Jim Andrew, a private-sector consultant and manager with more than 30 years of experience in transit planning, will take the helm of the Summit Stage early next month, Summit County officials confirmed Tuesday.
The California-based business owner is expected to bring new perspectives on route and system efficiency to the Stage.
“It seems that in our system, one of the big things we’ve been missing is real transit planning experience,” assistant county manager Thad Noll said. “This is the first guy we’ve had in a long time that has a deep transit planning background.”
Andrew, who is set to start work in early July, will arrive at time of critical transition and, potentially, sweeping change for the Stage. The free bus service is currently facing a $300,000 budget shortfall, depleted reserves, dissatisfied drivers and the possibility of privatization.
Still, Andrew said he took the job without hesitation.
“I think I’m up to the challenge,” he said. “I don’t think we’re looking at completely reinventing transit in the county, but I think there are certainly some improvements that can be made.”
Andrew has only visited Summit County once, for his job interview, and said he doesn’t initially have any grand plans to change the bus system, but he comes armed with knowledge of best practices from various transit programs across the country.
“My background is pretty diverse,” he said. “I think that experience will be a benefit there in Summit County. I’ve worked in a lot of different areas so I know what other communities are doing.”
The Stage has been without a director for nearly six months, since John Jones, the longest-serving leader the system ever had, resigned in January to take a position in Virginia, and is beginning to fall behind its neighbors when it comes to improvements and technology.
The Breckenridge Free Ride has launched a series of new digital enhancements in the last year, including online trip planning features, a bus tracking system and a new digital ridership-tracking program.
While Jones said last year the Stage was on track to make similar strides, plans to implement the improvements seem to have stalled out amid budget concerns and cost-cutting conversations.
It’s an area to which Andrew said he hopes to return focus as transit director. He’s helped implement “smart bus” systems in other communities in his private-sector work.
“I think those are good things, things we need to be looking at,” he said. “Transit has, in a lot of ways, not just in Summit County but nationally, been on the leading edge of a lot of technology, such as low-emission fuel, on-board intelligent bus systems, communication systems.”
Andrew did short-term management or consulting work with transit systems and related agencies in Green Bay, Wis., New York City, Dayton, Ohio, and Jackson, Wyo. He currently runs his own business, Professional Transit Services, out of southern California, where he’s lived for more than 25 years.
Andrew said he wasn’t looking to relocate to Colorado, but jumped at the opportunity.
“As a consultant and a manager I’ve visited a lot of smaller-sized communities. They appeal to me a lot,” he said. “And Colorado is so darn pretty. Who couldn’t like Colorado?”
He’s a skier, and although he says he’s out of practice, he plans to get back on the mountain again in Summit County.
“I’m probably going to be a little shy initially and do the bunny slopes,” he said. “I’ll take it slow.”