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  • Dylan Anderson

Oak Creek commits to next steps of RTA with hopes of bringing effective service to South Routt

Town officials say frequency of service has been a problem in the past and will be key for any new route’s success in South Routt.   

Oak Creek’s Town Board signaled last week it wants a seat at the table as discussions about a Regional Transportation Authority in the Yampa Valley progress forward this summer.

In a pair of resolutions, the board appointed new Mayor Melissa Dobbins to the regional committee working on the next steps with RTA talks and agreed to allocate a to-be-decided amount of funding to the effort.

While once thought a ballot question could be pursued as soon as November, a workshop in Hayden last month revealed that not every municipality would be able to meet that timeline. After the meeting last week, Dobbins said she didn’t want to rush anything for Oak Creek.

“Steamboat is ready to go with it; they’re ready to get it on the ballot in November,” Dobbins said. “In a perfect world, yeah, let’s get in on that ballot measure, but we need to develop the trust of our constituents here.”

“This is going to be a big conversation, so I want to move efficiently, but I don’t want to rush into it,” Dobbins continued. “We’ve got to have the support of the community.”

Steamboat Springs, Routt County and to a certain degree the city of Craig have had somewhat of a head start on the rest of the valley’s municipalities as they partnered to pay for a study to review the prospects of an RTA locally. That study points to potential projects, funding sources and next steps for how to pull together an RTA.

When leaders met last month in Hayden, they each agreed to decide whether to appoint a representative to a regional committee that would continue the RTA conversation and whether they could commit funding to next steps. That group would then pursue a memorandum of understanding outlining key details of the proposed RTA.

One of the potential projects listed in the RTA study would be a once- or twice-a-day, round-trip bus service to South Routt with additional trips on select weekends in the summer and winter. As contemplated in the study, this service would add six new stops through South Routt and potentially go as far south as Yampa.

But that project is only contemplated in one of three scenarios presented in the plan and still lacks the robust service that town board members said Oak Creek residents would likely require. Oak Creek has had transit in the past in the form of a van-based system, but the main problem was that it didn’t run frequently enough. With 9% of Oak Creek Residents not having a vehicle and many of them working jobs outside typical business hours, board members said the town would probably want more frequent service.

“That was the issue with that, they only had two trips per day,” said Town Board member Bernie Gagne, referring to the ride-share system Oak Creek had tried in the past. “It just really didn’t fit the needs of the community too well, but it was a good effort.”

Gagne said he felt this is still really in the beginning stages for Oak Creek and that there are a lot of questions about what a potential bus route in South Routt looks like. Questions he said need to be answered include if a bus would come into Oak Creek, if it would continue further to Phippsburg and Yampa and what service might extend into Stagecoach, among others.  

Gagne and Dobbins also brought up the concept of a park and ride in South Routt either near Stagecoach or near Oak Creek. Park and ride infrastructure is mentioned in the RTA study, though only between Craig and Steamboat and not in South Routt. Dobbins said it was important that Oak Creek have a seat at the discussion table so that the final plan delivers service that is effective for residents.  

“I don’t want to lose the trust of the community,” Dobbins said. “If it doesn’t seem to work for us, if the need is not there, then we won’t do it… but South Routt is definitely going to be a part of this conversation.”

Steamboat Springs City Council member Michael Buccino, who is serving as Steamboat’s RTA rep, said he was encouraged to hear Oak Creek had committed to participating. He said one reason the study didn’t define South Routt Transit more was that they need additional feedback on what service could be effective.

Buccino noted that in a way, adding transit to South Routt was potentially one of the more important corridors to include in the RTA as it lacks any service currently. It could be particularly helpful when it comes to developing additional housing in growth centers like Stagecoach, he said.

“We want [South Routt] at the table to define what you guys want,” Buccino said. “That’s where we have to succeed is making sure that these people are part of the conversation — That Yampa and Oak Creek and Phippsberg are part of the conversation.”

Top Photo Caption: A Steamboat Springs Transit regional bus passes through downtown Hayden as it makes its way to Craig. (Dylan Anderson/The Yampa Valley Bugle)







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