'Discovering the bus'

More workers choosing transit system for transportation

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Steamboat Springs Transit officials said the city's offering of a low-cost regional bus service has three purposes -- lowering traffic volumes, lessening pollution and bringing in out-of-town workers.

Transit passengers said their reasons for taking the bus to and from work in Steamboat are more basic -- the service is cheap and the ride convenient.

"It can make for a long day," said Nancy Strong, a Craig resident who's been taking the bus from Craig to Steamboat off and on for five years. "But, it's economical. You have lots of room. You can read the paper and talk to people. ... Having the bus is great."

The transit, which has been in operation since 1990, transported 34,736 people from Craig, Hayden, Milner and Steamboat Springs II in 2006, an increase of nearly 3,000 riders from the year before. Numbers from the first 2 1/2 months of 2007 indicate transit use probably will increase again, said Jonathan Flint, transit operations manager.

"We seem to be on pace to have an increase similar to 2005 to 2006," he said. "People are discovering the bus and finding it a good value."

Strong can attest to its value on two levels. The first, she said, is the cost. One-way fare from Craig to Steamboat is $5, or $10 for round-trip passage. A pass valued at $50, equaling 10 round-trip rides, costs $35.

"For someone working five days a week, it should be perfect," Steamboat Springs transportation director George Krawzoff said.

An added benefit to using the bus, Strong said, is it allows her convenient access to a job that pays a reasonable wage. She makes $15 an hour in Steamboat.

"Where can you get that in Craig?" she said.

Strong is one of many local residents capitalizing on higher-paying jobs in Routt County and the lower cost of living in Moffat County. According to the Community Indicators Project -- a 2005-06 report gauging economic, social, civic and environmental factors in the Yampa Valley -- the economic interdependence between the two counties is growing.

About 21 percent of the Moffat County workforce commutes to jobs in Routt County, according to the report. The Steamboat Springs Transit, a link connecting the two counties, is a cooperative effort between Moffat and Routt counties and the cities of Hayden, Craig and Steamboat Springs.

For 16 years, Craig resident Peggy Bailey drove to her job at Steamboat Central Reservation, where she works in accounting. The past two years, Bailey has taken the transit and estimates she saves anywhere from $35 to $50 per week in gasoline.

Bailey, 65, qualifies for free rides as a senior citizen. Children 6 years old and younger also may ride for free.

"I wouldn't fight this traffic for anything," Bailey said. "It's a rat race out here."

Instead of hustle and bustle, the bus ride allows her a peaceful, friendly commute.

"I like to look out the window, watch for elk, deer, eagles," she said. "It's amazing what all you can see. And, you meet all kinds of nice people."

One of those nice people Bailey exchanged pleasantries with Friday morning was Lynn Churchill, of Hayden.

Churchill, a Steamboat Springs municipal employee, also rides the bus for free, a perk of working for the city.

Churchill has been riding the bus for three years and has found monthly savings in gasoline and wear and tear on her vehicle. She also said new buses implemented last year provide a comfortable ride to work.

Krawzoff said long-term plans call for a new transit facility in Craig, which would be used to store buses and accommode "park-and-ride" passengers, and potentially expanding service.

For more information on the transit, call 879-3717.

Story at a glance

  • 34,736 people hailing from Craig, Hayden, Milner and Steamboat Springs II rode Steamboat Springs Transit in 2006.
  • Peak months for bus travel are December through March, when the average passengers per month count is about 3,500.
  • Passengers say bus service comfortable, economical and convenient.
  • Transit system seen as integral amenity for Craig work force.

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

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