Stage annual report reflects terror effect on tourism
SUMMIT COUNTY<Ridership on the Summit Stage increased a slight .9 percent in 2001, the lowest annual growth for the bus service since it began.The Stage director said last year started out strong, but ridership growth flattened after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and wasn1t helped by poor early season ski conditions. County transit director Bill Watterson said the reduced number of tourists coming to Summit County was behind the ridership drop-off.32001 looked a lot like 2000, Watterson said. 3It started strong, but finished low<it was sort of a wash as far as rider growth goes.The stage posted of greater-than-30 percent growth in 1993, 1994 and 1998. The previous lowest growth year was 1999, when ridership grew only 1.4 percent over the year before. Over the Stage1s 10-year history, the bus service has averaged 15 percent growth annually, and ridership has grown 382.7 percent overall.The Stage1s operating expenses grew 1.4 percent in 2001, and the cost per guest trip rose slightly, from $2.62 to $2.64.Growth of bus ridership is one of many variables the Summit County Transit Board continues to analyze in an attempt to evaluate service equity. In addition to its hub-and-spoke regular service (Frisco is the hub for town-to-town routes), the Stage operates or oversees other services, such as paratransit for seniors and the disabled and Tipsy Taxi. The evaluation of equity includes such aspects as the number of service hours devoted to a particular route and the share of ridership that route represents.Outcomes of the equity study might include simple changes in routes or the separation of the Stage from county government and formation of an independent transit authority.The success of a new, late-night bus service won1t be known for some time. The Stage began running buses as late as 2 a.m., depending on the route, on March 3. Voters made the service expansion possible by approving a quarter-percent sales tax increase in November, giving the Stage about $2 million to hire and train new drivers to fill the extra shifts and keep buses running. In reviewing the Stage1s annual report Thursday, Summit County Transit Board members said they don1t want to make any judgments about the service until more numbers are gathered.3What I1ll be curious to see is if there1s any correlation between the numbers on the late-night service and accidents or DUI arrests, said Frisco representative David Amli.Stage drivers familiar with late-night runs from New Year1s Eve shifts were apprehensive about a permanent after-hours shift because of unruly, intoxicated passengers. Watterson said drivers hadn1t given him any indication there were problems, though.3Honestly, I1ve been surprised, Watterson told transit board members. 3I haven1t heard of anything, and normally, in March, I1d have a few reports by this time.Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 237 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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