Steamboat Springs regional bus adds 2 more routes between Steamboat, Craig
City will offer later route from Craig to Steamboat and a daily morning departure from Steamboat to Craig
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs Transit is doubling its regional bus routes between Steamboat and Craig for the winter.
Steamboat Transit is adding two more routes to its regional transit line starting Dec. 1 — a morning bus from Steamboat to Craig and an additional bus from Craig to Steamboat. These routes will be in operation all winter, with the possibility of continuing the routes if the expansion is successful.
“We’re really excited about it and looking forward to running it,” said Steamboat Transit Manager Jonathan Flint.
The city’s existing route runs two daily buses from Craig to Steamboat with stops in Hayden, Milner and Steamboat II.
The city is adding a third bus to this route, which will offer a later morning departure from Craig and return trip from Steamboat. The later bus will pull out of Craig’s Regional Transit Facility at 8:15 a.m. and arrive in downtown Steamboat around 9:40 a.m. Buses will also be leaving Steamboat for Craig at new departure times of 2:25, 4:25 and 5:25 p.m. from Steamboat’s Gondola Transit Center.
Steamboat Springs Transit is also adding the reverse route, with a morning bus running from Steamboat to Craig daily. This bus will depart the Gondola Transit Center at 7 a.m., arriving in Craig by 8:15 a.m. In the evening, it will leave Craig at 3:35 p.m. and arrive back in Steamboat by 5 p.m.
Fares for the new routes will be the same as existing fares, ranging from $1 to $6 depending on the distance of the trip. There are discounted fares available for students and people age 65 and older with valid identification. Punchcards are available for $40 and provide up to $60 in rides.
Flint said a combination of factors led to the expansion.
The Steamboat Springs City Council agreed to add additional staff and about $100,000 more in funding to expand regional services. State funding from Colorado’s FASTER program will also support expanded operations of the regional line. Routt County contributes $35,000 to fund the regional bus.
Ridership on the regional bus system has also seen a steady increase since the recession. Recently, full buses have been pulling up to stops, leaving some passengers behind without a ride.
“I’m estimating roughly 32(000) to 33,000 passengers on the regional bus this year, which are numbers we haven’t seen for a decade,” Flint said. “We’ve seen the ridership grow, and one of the goals with this (expansion) is to not leave people behind. We had instances over the past few years where the buses arrived, and it’s just full, and we’re not able to take any additional passengers. By having another option, that’s going to help that out quite a bit.”
Flint said on Wednesday, the regional buses had carried the same number of passengers so far in 2019 as they had during all of 2018.
According to Flint, the bulk of regional bus ridership are commuters traveling between Steamboat and Craig (79%) and Steamboat and Hayden (17%). Other trips, including passengers traveling from Craig to Hayden, Milner and Steamboat II, and those traveling from Steamboat to West Routt and Moffat County make up about 1% or less apiece.
“A majority of our customers, at least on the weekdays, are work related,” Flint said, adding this trend carries over into the weekend too. “For a lot of our passengers, the housing and overall costs are such that it makes sense to live in either Craig or Hayden and come into Steamboat.”
A growing number of people, particularly on the weekend, are riders headed to Steamboat for recreational purposes as more Yampa Valley locals and visitors staying west of town look to hit the slopes without driving.
Steamboat Transit used survey results to develop the new routes. In those surveys, Flint said passengers looked for a later arrival to Steamboat and an option to head west earlier in the day.
Ridership on the regional bus is expected to increase with the expanded routes. That could factor into an expansion of the additional routes when Steamboat Transit switches to its summer schedule.
“I don’t think it’s something that’s set in stone, but I think if it’s successful this year, then I’m hopeful that it will be a continuing service that we can operate,” he said.
Survey results also indicated riders were interested in a late-night regional bus route to carry restaurant and other late-night employees home, which is something Steamboat Springs Transit might explore in the future, Flint said.
The city, the county and other local governments are still exploring a regional transit authority, Flint said. A transit authority could fund anything related to transportation, from regional buses to other areas to a Yampa River Core Trail expansion and improved roads and bridges, he explained. Once stakeholders are identified, a group would likely be assembled to consider these options, Flint said.
For more information, including Steamboat Springs Transit’s full schedule and list of fares, visit steamboatsprings.net/sst or call 970-879-3717.
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