Steamboat Springs Transit introduces 2 measures to make buses easier, safer to ride |

Steamboat Springs Transit introduces 2 measures to make buses easier, safer to ride

Most Steamboat Springs Transit shelters will now have solar panels to provide lights for passengers at night. (Photo courtesy.)

In an effort to make Steamboat Springs Transit buses safer and more accessible, solar-powered lighting in bus shelters and a GPS-triggered automatic voice system that will announce stops in English and Spanish are being implemented.

Both projects are being paid for in part by a grant from FASTER Colorado, a program administrated by the Colorado Department of Transportation. The shelter lights were funded with $32,000 from the state and $8,000 from the city, and the voice announcements were funded with $72,000 from the state and $18,000 from the city.

Gabe Gassaway, transit dispatch supervisor, said he expects the lights to be done in two to three weeks. Each shelter will have a solar panel installed on the back of the shelter, and sunlight collected throughout the day will be stored in a battery. The LED light switches in the front of the bus shelter are light-sensitive, so they automatically turn on when the sun goes down.

“From a bus driver standpoint, if we can see the passengers in the shelter when the shelter has the lights, it makes the job much easier,” Gassaway said. “The lights will enhance our ability to see the passenger.”

Solar panels will be installed on all bus shelters except the stops at the corners of Third Street, Seventh Street and Lincoln Avenue, which are already well lighted.

Transit Manager Jonathan Flint said the lights will also benefit passengers, particularly in the winter months when shelters can collect snow and ice.

“I think that’s really going to help with that customer safety and overall customer comfort level,” Flint said. “It’s just good to have that extra light there so people can see where they’re walking and that kind of thing.”

Flint said the project was extremely cost-effective because the city does not have to pay for electricity, and the majority of the funding came from a state grant.

Bus drivers have always been required to verbally announce each stop over an intercom, but Flint said buses can get loud, and bus drivers are under significant stress to remember when to announce each stop. To address that, the city will be installing GPS-triggered automatic voice announcements that will automatically announce stops in both English and Spanish.

“It just turned out that the previous system really wasn’t meeting the needs that we had,” Flint said. “It’s an expensive system, but it’s well worth it.”

Cadmus Mazzarella, transit technology specialist, said bus drivers sometimes have difficulties communicating stops in the winter when buses are full of crowds with clanking skis and snow boards. The automated system is noise-sensitive, so it can project louder than the voice of a human driver.

“It is quite loud when it needs to be, and there is no issue of hearing that over conversation,” Mazzarella said. “It’s basically a fool-proof system.”

Most bus drivers only speak English, which is why Flint said transit staff felt it was particularly important to offer announcements in Spanish as well.

Janette Nejara, translator coordinator at Integrated Community, said the nonprofit, which serves immigrants and Routt County’s Spanish-speaking population, often had staff members accompany residents who did not speak English on buses to show the passenger how to navigate the bus system.

“I think this is going to be a real great bonus to the community,” Nejara said. “It’s something that I feel like is needed in the community for people to understand where they’re trying to go and get to.”

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