Steamboat Springs exploring more late-night transit options |

Steamboat Springs exploring more late-night transit options

A Steamboat Springs Transit bus waits at the Gondola Transit Center on Wednesday afternoon. (Photo by Dylan Anderson)

After reducing service in 2020, the city of Steamboat Springs will explore bolstering parts of its public transit service.

Steamboat Springs City Council voted Tuesday to explore adding another hour or two to the city’s late-night bus route for the 2021-22 winter season. The city will also look into putting additional funds toward the red line, which goes from the west side of Steamboat to the mountain, and yellow line, which is an on-call service.

Due to COVID-19 budget cuts and housing uncertainties, Steamboat Springs Transit was not fully staffed from 2020 to 2021. City Transit Manager Jonathan Flint said having the discussion now will help him recruit qualified candidates before the winter season.

“Driving a bus is a really challenging job,” Flint said.

Flint also said he’d like to recruit more drivers from the Yampa Valley, as the majority of drivers move from out of town and often have difficulties finding housing. While the city does provide some housing, Flint said it is not enough for all drivers.

“I would like to find a way to give (Flint) the confidence that we have housing to get qualified people to be here,” council member Michael Buccino said. “To me, that is paramount to getting our winter service up to snuff.”

Council members said they would like to fund more housing for drivers, which is the largest barrier to bringing qualified employees to town for the winter season. The challenge is especially difficult, Flint said, because the city needs many more drivers in the winter than in other seasons, so drivers are pressed to find month-to-month housing or worry about getting out of a contract after their term ends.

Council said the city expects to see very high numbers of travelers this winter as many around the country are anxious to get out and travel after COVID-19.

“I think we are going to have higher numbers next season than people are anticipating,” council member Lisel Petis said. “I think we need to be prepared for a very large number of people traveling to Steamboat.”

Because of this, council members felt more late-night transit options were necessary for both visitors who may be drinking late at night and for restaurant and bar employees, who could be too tired to drive at the end of a long shift.

“If we are really serving that late night staff, I would love to see two yellow zone buses zipping around to get our staff home safely,” council member Heather Sloop said.

However, other council members said they were less sure that bars and restaurants would be back to full capacity and late hours this winter.

“A lot of this is based on an assumption that we’re going to get back to normal,” council member Kathi Meyer said. “And that may take a couple of years.”

The Routt County Board of Public Health has said residents can expect to return to normal June 2 if the county reaches a 75% vaccination rate, though that is subject to change.

Sloop and other council members also said they were interested in exploring a late-night bus specifically for employees, but Flint said that is not possible because the city’s transit is a publicly-funded system and can’t be exclusive to any one group of people.

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