Regional transit authority could come to Yampa Valley by 2024
A regional transit authority could be coming to the Yampa Valley in the next year or two.
Steamboat Springs, Routt County and Craig have received a grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation to study the possibility, with the county focusing on public engagement and community outreach, Steamboat focusing on legal definitions and operational partnerships, and Craig focusing on different modes of operation and their costs.
“‘We need to properly address the need and determine what would be the best solution for the Yampa Valley,” said Craig city manager Peter Brixius. “Having a robust transportation system is critical for the Yampa Valley, especially when we have that much workforce moving up valley each day.”
The three municipalities will determine what the transit authority could look like over the next several years, but Steamboat Springs Transit Manager Jonathan Flint said it could take a number of different forms — a more robust bus system between Steamboat and Craig, roadway expansion, better biking and pedestrian trails, or any other mode of transportation.
Flint said the city has previously looked to Roaring Fork Transportation Authority — which runs buses from Rifle to Aspen and has been named the best rural transit operation in the country — as an example of what could work in Routt and Moffat counties.
Steamboat Springs Transit currently runs two routes in the summer and three in the winter from Steamboat to Craig, stopping in Milner, Hayden and Steamboat ll on the way.
As Steamboat continues to get more expensive and more of the city’s workforce moves to the surrounding area, Brixius said better public transit between the two counties is essential.
“Close to half of our workforce leaves the county each day, so having a regional transportation option is so important,” Brixius said. “Certainly, Steamboat Springs Transit is part of that today, but we’d like to see that enhanced.”
While a regional transit service would primarily benefit Steamboat workers living outside the city, Brixius also envisioned tourists using such a service if they want to recreate in Steamboat but stay in Hayden or Craig at a lower cost.
“This is going to also benefit a lot of tourism and activity down valley (when people) want to take advantage of the recreational amenities in Steamboat but maybe are looking to benefit their vacation by seeing some other areas or benefit from lower costs of lodging or that sort of thing,” Brixius said.
Flint said the three municipalities have been in discussions for years, but the grant will get the ball rolling to take action. In a best-case scenario, Flint said, Yampa Valley voters could see a regional transit question on the 2024 ballot with better information and more details by 2023.
“The cool thing about an RTA is that it’s really kind of loosely defined as far as what it can be used for,” Flint said. “It really allows for the community to direct if it wants to go small, large, what’s involved (and) what would not be involved.”
Flint said that as each municipality works through its own part of the process, the groups will develop contracts with the state and hire a firm to the study the area and its feasibility.
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