Economic slump brings bus drivers to Eagle County |

Economic slump brings bus drivers to Eagle County

Chris Outcalt
Vail, CO Colorado
Preston Utley/Daily file photoVail Valley transit agencies are getting plenty of applications for bus drivings jobs.

Vail, Colorado ” Vail, Colorado has no plans to cut bus service this winter, officials say.

In August, officials were concerned a visa shortage might leave the town without enough bus drivers. But they’ve been able to make up for it, said Mike Rose of Vail Transit.

Rose said as soon as the economy started to dip, the town had an influx of job applications and should be fully staffed for the winter.

“We lucked out in a weird way,” Rose said. “With the bad economy there seems to be a bunch of people looking for jobs.”

David Johnson, transit planner for ECO Transit, said the county has seen a similar spike in interest in employment during the last month.

“I think that might have something to do with it,” Johnson said. “I’ve definitely noticed more interest.”

Trying to finalize a winter bus schedule has been a difficult task because of the fluctuating employment numbers, Johnson said.

Two months ago, the outlook was grim, he said.

“The bottom dropped out on us,” said Johnson.

ECO Transit Director Harry Taylor was in New Zealand in September trying to recruit seasonal help when the company was notified there were no more visas available.

Congress let a visa exemption expire this year that allowed returning H-2B visa workers not to count toward a yearly cap of 66,000 visas per year nationwide. The exemption had made it easier for local employees to fit under the cap.

Johnson said the company started an aggressive recruiting effort after learning its seasonal workforce would be smaller.

But lately, the recruiting hasn’t been needed, Johnson said.

“We had a couple people come in today,” he said.

Vail Transit was considering cutting back on bus service when it learned it wouldn’t be able to employ as many foreign workers.

“We’re more optimistic than we were a couple months ago when we didn’t get our visas, ” Rose said. “The bad economy has been good for us in that effect … but it’s a hell of a price to pay.”

This is the first year in the last decade Vail has had an adequate number of applicants and is considering adding a Frontage Road parking express bus, Rose said.

“The flood gate has seemed to open,” he said.

ECO Transit will have a winter bus schedule completed Wednesday .

“We didn’t get any drivers from New Zealand and we’re somehow almost fully staffed,” Johnson said. “I can only think that this financial crisis has helped.”

Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or

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