and my employers for 51 years and they are now duty bound to return to me as they said they would 51 years ago.


Scott Wedel 3 years ago


Well, you certainly have your point of view. The studies you quote describe the issues being seen in getting the expected cost savings. From that you conclude that buying the buses were nothing but a Progressive feel good folly!?!

The one study uses a diesel price of $1.95 to show the savings aren't that great. Fair enough, but general expectation is that diesel is going to be more expensive than that over the next 20 years.

And yeah, all electric or hybrid school buses don't appear to be cost effective. They are less expensive to operate per mile, but with the average bus just going 846 miles per month they aren't saving enough to justify the initial costs.

The studies show that hybrid buses do cost less per mile in operational costs. To what extent hybrid transit buses are cost effective over their operation lifespan has yet to be determined,

But one thing from the studies is clear - that these buses are being purchased on the expectation on saving operational costs.


Scott Wedel 3 years ago


The study on transit buses does not make the conclusions that you have reached. And they used a diesel price of $1.95 per gallon and so current cost savings are much more than cited in the study.

That summary minus their methodology info:

Although hybrid transit buses offer significant fuel savings and other benefits, there is still some concern that it is difficult to recuperate initial capital costs (Transport Canada 2011). Hybrid buses have not yet been in service through the 15 to 20 year service life that is used by transit agencies.

To quantify lifecycle costs fully, agencies will need additional information about actual costs as well as methods to calculate savings from non-tangibles such as reduction in emissions.


Kevin Nerney 3 years ago

All these points about successful Hybrid buses (or not ) are moot because all these other cities like NY CHARGE for their bus service. If they are losing money on some new technology the can simple raise rates to make up the shortfall. Just like you have to pay for a newspaper in the real world and you have to pay to go to a concert. Just because the grant money came from the Feds as opposed to being paid for locally doesn't mean WE didn't pay for it. Which pocket did the money come from the front right pants pocket or the left rear one?


Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.