Summit Stage takes a stand against rowdy riders |

Summit Stage takes a stand against rowdy riders

NICOLE FORMOSAsummit daily news
Summit Daily/Kristin Skvorc

BRECKENRIDGE – Just after midnight on Tuesday morning, a passenger on a Summit Stage bus headed to Breckenridge asked the driver to stop at the corner of Valley Brook and Airport Road. The driver declined the request because there is no stop at that intersection, causing the man to become angry and grab the wheel of the bus, then attempt to punch the driver, according to a report from the Breckenridge Police Department. Incidents such as this one involving reckless riders have escalated on the county’s free buses this season, according to Summit Stage director John Jones, and he’s had enough.”Basically, we’re not going to put up with it anymore,” Jones said.In January, the Stage enacted a no-tolerance policy for passengers removed from the bus by police. If a rider acts unruly and the driver has to call law enforcement to handle the situation, the passenger will be banned from using the bus system permanently.”For the safety and comfort of regular passengers who just want to get their business done, and for visitors coming to county, it’s best we take care of these individuals and that means they don’t ride anymore,” Jones said.A discussion began within Summit Stage about the need to strengthen the rules following a particularly rowdy holiday season, and the transit board agreed that something needed to be done, Jones said.Offenses in the past included assaulting the driver or other passengers, trying to take control of the bus, vandalizing the bus, threatening the driver or acting confrontational toward other riders, he said.There are four people who are perpetually barred from the countywide bus system, he said.Frisco resident Gail Culp, who rides the bus about every other day to Copper Mountain, said she feels banning someone after a single incident is a bit of an extreme move for a tax-supported, public entity to make.

“I think a penalty is good, but the right to appeal is necessary,” Culp said while waiting to board the bus on Wednesday. Culp said a hearing should be held for the person in question before their rights to ride the bus are lost entirely.But, driver Thom Bell said the stricter rules are needed to keep the peace for the rest of the riders.”I feel the Stage does a good job protecting the interests of the county and the tourists that support us … so, I feel it’s a necessary evil,” said Bell, who’s been on the job for four months and hasn’t had to kick anyone off one of his routes. While the suspect in Tuesday’s incident opened the bus door and ran away before the police could be called, Jones said the Stage would have pursued charges had he been caught. Colorado law says that endangering public transportation is a class 3 felony, which is punishable by a $750,000 fine and two to 24 years in prison, he added.The Stage pushed for the prosecution of a man last year who assaulted two passengers and attempted to assault the driver before six other riders were able to pin him down until police could get involved, Jones said.”As bad as it sounds to go to that level, we are trying to protect our passengers and we’re going to do what we have to do make that happen,” he said.The culprits in these cases are usually locals who have had previous problems on the buses, Jones said.Although alcohol often plays a role in the incidents, Jones doesn’t want to dissuade those who’ve had too much to drink from using the bus system as a safe alternative to driving, he just wants them to cooperate.

“I don’t care if you’re drunk. You can be as drunk as you want to be, fall asleep, be happy, but if you’re going to assault our passengers who just want get where they’re trying to go … I’m not going to tolerate that,” he said.Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 13625, or at nformosa@summitdaily.comStage ridership up 8.5 percent in 2005SUMMIT COUNTY -Although ridership is up overall for the Summit Stage, the new route between Keystone and Arapahoe Basin isn’t contributing much to the statistics.”It’s only performing moderately. It doesn’t seem to be doing well, (but) it still gets the people moved around,” said Summit Stage director John Jones. “We thought we’d give it a try this year, we’ll have to see where we are next year.”About 4,300 riders used the route in January. A decision on whether the service will continue will likely be made later this spring, Jones said.Alternatively, the French Gulch route in Breckenridge, which has historically been a poor performer for the Stage set records in two recent months.

Nearly 5,000 people rode the route in January.Jones attributed the increases to the snowy winter weather, which brought more people to the county and onto the free bus system.In 2005, 1.9 million riders were served by the Summit Stage. That figure is up 8.5 percent from 2004.In January, nearly 251,000 riders used the bus system compared with about 231,000 people last January. Fuel costs were up 46.64 percent in December 2005 compared with December 2004. Factors for the jump include the operation of three additional buses in December due to demand, the colder weather and the price of diesel, which stayed high while regular gasoline prices dropped. The Stage currently pays about $2.65 per gallon for diesel.- Source: John Jones, Summit Stage director

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