Steamboat City Council moves forward with bus service cuts despite some objections from locals | SteamboatToday.com
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Steamboat City Council moves forward with bus service cuts despite some objections from locals

A Steamboat Springs Transit bus prepares to depart the Stock Bridge Transit Center.
Scott Franz

2015 budget highlights

The Steamboat City Council adopted the city's $52 million budget for 2015 on Tuesday night. Here are some highlights from the budget:

• Includes $200,000 in proficiency-based pay raises for city employees; it also returns some employees.

• Pares down winter bus service to save more than $100,000 in operating costs

• Adds new staff to the planning department

• Includes capital funding for projects including reconstruction of Central Park Drive and playground renovation

• Includes budget to incentivize police officers to work later shifts by offering them a higher rate of pay

• Adds a new license plate reading technology to better enforce parking violations

2015 budget highlights

The Steamboat City Council adopted the city’s $52 million budget for 2015 on Tuesday night. Here are some highlights from the budget:

• Includes $200,000 in proficiency-based pay raises for city employees; it also returns some employees.

• Pares down winter bus service to save more than $100,000 in operating costs



• Adds new staff to the planning department

• Includes capital funding for projects including reconstruction of Central Park Drive and playground renovation



• Includes budget to incentivize police officers to work later shifts by offering them a higher rate of pay

• Adds a new license plate reading technology to better enforce parking violations

— The Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night moved forward with some significant changes to the city’s free winter bus service despite objections from some local residents.

The biggest changes to the upcoming bus schedule include the longer wait times west of the Stockbridge Transit Center, new transfers on a variety of bus routes, the elimination of the on-call service of the Yellow Line and a reduction in the time the Purple and Orange lines will run during the day.

Before the budget and the bus changes got the green light, the council spent some time weighing the impact of a scaled back winter bus service on citizens.

The council heard from some community members who said the longer wait times in the west end of town and the elimination of the on-call Yellow Line from the daytime winter service would make travel a lot more difficult for them.

Old Town resident Maybelle Chotvacs said she has no vehicle and the loss of the on-call yellow line would be “shortchanging” locals.

“Maybe the tourists don’t use it, but us locals deserve it,” she said.

One council member wanted to reconsider the changes.

“I share the concerns of the public,” council member Sonja Macys said. “It’s frustrating to each year put (the transportation department) under the gun and have them find some more money that can be spent elsewhere.”

The city proposed paring down the winter service to save more than $100,000 by reducing the amount of personnel needed to run the bus service.

The city historically has struggled to attract and retain enough seasonal drivers to run the service it used to offer.

One year, it recruited drivers from as far away as Australia.

On Tuesday, the council learned it would be very difficult to abandon the planned changes to the bus service for this winter.

Transit Manager Jonathan Flint said if the routes were restored, the transit department wouldn’t have the staff to offer the service until after Jan. 1 under the best case scenario.

He said this is because it still is an ongoing challenge for the service to hire and train enough drivers.

He added that the bus service lost three drivers this week and currently has just enough drivers to run the pared down service this winter.

“Right this moment, we’re good, but we still have a month to go before we begin the winter season,” Flint said.

Flint said he’s heard that transportation agencies across the state also are having challenges attracting and retaining enough drivers.

The council ultimately agreed that the city should try out the proposed service reductions this winter and see how they fare in the spring.

Several council members have at recent meetings praised Flint’s plan to reduce the operating cost of the bus service.

Council member Walter Magill said trying to run the more expansive bus service offered in previous years could lead to less experienced drivers running it and more accidents.

In the winter of 2013-14, the bus service saw nine accidents compared to just one the winter before, according to City Manager Deb Hinsvark.

Magill said residents impacted by a loss or reduction in bus service this winter could “gather up en masse” and see if they can secure a shuttle or other on-call service.

While some service is reduced, riders in certain parts of the area will see enhanced service because of the changes.

Riders who live on Hilltop Parkway, for example, will see buses come more frequently.

All changes apply only to the daytime schedule during the winter.

Read more about the changes coming to the winter schedule here.

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


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