Summit Stage has a new director
FRISCO – John Jones has been riding the Summit Stage recently, trying to get a feel for the routes and the people who drive them.Jones is the new Stage director, having replaced Bill Watterson who left in July for a similar job in Charlottesville, Va.As the new director, Jones is responsible for the 37 buses and 67 employees who drive a total of 4,220 miles each day. He’s in charge of a $5.1 million budget funded by a .0075 percent – three-quarters of a penny – sales tax. And he’s eager to jump in to his new job in a community that supports what he’s doing.”This is a well-run system,” he said. “I’m excited to be part of the planning that’s made it so successful.”Jones got his start in the transportation industry in Cleveland, Ohio, as a school bus technician before being promoted to supervisor. A back injury forced him from working on buses into management, so he earned his business administration degree and returned to work for the city’s school district as a facilities manager.
In that role, he helped begin the community circulator in the greater Cleveland area, a system that sends small buses into neighborhoods and brings people to the hub of town where major routes lie.In 1998, he moved to Medina County to take over management oversight. When that contract expired six months later, the county fired the company for whom Jones worked and hired him to do the job. He worked in that capacity for six years.”Ohio has chopped transit funding so much,” he said. “In 1998, we had a budget of $45 million. Last year it was $15 million. It was getting harder and harder to provide quality service. I feel for the guy who took my position. It’s going to be near impossible to do the job.”The Stage saw more than 1.5 million riders in 2003 and officials there estimate 1.7 million people will ride it this year. Jones hopes to break the 2 million mark next year, primarily due to growth in the county, the high cost of gas and the increasing congestion on local highways.With only a month under his belt here, Jones has no plans to make any immediate changes. He plans to keep the late-night service, which has quadrupled in ridership numbers since it was introduced last year. “There’s some nightlife here,” he said. “People are drunk and happy, and they know they don’t need to drive, so they’re going to ride that bus. That’s fine with us.”
He also plans to provide, when possible, free bus service for special events. And he doesn’t see bus fares on the near horizon.The job is not without its challenges.Frisco residents want to see the return of the Frisco Flyer that serviced downtown and outlying neighborhoods. There are disputes about bus stop locations. And Copper Mountain is trying to ramp up its summer activities, which, in turn, will require additional bus service.”If Copper Mountain’s going to do it, Breckenridge is going to do it, then Keystone’s going to do it,” he said of the increasing competition for visitors. “They’re all looking at the same things.”Jones said he plans to conduct public involvement sessions to find out what various neighborhoods might want in public transit.
“The public funds it,” he said. “The public should have some say in what it does.”Jones moved here for the job, as he’d never been west of the Mississippi River before and he doesn’t ski. His wife, Jeanette, an international sales and marketing official for Rubbermaid, is still in Ohio with their daughter who is finishing graduate school, and son, who works at a tire store.When he’s not riding the buses, Jones spends his time hiking, biking and four-wheel driving.”There’s so much to do here,” he said, gazing out the window. “I like the wide open spaces, the clear blue skies, the clean air. I love it. I should have moved here 20 years ago.”Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or at email@example.com.
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