Steamboat City Council moves to restore winter bus service

Scott Franz
A Steamboat Springs Transit bus drives through heavy snow on U.S. Highway 40.

— Steamboat Springs Transit got some more fuel on Tuesday night.

The Steamboat Springs City Council backed a plan that will allow the city to recruit more bus drivers and restore winter bus service here.

However, the city’s bus lines that are the least utilized during the year, including the yellow and purple lines, could continue to see some tweaks or cuts in the future.

After a lengthy discussion about the future of transit, the council voted, 5-2, to accept the transit department’s proposal to continue using 14 percent of the city’s general fund for budget-planning purposes.

The council essentially assured SST it will not cut back its budget in the fall.

If the city’s tax revenue rises, so too will transit’s budget.

Transit Manager Jonathan Flint said the council’s early funding commitment of 14 percent of the general fund will allow the city to fully fund its most efficient and effective bus lines, including the blue, red and night lines and the corresponding colors they turn into (blue turns to orange, red turns to green. “Think Broncos and Christmas,” Flint said.)

It will also allow the city to plan and vet winter routes well ahead of time.

Flint also provided the council with a lengthy, well-received presentation on the costs to run each line and the bus system’s on-time performance.

Each line was assigned a “power score” based on the percent of overall riders versus the percent of overall budget.

The ones that don’t have a favorable power score could see changes.

“We’ll look at the routes that are underperforming and use the remaining money to operate those services as best we can,” Flint said.

In the city’s eyes, the underperforming routes include the yellow, purple and summer lines.

Flint said the summer bus service could be reduced in the shoulder seasons to free up more money for the purple and yellow lines.

If the lines don’t run as effectively and efficiently as the city wants them to in the future, the city could also approach the entities that benefit from these least-utilized routes, like the Rockies Condominiums on the purple line, and ask for a financial contribution to continue to run the service.

If contributions aren’t made, the lines could be cut, city staff said.

Another way to make a line more cost effective is to increase ridership.

The city was able to do this a few years ago by working with Colorado Mountain College and Steamboat Springs High School to change the yellow line route to attract more riders.

Council’s funding commitment to transit was a rare step because it usually does not allocate budget amounts for city departments until the fall.

Several council members expressed a sense of urgency and wanted to ensure the bus service didn’t experience the headaches it did this year because of a lack of drivers.

Sonja Macys and Kenny Reisman voted against the 14 percent budget allocation.

Macys, who has expressed support for restoring bus service, said she wanted to understand what that budget number might look like next year before supporting it.

She and Reisman instead expressed support for allocating the transit department a specific additional amount of funding for driver recruiting instead of approving a budget number out of the context of the entire budget.

The council unanimously voted to approve Flint’s proposal to develop routes that will provide bus service that trends at a minimum level of 80 percent on-time arrival during the winter, and an 85 percent on-time arrival during the summer.

In other action

• The council reviewed City Manager Deb Hinsvark’s work performance over the last six months. According to a score card summary of the evaluation released after an executive session, the council as a whole was satisfied with Hinsvark’s performance. Council members Scott Ford and Sonja Macys continued to show they do not support the city manager. They wanted City Attorney Tony Lettunich to work with Hinsvark on an exit package for the council to consider at its next meeting. The other five members of the council backed Hinsvark and rejected the proposal. Look for a story on Hinsvark’s review in Thursday’s edition of the Steamboat Today.

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

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