A large group of young riders boards a bus at Stock Bridge Transit Center on Friday afternoon. Steamboat Springs Transit is experiencing a record year in ridership, which is up 15 percent from last summer.

Photo by John F. Russell

A large group of young riders boards a bus at Stock Bridge Transit Center on Friday afternoon. Steamboat Springs Transit is experiencing a record year in ridership, which is up 15 percent from last summer.

Big weekend for busy buses

Record summer for Steamboat Springs Transit

— It's a record year for Steamboat Springs Transit, and this weekend is predicted to be the busiest of the summer.

In anticipation of the crowds that the Hot Air Balloon Rodeo at Bald Eagle Lake and Art in the Park at Lincoln Park will attract this weekend, extra buses have been added to the schedule at the Meadows parking lot and the Stock Bridge Transit Center.

An estimated 10,000 people will attend Art in the Park, said Marion Kahn, executive director of the Steamboat Springs Arts Council.

"We're encouraging people to ride their bikes and we even have an expanded bike parking lot where they can park," Kahn said.

It's been a big year for Steamboat Springs Transit.

"We're happy so many people are taking the time to try transit," said Jonathan Flint, transit operations manager.

This potentially record weekend follows a Fourth of July weekend that saw a 53 percent increase in riders compared to last year. Last weekend, 5,701 passengers used public transit, while 3,717 used it during the Fourth of July weekend in 2007.

Flint said there were "a lot more riders last weekend than (the department) expected," but they had enough buses scheduled to handle the load without problems.

"Obviously fuel prices are a factor," Flint said. "(Prices) are making people look at riding the bus as an option now."

The number of people who rely on the bus as a primary mode of transportation and ride it every day is also increasing, Flint said.

"We work really hard to allocate our buses so they can stay on schedule so people can rely on them," Flint said.

Overall, 15 percent more people are using the transit system in Steamboat this summer than last summer, according to a press release from city officials. Nationally, transit systems are seeing an increase of 3 to 5 percent more passengers, the release states.

Every month in 2008 has seen an increase in the number of passengers, except April, which was lower due to the ski season ending earlier than last year. There have been 64,000 more riders this year than last year. The city's public transit system has given rides to more than 800,000 passengers this year.

Flint noted one negative result of heavier transit use: he recently has received more complaints than normal about people leaving dogs in cars parked at the Stock Bridge Transit Center. As the days get warmer, such conditions can be very dangerous for dogs, he said.

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