Our View: All aboard the Bustang
Editor’s note: Prior to the time the Our View, “Get aboard the Bustang,” was written, Steamboat Resort entered into an agreement with the city of Steamboat Springs to split the cost of participation in the Snowstang program during the 2019-20 winter ski season. Resort officials said they never rejected the opportunity to participate in the pilot program as reported in the Aug. 13 article, “Bustang pulling up to Steamboat by January 2021.”
Driving the Interstate 70 corridor from Denver into the mountains and back again can be a gauntlet on any given day but especially during the ski season. Will the car in front of you spin out and stall traffic for miles? Will I-70 remain open or will you have to hunt for a place to stay the night in Silverthorne? Can you get on the road early enough to avoid a five-hour drive from Denver to Steamboat?
All of these scenarios are experienced by motorists trying to navigate I-70 during peak winter travel times, and that is why we were thrilled to learn that Steamboat Springs will be added to the Bustang regional bus route by January 2021.
Bustang is an express bus service line operated by the Colorado Department of Transportation, which currently runs along I-70 and I-25. The West Route runs from Denver to Grand Junction with stops at Idaho Springs, Frisco, Vail, Eagle and Glenwood Springs, Rifle and Parachute.
The Steamboat route would be operated as a Bustang outrider route between Frisco and Steamboat. The bus would travel along Colorado Highway 9 with a stop in Kremmling, and a CDOT spokesman said the route could eventually be expanded to serve Hayden, including the Yampa Valley Regional Airport, and Craig. The bus fare has not been established but based on current pricing on similar routes, fares could range from $12 to $30.
In connection with reporting on the Bustang expansion to Steamboat, we were surprised to learn that Steamboat Resort turned down the opportunity to support the pilot “SnowStang” program that proposes to provide direct bus routes from Denver to specific ski resorts on weekends and peak ski days.
Participation required the resort to pay 40 percent of the cost of the service, which Steamboat Springs City Council member Heather Sloop said equates to an investment of $63,000. We think that’s a small price to pay for a service that stands to benefit the resort and its customers, especially Ikon Pass holders on the Front Range seeking an easier way to get Steamboat. We also think a regional bus would be a nice complement to the local air program, which the resort already subsidizes.
Sloop floated the idea that maybe the city could cover the cost of getting the pilot transportation program started here, and we think that’s a generous offer. We would like to see discussions continue, and we strongly encourage the resort to revisit the proposal and consider sharing the cost with the city.
At issue: Congestion along the I-70 corridor is creating traffic nightmares for those traveling in the mountains, and CDOT is considering expanding the regional bus service to new areas around the state.
Our View: Increasing regional bus routes to more mountain towns can provide significant traffic relief, and we think Steamboat Springs and Northwest Colorado will benefit greatly when the Bustang begins serving the area in 2021.
- Logan Molen, publisher
- Lisa Schlichtman, editor
- Michael Marchand, community representative
- Jim Beers, community representative
CDOT said Bustang could begin serving Steamboat earlier than 2021, and we think a partnership between the resort and the city on the SnowStang could help accelerate the Bustang timeline. We also see this as another opportunity for the city and resort to collaborate in light of the fact the two entities are currently working through a potential partnership on the operation of Howelsen Hill.
We’d also note that Bustang is not just a service for tourists. If the route is expanded to Craig and from there to Rifle and Grand Junction, area veterans would have an easier and more affordable way to access medical services at the VA hospital in Grand Junction, which may be an added bonus. Bustang could also serve to reduce traffic in town as bus riders wouldn’t be driving around town but instead using the city’s free bus service. They’d also be saving money on transportation, which should leave more money for them to spend at local restaurants and businesses.
And with Steamboat Resort looking to invest in Howelsen Hill, Bustang could be a way to market the city’s historic ski hill to budget-minded families who can’t afford a $150 lift ticket and instead might choose to ride the Bustang or SnowStang to town and ski at Howelsen.
A combined city/resort effort in support of Bustang or SnowStang has too many upsides to not explore further, and we urge city leaders and those at Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. to act now before the window of opportunity closes.
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