Steamboat Springs Transit prepares to roll out big changes to winter bus service
Breakdown of the big bus route changes coming this winter
Aqua Line: A new Aqua Line will run during the day in west Steamboat between the Steamboat Campground and Colorado Mountain College. The service replaces the routes that had been previously provided in the west by both the Red and Blue lines. Riders will see an Aqua Line bus every 30 minutes as opposed to every 10 minutes last season.
Blue Line: The Blue Line runs from the Stock Bridge Transit Center to the Gondola Transit Center every 20 minutes. Changes to this line include the moving of bus stops along U.S. Highway 40. Some stops on the highway have been moved to drop off people closer to signaled intersections. Heading east, the Blue Line becomes the Green Line and continues to the base area condos.
Green Line: The Green Line, which runs from the condos near Steamboat Ski Area to the Gondola Transit Center, will see the addition of peak buses that will run around the time the ski area opens in the morning and closes in the afternoon. This means riders on this route should see a bus every 10 minutes during peak travel times, staff levels permitting.
Cinnamon Line: The new Cinnamon Line will depart Seventh Street downtown, travel up to service stops on Hilltop Parkway and then travel on U.S. Highway 40 to apartment complexes like The Ponds south of Walton Creek Road. This line mostly replaces the Yellow Line. This means there no longer will be on-call service during the day in the winter for riders in places like Fairview and Old Town. The Cinnamon Line will run every 30 minutes as opposed to every hour, ensuring that residents along places like Hilltop will see more frequent service.
Orange Line: The Orange Line, which takes riders from the mountain to Wildhorse Marketplace, residences like The Ponds and then to stops on Walton Creek Road, will operate only during peak times in the morning and afternoon from about 7 to 11 a.m. and from about 2:30 to 6:20 p.m. No service is provided between those hours on this line. This is a change from last year when the service ran throughout the day.
Purple Line: The Purple Line, which runs a loop between the mountain, Yampa Valley Medical Center and Central Park Plaza, will run during peak times only in the morning and afternoon. This is a change from last year when it ran throughout the day, including the lunch hour. This line will continue doing on-call service to the Selbe Apartments for senior citizens.
Steamboat Springs — When Steamboat Springs Transit rolls out its new winter bus schedule Dec. 7, riders will notice the big changes.
Lots of riders are poised to love them.
Others, not so much.
It will largely depend on where you live.
Residents along Hilltop Parkway will appreciate the more frequent bus service provided by a new Cinnamon Line, but residents in places like Old Town and Fairview who have utilized an on-call Yellow Line to get around in the winter won’t get that bus service anymore.
There are other trade-offs.
Bus riders in west Steamboat won’t see the buses stop in their neck of the woods as frequently as last season, but skiers in condo land in a hurry to get in some first tracks will see buses headed up to the gondola more often.
Citywide, riding between the west end of town, the mountain and the south end of town now will require transferring buses at certain times.
A small number of stops on certain routes also will be eliminated and consolidated.
With the exception of the removal of some stops, the changes will apply only to the daytime winter service.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve done changes like these,” Steamboat Springs Transit Manager Jonathan Flint said Monday. “We know there will be an effect on people out there. Anytime you make a change, there are positive and negative effects.”
The most significant shuffle to the daytime winter schedule in years is an effort to reduce the cost it takes to run the city bus service by more than $100,000 annually.
Flint is optimistic that the new routes are the best solution to what has been a stubborn budget issue year after year.
In some years, the city has recruited drivers from as far away as Australia.
The result has been substantial overtime and training costs to ensure there are enough drivers to keep the service running.
The bus service’s personnel costs have regularly come in about $120,000 to $140,000 more than what was budgeted in a given year.
The new proposed schedule, which originally drew some concern from the Steamboat Springs City Council but has since gained preliminary approval and some praise, will require fewer drivers to run the routes and ensures some buses will run less often than they have during the day in previous winters.
The route changes are contingent upon the council adopting the second and final reading of the 2015 budget Nov. 11.
Some council members have in recent years expressed an interest in the city taking a harder look at its bus service and making cost-cutting changes.
The council regularly has praised Flint’s responses to the city’s tall demands to reduce personnel and operating costs of the entire service.
Even when it hasn’t been ordered to reduce costs, the bus service has realized savings by adopting hybrid buses and making small tweaks to the bus routes.
“Whether it’s a council request or not, it’s very important to look at your service you’re providing and look at what’s going right and see what needs to be changed and refined,” Flint said.
So how did a transit department that was tasked with shedding $100,000 each year in personnel costs change its routes this time around without expecting to dramatically alter the experience for most riders?
First, Steamboat Springs Transit consulted a 2-foot-thick binder containing all the bus schedules dating back to 1979.
“The first filter is the historic filter,” Flint explained as he flipped through the giant binder of schedules in his office. “Have we done this before or have we done something similar? If we’ve done it before, what was the schedule and how did it work?”
The next step was to look at passenger counts on the routes getting changed. The bus service keeps track of how many riders get on at each stop, and route and schedule changes can be planned accordingly.
Finally, a bus is sent out to drive and test the new route.
Flint said the upcoming changes are the most significant ones since the 2010-11 season when a late night bus was added to the schedule.
He said the route should be finalized and the schedule released sometime next week.
In addition to the route and schedule changes, the bus service is adding a new GPS service that will allow riders to track buses via their smartphones in real time and better plan their trips.
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