Low snow in Steamboat eyed as culprit behind dip in bus ridership

A Steamboat Springs Transit bus zips through downtown.
Scott Franz

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs Transit Manager Jonathan Flint thinks a lack of snow was to blame for a dip in city bus ridership in December.

“I’m not sure whether as many people were in town or not, but we definitely did not see them on the bus,” Flint said.

Flint said in addition to possibly leading to fewer visitors in town, the lack of snow also meant residents didn’t have as much motivation to catch a ride when the roads and their cars were clear of snow and ice for most of the month.

The city’s free-to-rider buses carried 129,550 riders last month, which was 18,019 riders fewer than what the city carried in December 2016.

But Flint said he’s not worried about the ridership dip because December 2016 was a particularly strong month for bus ridership.

“Last year was our second or third busiest December,” he noted.

On the plus side, the lack of snow last month helped Steamboat Springs Transit improve its on-time performance because buses didn’t experience that many weather-related delays.

The buses are currently running on time about 92 percent of the time, compared to 86 percent on time last year, 79 percent the year before, and 70 percent during the season that City Manager Gary Suiter dubbed the “Season of Change.”

That’s when the city made serious changes to its bus system that irked riders so much that the city abandoned the changes and reverted back to the previous bus routes.

Flint said ridership on the city’s night-line has increased this year despite the city running the evening buses less frequently this winter season.

Because of the dip in December, bus ridership this winter so far is trending about 16 percent lower than last winter.

SST ended 2017 with more gains in ridership, both on the local bus lines and the regional line that runs between Steamboat Springs and Craig.

Regional buses carried 30,900 passengers in Routt County, compared to 29,400 riders the previous year.

“We’re starting to see, both from Hayden and Craig, just a lot of the workers going back and forth,” Flint said. “It’s nice to see that.”

The local city buses carried 1,134,568 riders last year, which was 11,000 more riders than the city carried in 2016.

“What we saw was a really strong growth through the first half of the year, through mid-July,” he said. “It tapered off through the end of the year, with December being down with the snow.”

City officials will have to wait another month to see how the low snow woes in December might have affected sales tax collections and lodging revenue.

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

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