Summit Stage ridership nears two million mark
SUMMIT COUNTY So far, the new Summit Stage Swan Mountain Flyer route connecting Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin hasn’t met ridership expectations, Stage director John Jones said, summarizing operations for 2006.The resort-to-resort service was touted as potentially one of the busiest routes for the Summit Stage. Jones said backers of the new route projected up to 10,000 to 15,000 passengers per month. But during December, just 4,500 people used the service, Jones said. To date in January, the Flyer has carried about 1,600 passengers, he added.Jones said he expects the number to rise as awareness of the route increases. The Stage is currently planning to boost its marketing for the Swan Mountain Flyer, he said.Breckenridge Ski Area operations vice president Rick Sramek, who also serves on the Summit Stage board, said he doesn’t recall any specific mention of projected ridership numbers in that higher range. Sramek said there was somewhat of a misconception about the nature of the run between resorts. Along with serving tourists, the route also is important for resort employees commuting between the two sides of the county. Sramek said after-hours use of the service has been strong.There was some controversy when the Stage initially was considering the route, as a private local taxi service complained about government subsidized competition.Jones said the recent controversy over the move to drop a pair of Frisco Main Street stops as part of direct Frisco to Breckenridge died down after service was partially restored with hourly service to Main Street. Jones said he’s only heard from handful of people since the changes were made last month.Overall, the Summit Stage saw passenger numbers climb by 4.8 percent in 2006, up to 1.99 million riders. With any sort of growth this year, that total should climb above the 2 million mark for the first time.The busiest route in the county was the Silverthorne to Keystone stretch, with 549,402 passengers. Jones said 401,000 passengers rode Summit Stage buses between Frisco and Breckenridge in 2006.The last time the passenger count declined was in 2002-2003, Jones said. Since then, ridership grew by 10 percent two years in a row, then by 8 percent the following year.High gas prices during the summer pinched the budget for a while, but the drop in fuel costs late in the year narrowed the group’s budget gap. Jones said the Stage went over budget by $100,000, but that was a smaller deficit than projected, based on fuel prices.Later this winter and into spring and summer, a consultant will take a wide-angle look at Stage routes and scheduling, Jones said. Bids for the study close Jan. 26 and Jones is hoping to have the consultants on board by March 1. A draft final report is due July 31 to be followed by public hearings through the month of August.”We can’t grow at the rate we have been without making some changes,” Jones said, explaining that general development and activity in the county affects the Summit Stage along with everyone else.Summit Stage board meetings are held at 8:15 a.m. the last Wednesday of the month at the Summit County Community and Senior Center at the County Commons.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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