Letter: City should consider loaner ebikes to alleviate busing problems
It is well past time for Steamboat Springs City Council to consider how innovation can solve problems, which traditional solutions have proven difficult.
The Yellow Line bus service has always been problematic because it serves low density residential neighborhoods. Though, because it also serves an affordable housing complex, Hillside Village, City Council has felt obligated to provide public transit. The problem is that Yellow Line has too few riders, so the cost per rider is about $11, which resulted in ever-decreasing hours of service and made it a less useful means of transit for residents. Now, service has been suspended.
It has long been no good to live along the Yellow Line without an alternative means of transportation. Service hours are limited, and the time between buses is too long to use the service as a part of daily life.
I think it would provide much better service to residents and cost less if the city were to create a loaner ebike program for low income residents. The hilly nature of the Yellow Line makes riding a normal bike physically challenging. At the Yellow Line’s cost of $11 per trip, an ebike would not need to be used much to be a less expensive form of transportation. An ebike also allows much greater flexibility and greatly shortens overall travel time compared to riding buses. Urban ebikes have strong racks able to carry groceries and so on. It is more practical to carry stuff on an ebike than to and from a bus stop.
While weather is not always perfect for riding an ebike, it is viable the great majority of days, and the weather can make walking to and from a bus stop equally miserable. A person has to stand outside unprotected for nearly all of the bus stops for the Yellow Line.
I note that public transit’s objective is not only to provide transit to its riders but to remove congestion on roads. An ebike loaner program would also provide an alternative to residents. The city has open space trails, so an ebike rider can often avoid city streets for much of their trip.
A loaner ebike program could be initiated as a trial so that there are minimal initial costs. We can see if it works and how well the loaner ebikes are being used and determine best practices to put ebikes in the hands of those who use them. If it is shown to be cost effective, the trial could wait to be expanded with an annual budget item comparable to that of running the Yellow Line.
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