Steamboat looking to revamp Gondola Transit Center at resort
The city of Steamboat Springs has outlined a plan to redo its portion of the Gondola Transit Center, where Steamboat Springs Transit buses, vacation shuttles and vans owned by Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. drop passengers at the base of the resort.
While the project is in the early phases, Jon Snyder, Steamboat public works department director, said the city hopes to make the area more pedestrian-friendly, which could eventually involve closing the stretch of Mount Werner Road closest to the resort to most vehicular traffic and making it only for pedestrians, with exceptions for emergency vehicles.
Snyder, who is overseeing the project, said the center as it currently functions is an issue for both vehicles and pedestrians, since every vehicle dropping people off at the resort has to do so in the same small space.
“There are a lot of issues up at the Gondola Transit Center, and I would say that the biggest thing is just there’s so many different things going on at the same time,” Steamboat Springs Transit Manager Jonathan Flint said. “Often people in skis and ski boots aren’t going to be walking that quickly.”
On top of the high number of pedestrians carrying heavy gear, Flint aid the snow and ice in the winter make the area even more difficult for drivers to navigate.
“It can be quite a bit of maneuvering to get around there,” Flint said.
While pedestrians getting off the buses and shuttles often cause congestion issues for other pedestrians and vehicles, Snyder said the busy sidewalk on Mount Werner Circle, where vehicles leave from after dropping passengers off, also creates issues with traffic and congestion.
“We think we can do a lot better with creating a good sense of place,” Snyder said. “We need a good transit center, but it doesn’t have to just be a utilitarian transit center.”
Snyder said the ultimate goal is to make the area more pleasant to pedestrians. The city owns about half of the space, while Ski Corp. owns the other half, though Snyder said the city anticipates Ski Corp. will cover much of the project’s cost.
Snyder compared the current transit center to the passenger pick-up and drop-off areas at Denver International Airport, which includes upper and lower levels and an efficient system to ensure the thousands of people who use the airport every day are able to get through easily.
While such systems work well in their purpose of moving mass amounts of passengers through a large space in a short amount of time, Snyder said a transit center at a resort should have a very different feeling than one of an airport.
“That is intended to move a massive amount of people, but it’s not necessarily an enjoyable place to be or an enjoyable place to get to,” Snyder said. “When you have a resort area, you do need an efficient transit center but simultaneously you need a place that people want to go to and that they feel they’ve arrived somewhere nice when they get there.”
Snyder emphasized the city will seek “robust” public comment before making any decisions or changes.
“We really want to spend a good portion of the next 12 to 14 months designing it, and then hopefully we can start diving into construction in 2023, but a lot of that is dependent on Ski Corp. and what their goals might be,” Snyder said.
The project is a portion of the city’s larger Mountain Area Master Plan, which helps guide Steamboat Springs City Council and planning departments through making decisions about the area surrounding Steamboat Resort. Public feedback so far on that plan has emphasized the need for more nightlife and year-round attractions in the area, not just during the winter season.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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