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Summit Stage director resigns

The Summit Stage free transit system serves thousands of riders each day/

The Summit Stage free transit system serves thousands of riders each day/

John Jones moving on to head transit system in Virginia

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Summit Stage director John Jones said today he’s resigning from his job effective Feb. 8. Jones will become the new director of the transit system in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“When you sit up thinking about doing something new after the alarm goes off, you know it’s time for a change,” Jones said, adding that he’s looking forward to the new challenges ahead.

Jones has led the Summit Stage the past eight years through some serious ups and downs, including the peak of the resort and real estate boom years and the subsequent deep slump that cut into county tax revenues, including the free transit system’s budget, with the drop in revenues coming at a time of rising costs.

Those pressures on the Summit Stage budget resulted in some schedule juggling and associated staff cuts, leading to heated dispute with the unionized drivers. Not everyone was happy with Jones’ tenure, but that’s part of the nature of that type of job.

County officials said they have no immediate plans to replace Jones.

“We’ll look internally and see if want to make any structural changes,” said assistant county manager Thad Noll, explaining that the change in leadership could present an opportunity to rethink management of the transit system.

The Summit Stage continues to face budget challenges, Noll said, with costs increasing. But the overall budget picture is looking a bit brighter with sources of sales tax revenue coming online, he added, singling out the Lowe’s store in Silverthorne as a significant sales tax generator.

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Summit Stage drivers voice concerns to BOCC

Summit Stage drivers who are concerned about schedule changes and impending layoffs expressed their views to the county commissioners this week. Click on the image to see video coverage of the ongoing Summit Stage debate.

County officials say they’ll review an alternate cost study done by drivers; savings to Stage budget at issue in ongoing debate over schedule and service changes

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Local bus drivers for the Summit Stage once again aired their grievances about a schedule change, telling the county commissioners this week that the switch from a four-day to a five-day work week is not justified by the cost-savings identified by an outside transit consultant.

The Stage has been pinched by the general decline in sales tax revenues the past year. In response, the transit board cut back on service for the second summer in a row. At the same time, director John Jones ordered a transit study to look for additional savings. He said the results showed that the move to a five-day work week would cut annual costs by more than $160,000.

Drivers with Stage did an alternate analysis of the numbers. They claim the schedule shift will actually cost the county more money than it saves. Those numbers were at issue during a transit board meeting two weeks ago, when board members said they would look at the information to try and get a better picture of the situation. Transit board members said it’s unlikely they would switch the schedule back for this summer, but indicated they would try and restore the four-day work week when the Stage goes back to a winter schedule. Continue reading

VIDEO: Stage drivers speak up at transit board meeting

VIDEO: Summit County transit board members listen Wednesday morning as Summit Stage drivers outline concerns with a schedule change. Click on the picture to see a video of drivers, transit board members and county officials speaking.

Schedule changes and Leadville service are at issue in dispute between drivers and county; click on the picture at right to see video clips from the transit board meeting

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Summit Stage drivers voiced their concerns about a schedule change during this morning’s transit board meeting, telling the board members that the move from a four-day to a five-day work week will create unnecessary hardships.

Some drivers said the added work day would mean extra commuting time and expenses, and in some cases hinder drivers from having a second part-time job.

The drivers said the new schedule, developed by an outside consultant, won’t save as much money as claimed, and also asked why supervisors weren’t switched to the new five-day schedule that’s set to take effect mid-April.

Part of the Summit Stage work force is unionized and currently engaged in wage negotiations with the county.

Transit board members appeared to listen sympathetically, but weren’t inclined to question the scheduling changes made by Summit Stage director John Jones.

“This board’s primary duty is to establish policies and procedures … We don’t make management recommendations,” said chairman Kent Willis. “Budgets are what they are … I don’t think we’re trying to alienate and punish anyone. We’re going to have to talk about what we can do to address this information,” he said. Continue reading

Summit Stage looking at more layoffs next month

Drivers unhappy with schedule changes; union and county are negotiating a new contract

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A wage freeze and job cuts are at stake as a local bus driver’s union engages in a tension-filled contract negotiation with Summit County. The Summit Stage currently employs 65 full-time drivers, though not all of them are members of the union.

“We started with the premise that a stage driver ought to be able to live, work and raise kids in Summit County,” said Bill Acuff, a negotiator with the union who was headed down to Denver Tuesday morning to meet with attorneys for the union. The local group, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1751, is affiliated with the National Amalgamated Transit Union, under the umbrella of the AFL CIO.

“There’s a wage freeze at issue … a lot of issues to be settled,” Acuff said.

Currently, the unionized drivers are working under an open-ended mediated labor agreement, subject to a renegotiation of a contract.

One of the biggest unanswered questions is how many drivers will be laid off when the Summit Stage cuts back its hours in early April. According to Acuff, it could be as many as 15 drivers, depending on exactly how the summer schedule shapes up.

Stage director John Jones acknowledged that there will be some layoffs, but he’s not yet sure how many. It may depend in part on how many drivers choose to resign over a radical change in scheduling. Continue reading

You’re invited: Community forum on transportation

Could moveable lane barriers help ease congestion on I-70?

I-70, Dam Road and Summit Stage operations up for discussion at March 11 Our Future Summit event in Frisco

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Local leaders and transportation experts will gather for a roundtable Thursday to discuss high country transportation issues, including some potential ways to ease I-70 congestion and the latest on talks with Denver Water on the nighttime Dillon Dam Road closures.

Speakers at the forum include I-70 Coalition chair and Frisco town manager Michael Penny, new Colorado State Patrol commander Capt. John Lupton, Sheriff John Minor, Summit Stage director John Jones and Denver Water operations director Brian Good. The forum is part of the Our Future Summit series of community roundtables on local topics. Continue reading

Grim 2009 numbers for the Summit Stage

Summit Stage rider numbers and revenue declined in 2009.

Passenger totals dip about 13 percent for the year, revenue down by $1 million from 2008, but the local transit agency fared better than some others around the state

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Summit Stage ridership took another big hit in December, As the number of passengers dropped about 34 percent from the same month in 2008, according to director John Jones, who delivered a preliminary year-end report at a meeting of the Summit County transit board this week. Even the late-night numbers were down in December, Jones said. In December 2008, Summit Stage buses transported 287,064 passengers, in 2009, it was just 189,790 passengers.

To illustrate the drop, Jones gave some single-day numbers. In previous busy years, Stage buses carried more than 13,000 passengers on peak days like New Years Eve. On New Years Eve 2009, the biggest day of the month, the total was 10,324. For Dec. 30, the total was just more than 8,000 riders. Every other day of the month, the tally was under 8,000.

“Those are almost summer numbers,” he said, adding that, in 2008, the number of daily passengers never dipped below 10,000 between Dec. 17 through the end of the year.

Continue reading

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