One month after its inception, a winter bus service to Steamboat Springs and other mountain towns is gaining ridership and receiving positive feedback from passengers.
Snowstang, which provides round-trip rides on weekends to Steamboat Resort, Arapahoe Basin and Loveland, builds on the success of the Colorado Department of Transportation’s regional Bustang system.
Officials have touted the winter service as a convenient travel option that also reduces traffic and greenhouse emissions from vehicles.
Some rides have not come without complications, which is nothing new to winter travel in Colorado. The inaugural Snowstang bus to Arapahoe Basin, for instance, got stuck for almost 30 minutes trying to turn around amid a heavy winter storm. A crash along the return route also delayed the bus for several hours, but all passengers returned to Denver safely.
While ridership to Steamboat has surpassed expectations, it remains the route with the least number of passengers, according to data from CDOT. As of Thursday, Jan. 16, 153 one-way tickets had been booked for the Steamboat route. Comparatively, 384 tickets had been booked for the Arapahoe Basin route and 482 tickets had been booked for trips to Loveland.
Michael Timlin, bus operations manager for CDOT, attributed the lower numbers along the Steamboat route to the longer length of the trip and the fact that it leaves on Saturday and returns on Sunday. Rides to the other two resorts leave on Saturday and return to Denver the same day.
Fares to Steamboat are $20 one-way with discounts available for children, people with disabilities and people ages 65 and older. Each bus holds 51 passengers and is equipped with Wi-Fi access, a restroom and USB and power outlets.
On average, buses to Steamboat have been more than 30% full, according to Timlin. Officials had set a goal of 20% capacity for rides to and from Steamboat.
“We knew it would take some time to grow,” Timlin said, adding he was pleased with the popularity of the service thus far.
He added that about 20 residents in and around Steamboat have used a Snowstang bus to travel to the Front Range on Sunday, an added benefit to the service’s primary purpose of getting residents to ski resorts.
Timlin said feedback on the rides has been generally positive, based his conversations with passengers and from surveys that CDOT has collected.
One such satisfied rider is Denver resident Sarah Mielke, who took a Snowstang bus to Steamboat in December to visit her daughter. She listed multiple advantages to using the service, such as its convenience and the relatively low cost.
“Because of the price as well as the easy ride, I was able to take my daughter for both food and shopping at our local favorite businesses,” Mielke said.
She also prefers to take public transportation, because it is more environmentally friendly than using her own vehicle. While her ride had a few delays due to traffic, Mielke described the bus as clean, spacious and quiet.
“I hope in the future people will utilize it more so it can expand,” she said.
Jim Schneider, vice president of skier services with Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp., said Snowstang has been a great sustainable addition for transportation options to Steamboat.
So far, the buses have saved 1,868 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere through private vehicles, according Timlin.
The city and the resort each are paying 30% of the total cost of Snowstang rides to Steamboat, with CDOT covering the remaining 40%. According to City Manager Gary Suiter, the city and resort have contributed $15,752 thus far, and CDOT has paid just over $21,000.
Buses leave Denver on Saturdays from Union Station and the Federal Center Station, then stop in Steamboat at the Gondola Transit Center and the Stockbridge Transit Center. The bus returns to Denver on Sundays along the same stops.
Timlin said that if Snowstang is a success this year, CDOT will continue the service next winter, perhaps with additional routes to more resorts.
To book a ride on the Snowstang, visit ridebustang.com or download the Bustang mobile app, JustRide Bustang.