Australian drivers to speed up city transit |

Australian drivers to speed up city transit

— Six late-arriving Australian bus drivers will help upgrade the city’s bus system for the rest of this winter, making it possible for the city to offer 15-minute service at peak hours.

Marooned in Australia for two months because of a lack of work visas, the six workers finally arrived in the United States at the end of 2001 and are now driving for Steamboat Springs Transit.

In October, the city expected 10 Australians to come to the city and drive its buses, enough new drivers to allow it to offer 20-minute service, as opposed to the 30-minute service it

was able to offer last year. The city has struggled to find drivers locally for the past two years.

But visas were hard to come by and the Aussies were left stranded until the paperwork went through which didn’t happen until the end of 2001. They arrived halfway through December and, after training for a few weeks, began driving just this past week.

Visas for the workers were delayed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Department of Labor, said Maria Porter, the owner of Viable Resources, which contracted with the city to secure the visas.

The city, meanwhile, had to pay for housing for the Australians even before they got here.

Through a master lease program, the city secured housing for the drivers, but when they failed to show the city had to pick up the tab on the apartments. The delay ended up costing the city about $5,000 overall, although deals Transportation Director George Krawzoff made with the leasing agent reduced what the city would have had to pay. The Australians pay $365 per month for units in the Rockies Condominiums.

Krawzoff said he thinks residents and visitors should notice service improvements quickly. A new bus schedule will be coming out soon, Krawzoff said.

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