Summer ridership decreased on Steamboat’s bus system as transit sees other improvements |

Summer ridership decreased on Steamboat’s bus system as transit sees other improvements

A Steamboat Springs Transit bus travels through downtown Steamboat Springs in 2014.
File photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — This summer, fewer people caught the bus in Steamboat Springs, but passengers on Steamboat Springs Transit buses were slightly more likely to catch a bus on time. Other behind-the-scenes improvements to the bus system have increased the safety of Steamboat Springs Transit buses.

Overall, summer ridership in 2018 was 10 percent lower than it was last summer.

In July, Steamboat Springs Transit carried 91,103 passengers compared to the 103,514 passengers that rode in July 2017.

Part of this is because of the decreased frequency of scheduled evening buses, Transit Manager Jonathan Flint said. The city changed the bus schedule starting in winter 2017 in a money-saving effort. After 8 p.m., buses run every 30 minutes. Last summer, they ran every 20 minutes.

“I never want to see a ridership decrease, but it’s not completely unanticipated with that change in service,” Flint said. He added that Steamboat Springs Transit has looked at the cost of reestablishing nighttime service as the city considers its next budget cycle.

By the numbers

  • Steamboat Springs Transit carried 91,103 passengers in July 2018. Last year, it carried 103,514.
  • Cost per passenger rose from $3 in summer 2017 to $3.41.
  • Buses were on time 89 percent of the time this year, compared to 83 percent last year.

The decrease in ridership has also increased the operating cost of the bus system from $3 per passenger to $3.41.

“We are still way below both the Colorado average cost per passenger and the national average cost per passenger,” Flint said.

Steamboat’s buses are more frequently on time than they were last summer. This summer, buses trended at 89 percent on time. Last year, buses ran on time about 83 percent of the time.

Steamboat Springs Transit kept a reserve bus that was put into use at peak travel times in the mid to late afternoon.

“We’ve been able to put this bus out there when we were typically seeing delays wither by construction or by traffic,” said Flint. This allowed buses that ran late to better catch up to the bus schedule on their next loop.

“We can also use that extra bus when we’ve been having full buses,” Flint said. “Heading up towards the mountain, we’re able to put that bus in, and, rather than a full bus falling even further behind, it’s able to jump in there and help out with that passenger load.”

Less obvious changes to Steamboat’s transit system have improved the safety of passengers.

Several transit staff members received a bus collision certification from the U.S. Department of Transportation. This allows these staff members to help determine the cause of an accident. Transit staff can now assist the Steamboat Springs Police Department, insurance companies and the Colorado State Patrol in investigating crashes involving buses. It also makes the transit system safer, as collision investigators can help train bus drivers to better avoid accidents, Flint said.

Passengers riding the regional buses between Craig, Hayden and Steamboat can now buckle up in newly installed seatbelts. The improvement required removing and completely replacing seats in three regional buses. A fourth bus was retrofitted with seatbelts.

“That’s been a big undertaking,” Flint said. “Some of our customers will feel much more comfortable riding the bus with the seatbelts on there. We think it’s a great option to be able to provide for our customers for those that want to use the seatbelts.”

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

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