New shuttle coming to west Steamboat Springs to improve bus service | SteamboatToday.com

New shuttle coming to west Steamboat Springs to improve bus service

Scott Franz

A Steamboat Springs Transit bus picks up passengers at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area. The new West End Shuttle will run 20 minute loops between the Stockbridge Transit Center and the KOA Campground and make it easier for riders to commute between the west end and the mountain.

— The newest addition to the Steamboat Springs Transit fleet should quickly become popular with riders in the west end of the city.

The city on Monday will introduce a 15-passenger shuttle to improve the bus service west of downtown and make commuting to downtown and the mountain easier.

The shuttle is the city’s response to some fierce criticism from bus riders in west Steamboat who have endured long wait times and delays because of recent cuts to the daytime winter bus schedule.

The West End Shuttle will compliment the Aqua Line and run 20-minute loops between the Stockbridge Transit Center and the KOA Campground.

The shuttle is being leased from a transportation company on the Front Range.

Riders will be able to use the new shuttle daily from 7:20 to 9:40 a.m. and from 2:20 to 6:40 p.m.

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On launch day, the shuttle will start at 2:20 p.m. due to driver training in the morning.

Find the shuttle schedule posted below this story.

“We look forward to having it out there to help the people on the west end,” Steamboat Springs Transit Manager Jonathan Flint said.

He said the new shuttle schedule has been designed to allow riders to seamlessly transfer to the Blue Line at Stockbridge to head downtown and to the mountain.

Riders heading back west also will be able to stay on the Blue Line and quickly transfer to the shuttle when it is running.

Public Works Director Chuck Anderson said the city will pay an estimated $5,000 to $6,000 per month to lease and operate the shuttle, plus the salaries of the drivers.

Drivers will not need a commercial driver’s license, and staff members from other city departments could help fill driving shifts.

The shuttle is the city’s latest response to what has been strong community criticism about its decision to scale back bus service.

The city also recently reinstated some bus stops near the base of Steamboat Ski Area that were eliminated because city staff agreed the loss of the stops created a safety concern.

The city administration decided to pare down its daytime winter bus schedule this year to save an estimated $147,000 in personnel and operating costs.

With the previous routes, the city was regularly having to spend more than $100,000 than it originally budgeted to spend during the year to adequately staff the buses.

The extra costs included things like overtime.

The city administration also anticipated it would be harder to recruit drivers this year, and the efforts would carry a cost and could create safety concerns because of the possible use of less experienced drivers.

Steamboat Transit’s initial budget request for four additional full-time equivalents, or FTEs, this season to run the service without cuts was denied.

The city administration was uncomfortable with allowing the transit department to continue exceeding its budget by more than $100,000.

City Manager Deb Hinsvark also noted there were significant costs to recruiting, and new GPS technology introduced this year that allows riders to track the buses could help to create more efficient routes.

Bus riders across the city have been critical of the cuts since the new service rolled out Dec. 7, and Steamboat Springs Transit has had to scramble at times to operate the service because it still does not have enough drivers to run even the pared down routes.

“Our drivers are doing an outstanding job,” Flint said Friday. “They really should be commended for the work they’re doing out there as well as our dispatchers and the supervisors and staff here internally. They’ve just been doing an outstanding job of using the resources we have.”

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10