Our View: Responding well to kerfuffle | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Responding well to kerfuffle

We commend Steamboat Springs city officials for acknowledging, and more significantly, correcting a mistake they made last year when they cut back transit service in a way that made it impractical for residents of Steamboat Springs' west side to take the free-to-rider bus to work and skiing.

Commitment of an error can turn into a positive when one learns from it and comes up with a fresh strategy. We think that is what has taken place at the city of Steamboat Springs and Steamboat Springs Transit this month.

Steamboat Today reported Jan. 16 that the city would introduce a newly leased 15-passenger shuttle van on a 20-minute schedule to link west-side commuters to the Stockbridge Transit Center and the Blue Line. Taking that step offers conveniently timed access to the Blue Line buses that lead to downtown and the ski mountain and make the lives of a significant portion of the local workforce less complicated than they have been for approximately two months.

The fix isn't cheap; the city will pay $5,000 to $6,000 per month for the vehicle alone. But a public transit system that isn't practical to use is pointless.

The original intent of revising the city's bus routes was to condense them and, in some cases, tailor service to high-demand periods only. The step was taken to reduce the annual budget excesses Steamboat Transit racks up annually and, at the same time, to alleviate the problem of a reported shortage of bus drivers. Those are reasonable goals, but the heated blowback from SST passengers, including those who protested the elimination of bus stops in the mountain area, points out one of the ironies of a free-to-passenger transit system.

The goal of mass transit is to train people to use the bus and take pressure off arterial roads in the community while reducing vehicle emissions. Once a community has succeeded at that, woe be to anyone who messes with a service people have come to rely on. When government officials make decisions that complicate their constituents' already stressed-out daily lives, they can expect to hear from them.

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As we observed in a Dec. 20 editorial entitled "There is no free bus," discontent on the part of transit riders is a positive sign; it means they have come to depend on the bus service and an affordable way to go to school, attend church and get their shopping done.

To be accurate, we proposed messing with the free-to-rider bus service when we suggested that it would be better to charge riders a modest fee than to diminish service and defeat the purpose of the transit system. We'll take our chances.

We still feel that a $1-per-day fare would go a long way to resolving the budget overruns and carrying the SST into the future.

We also see another positive from the city's new plan to put a brand new van into service on the West Side Shuttle.

Because the new shuttle carries a maximum of 15 passengers, there is no requirement that the drivers possess a commercial driver's license. That means other city staffers can be trained to fill in on the shuttle. It also means the city could hire new drivers without CDLs. That in turn could remove some of the temptation SST drivers with CDLs experience to take higher paying driving jobs elsewhere.

We can see that the West Side Shuttle has the potential to become a permanent fixture at SST.

At Issue: Making transit practical for west side commuters once again

Our View: City officials deserve praise for learning from a mistake and using a high-frequency shuttle to overcome transit misstep

Editorial board

Renee Campbell — newspaper representative

Noelle Leavitt Riley — newspaper representative

Sheli Steele — newspaper representative

Shannon Moore — community representative

Bob Mueller — community representative