Steamboat City Council gets an earful about recent cuts to winter bus service | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat City Council gets an earful about recent cuts to winter bus service

A Steamboat Springs Transit bus carries passengers near the base of the Steamboat Ski Area on Tuesday afternoon. The Steamboat Springs City Council got an earful on Tuesday night about the recent cuts and changes to the city's free bus service.

— Call it the Frustrated Line.

A group of residents from both ends of Steamboat Springs on Tuesday night lined up in Citizens Hall to air their frustrations about the recent cuts and changes to the city’s free bus system.

The critics of the pared-down winter daytime bus service got the attention of the Steamboat Springs City Council, which broke from its norm of not responding during public comment by asking its city manager what was going to be done about it.

“Do we have a plan for this, or are we going to let it ride?” Walter Magill asked City Manager Deb Hinsvark.

Hinsvark said there are some “bugs and kinks” in the new service routes, and the city will work to see if changes and tweaks can be made this season to make riding the bus easier.

The residents who complained about the service said longer wait times for buses and eliminated stops are becoming inconvenient and are creating safety concerns in some places.

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“You guys broke it,” KOA Campgrounds resident Alan Sills said. “It raises our stress and frustration levels, and in my opinion, it harms the west end businesses.”

Sills was critical of the reductions citywide, but he especially was critical of the new Aqua Line that services the west end of town.

He said that the drivers appear more stressed running the new routes and that it's more difficult for riders to get around as employees and residents of the community.

“If I sound frustrated and frazzled over this, it’s because I am frazzled and frustrated over this,” Sills said.

Sills praised the staff at Steamboat Springs Transit and its drivers, who have “gone above and beyond to make a unworkable situation barely workable.”

He looked to the council to reinstate bus service this winter.

The other five residents that council members heard from Tuesday were a mix of residents of the west end of town and at the base area, who used to be able to catch a bus near Mustang Run.

The base area residents were critical of the recent elimination of that bus stop.

They said the walk to the next nearest bus stop off of Whistler Road is dangerous, and they have seen people “slipping and sliding and falling” walking to it.

The manager of the KOA Campground said the longer wait time on the west end of town compared to last winter is “unacceptable.”

The concerns council heard Tuesday are in addition to phone calls and emails the council has received in recent days about the new service.

They come after Steamboat Springs Transit was forced to roll out a modified and pared-down service Dec. 7 to save more than $100,000 in operating and personnel costs.

The changes resulted in service enhancements for some riders like those who live off Hilltop Parkway but reductions in places like the west end of town.

The council approved the changes in November despite some objections from city bus riders.

The service ultimately allows the service to run with fewer seasonal drivers at a time when recruiting them is becoming more difficult.

“There are a lot of reasons we are having trouble attracting seasonal transit drivers right now, marijuana being one of them, so it’s an issue and we’re going to have to figure out how to work through it best we can,” Hinsvark said.

The Steamboat Pilot & Today is publishing a story on bus driver recruiting challenges statewide in the Dec. 28 issue of the newspaper.

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