City bus ridership continues to climb

— Even though the city had to schedule 30-minute service in 2000 due to a lack of bus drivers, bus ridership reached record levels.

Topping 1 million riders for the second time, Steamboat Springs Transit dealt with fuller, if not more frequent, buses than in the past, said SST supervisor Terry Stokes.

"I think it was a tribute to our drivers that we had a successful season," Stokes said.

The transit department also dealt with an Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit for much of the year, brought by two disabled residents who claimed to have been denied equal service by the city. One of the requirements in the city's settlement with the federal government was that the city take all non-ADA compliant buses out of regular service.

Those buses can still be used for peak service but will not be used for regularly scheduled service, said Transit Director George Krawzoff.

Stokes said the suit had a minimal impact on the service SST offered this year.

The biggest difficulty for the bus department was hiring enough drivers, he said.

With expanded bus routes during the winter, the 40 drivers on the department's payroll for this winter were still not enough to offer the 20-minute service it had hoped for. Some of those 40 drivers are part-timers who work only a couple of shifts a week, Stokes said.

The city offered 20-minute service in 1998.

Although the city had budgeted for 20-minute service in 2000, Krawzoff was unable to find enough people to fill the slots. He said the department would have needed about 50 winter drivers to offer reliable 20-minute service.

In the past, the city employed more seasonal drivers interested in finding work to supplement their skiing habit, Krawzoff said.

Nowadays, the demographic has shifted, with more people who have families looking for work, he said.

With the shortage of affordable housing, the city is hard-pressed to find the right people for the jobs, Krawzoff said.

With less frequent buses, people were sometimes left standing at bus stops as occupancy stretched to its capacity during peak hours, Stokes said.

If people were left behind, another bus would be sent out within 10 minutes, Stokes added.

"Nobody waits more than 10 minutes," he said.

To reach Avi Salzman call 871-4203

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