BRECKENRIDGE - Riders will see some changes in the routes and travel times on the Summit Stage by summer of next year, as officials begin to implement a number of improvements to the transit system.
The most significant of the changes is a possible reconfiguration of the system's approximately nine routes. If current plans are implemented, there will be only three major lines, all operating from a single hub in Silverthorne.
"The major advantage of this proposal is to the rider," Summit Stage board president Kent Willis said. "The new routes are essentially the same, but ... it allows someone to stay on one bus most of the time. We're trying to eliminate transfers."
One of the three routes would run from Copper Mountain to Frisco to Silverthorne and on to Keystone while a second would take riders from Boreas Pass, through Breckenridge to Frisco and ultimately to Silverthorne. The third key route under the proposed reconfiguration is the Swan Mountain Flyer, which would continue to run from Breckenridge to Keystone to Arapahoe Basin.
Other existing routes could continue to run as feeder lines as well.
The routes might also be renamed or color-coded to help clarify the system for out-of-town riders.
"We're really trying to simplify the route designation to make it simpler for people to understand and then be comfortable with the system," Willis said.
The reconfiguration was advised in a $70,000 future-needs study that targeted necessary improvements, particularly on the north side of the county, to allow the Stage to continue to meet the changing needs of riders in Summit County.
A steering committee of Summit Stage drivers and administrators has put forward a second, complementary plan that focuses on reducing travel times and improving the system on the south side of the county, particularly cutting the time from Frisco to Breckenridge and streamlining the trip from Copper to Breckenridge.
"There is some potential to put those together," Willis said. "(We will) talk about where there're some overlaps and how they can merge."
Most of the proposed changes are cost neutral, Willis said.
But the plans leave out some of the additions and improvements to the Summit Stage that have been discussed recently - including a circulator route for Frisco and a bus that travels to Blue River.
Blue River officials say tapping into the county transit system remains a priority for them, but that they understand the budgetary challenges associated with it.
"It takes money to do that, and we have to work with (the Summit Stage)," Blue River Mayor Lindsay Backas said. "If it doesn't happen now, I'm sure it will happen later. ... It's not something we're going to forget about. At some point in time, we will have transportation on this end of the county."
The changes likely won't go into effect until the Summit Stage switches over to its summer schedule in 2013, Willis said.