Regional transportation assessment shows Summit County as a leader in public transit

A Summit Stage bus pulls into a stop on Main Street in Frisco on Aug. 31. The service offers two out-of-county routes to Fairplay and Leadville.
Grace Coomaraswamy/For the Summit Daily News

At the end of August, the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments released a transportation gap analysis assessment, detailing how accessible transportation is throughout the region and what can be improved.

A key aspect lacking across the region is county-to-county public transportation options, according to the report. Looking directly at Summit County, the report found a lack of resources to travel to Eagle or Grand counties.

The report stated that there is a Bustang route that travels between Vail and Frisco three times a day but that adding additional midday options would help improve mobility between Summit and Eagle counties.

For Grand County, the report calls out that traveling between Winter Park and Summit County is a challenge. There are Bustang routes between Craig and Denver with stops in Winter Park, but the number of transfers needed would make the trip impossible to do round trip in one day, according to the report.

“With additional frequency on one or both Bustang routes, the connection between the two routes may be more feasible,” the report reads. “Another option would be for the Lift (in Winter park) or Summit Stage to coordinate extending their current service areas and connect the two counties.”

While there are limited transportation options between counties, Summit has a plethora of free, accessible public bus routes for travel within county lines. The current out-of-county options include a shuttle to Fairplay in Park County and another to Leadville in Lake County, but with an already understaffed Summit Stage, it would be difficult to expand these options anytime soon.

Between the Summit Stage and Breckenridge Free Ride, many folks rely on public transportation to get around the county. Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said she’s proud of what the county is able to offer in terms of transit but that there’s always room for improvement. She said the lack of commercially licensed drivers staffing public transit keeps her up at night.

“How can we continue to offer that service while we simply do not have enough workforce?” Lawrence said. “That’s where we’re continuing to put all of our time and energy is really into those routes that are critical. We wish we could offer it like we used to with really robust service. We just simply don’t have the workforce right now.”

Lawrence agrees with the report’s findings that Summit can do more to support its out-of-county neighbors.

“I would like to see in the future the Summit Stage really work to become a regional transit authority and offer us service as we already do to Fairplay and Leadville,” Lawrence said. “I would like to see that further expand and also include Kremmling to offer our bedroom communities and those folks that live just beyond our county borders (transit service). They’re such an important part of our community and our workforce.”

The report also explained that major transit activity centers throughout Summit County increase the need for public transit. This includes grocery and large chain stores, malls like the Outlets at Silverthorne, hospitals and medical centers, senior centers and ski resorts.

The report also provided insight on characteristics of those dependent on public transit in Summit County, groups which the report said are concentrated mostly in Breckenridge and Silverthorne:

  • 12.8% of the county’s population are older adults
  • 8% of the county’s population are low-income residents
  • 2.1% of the county’s population have some kind of disability related to walking
  • 2% of the county’s population have no vehicle

Overall, Summit County — along with Eagle, Garfield and Pitkin — earned the report’s recognition for the largest availability of transportation options.

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