Battling staffing issues, Breckenridge begins winter bus service Saturday
BRECKENRIDGE — With Breckenridge’s bus system short eight drivers, winter service is being temporarily cut down.
At last week’s Breckenridge Town Council work session, Public Works Director James Phelps said there have been fewer applications for bus drivers this year, which he believes is due in part to COVID-19.
The buses were able to increase their capacities due to new restrictions based on bus size instead of a blanket capacity limit for buses. The Breckenridge Free Ride had been limited to 12 riders per bus, but Phelps said the new formula allows its 35-foot buses to transport 17 riders, 32-foot buses to have a capacity of 16 riders and 30-foot buses to carry 15 riders.
While increased capacity will help with transportation needs, Phelps said the public works department has been challenged in its recruiting for seasonal drivers for the Breckenridge Free Ride this year.
Phelps said the driver shortage means that instead of being able to run eight buses at a time, the town can operate only five buses. However, the town has hired some new drivers for the season and will have the ability to put an extra bus on routes that have higher demand from time to time so that buses will not have to leave people behind, which has happened due to capacity limits.
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On Saturday, Dec. 5, the bus service schedule will transition from the summer plan, which includes six routes, to the winter plan, which is 12 routes. Town spokesperson Haley Littleton wrote in an email Tuesday, Dec. 1, that the Brown Route and the trolley are not included in the current winter plan.
Phelps said he is optimistic about recruiting more drivers to increase service but noted that once they are hired, it still takes two to four weeks of training before the recruit is ready to operate a bus.
Council member Dick Carleton said working to provide employee housing to the transit department has been a topic in the town’s housing committee and asked if it would help the town be able to hire drivers. Phelps said housing would be one of several things that could help the problem.
“Last year in transit, we received somewhere in the magnitude of 115 applications for transit,” Phelps said. “This year, we only received 43. So there’s a lot of people that are making some life choices based on COVID and other things, but housing will absolutely help.”
Phelps noted that the town is short on snowplow drivers, as well. The town currently has five of seven seasonal street operators.
• Blue Route: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Red Route: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
• Black Route: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Gray Route Northside: 6:15 a.m. to 10:15 p.m.
• Gray Route Southside: 6:15 a.m. to 10:15 p.m.
• Purple Route A: 6:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.
• Purple Route B: 3:45-10:15 p.m.
• Black Express Route: 6:15-8:15 a.m. and 5:45-10:15 p.m.
• Airport Road Express: 6:15-10:15 a.m. and 2:15-5:15 p.m.
• Employee Shuttle Route to Peaks 7 and 8: 5:55-8 a.m.
• Employee Shuttle Route to Peak 9: 5:55-8 a.m.
This service schedule begins Dec. 5. The Upper Warriors Mark Shuttle will begin Dec. 21.
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