Expanding regional bus system for Steamboat, Hayden, Craig under consideration | CraigDailyPress.com

Expanding regional bus system for Steamboat, Hayden, Craig under consideration

Eleanor C. Hasenbeck/Steamboat Pilot & Today
A Steamboat Springs Transit regional bus travels on U.S. Highway 40 near Craig in 2015.
File Photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs and Routt County are exploring a collaboration to expand bus service in Northwest Colorado.

On Tuesday, Steamboat Springs City Council members floated the idea before the Routt County Board of Commissioners to “gauge their temperature,” as Council President Jason Lacy put it.

In a joint meeting Tuesday, local leadership decided to explore several options that would provide public transit to South Routt. Due to the expectation of low ridership, it is unlikely this service would extend to North Routt.

Currently, residents and visitors have a few options to get around the county and the state as a whole on a bus, and all of these options serve the U.S. Highway 40 corridor between Steamboat, Hayden and Craig.

The county and the city contribute funding to the daily Steamboat Springs Transit Regional Bus, which runs twice in the morning and twice in the early evening, stopping in Craig, Hayden, Milner and Steamboat II.

A Greyhound bus route serves the U.S. 40 corridor from Denver to Salt Lake City once daily, and Go Alpine provides shuttle service from Steamboat to Denver International and Yampa Valley Regional airports.

In a program that’s since been discontinued, Routt County once offered a vanpool service to South Routt, which carried 12 or so passengers between Oak Creek and Steamboat for $6 a day.

At a joint meeting in May, the two governing bodies will hear a presentation from Steamboat Springs Transit about the costs and logistics of sending a regional bus to South Routt. Both entities expressed interest in inviting representatives of the communities of Hayden, Oak Creek, Yampa and Craig to the work session.

The concept of an expanded regional transit system, for now, is open-ended. It could mean establishing a regional transit authority funded by a voter-approved transportation district or establishing an organized system to encourage carpooling.

It could also be an expansion of Steamboat Springs Transit’s regional services, which City Manager Gary Suiter said is seeing such a demand that it will soon need more equipment and a schedule with more frequent service on its route to West Routt and Craig.

There have also been talks for some time of expanding the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Bustang to Northwest Colorado. The Bustang currently serves routes between the Front Range and Grand Junction, Durango, Gunnison and Alamosa.

Council Member Heather Sloop, who serves on the Colorado Department of Transportation Advisory Committee, said the agency is considering a route from Wolcott to Steamboat and Craig.

“That could be a potential bonus for everyone, and it could include some sort of cost sharing. We don’t know what type, but it would incentivize that outrider program to come up this way … If we could get support from the county, albeit any support, I think we would have greater success in getting some sort of outridership up here from Bustang.”

In the May discussion, City Council members and county commissioners will consider census data, which Council Member Scott Ford said could reveal how many community members are commuting between Steamboat Springs and other municipalities in the region.

A concern voiced by each commissioner was the potential cost of a regional transit program.

“Clearly transportation is … related to (affordable) housing within this community, and that is countywide,” Commissioner Beth Melton said. “I would welcome this opportunity to find out more about how we can be a partner in that. I think you’ve heard the concerns that financially it’s hard. It’s hard to make it pencil it out. We know that.”

To view the City Council and commissioners’ discussion on this topic, visit docs.steamboatsprings.net:10100/OnBaseAgendaOnline.

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

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