Our View: Upwardly mobile
April 26, 2014
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.
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.