Glenwood bus ridership keeps soaring | AspenTimes.com

Glenwood bus ridership keeps soaring

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

College students from Brazil wait at a Ride Glenwood Springs bus stop on Grand Ave. Thursday afternoon. From left are Felipe Alves, Vitor Zani, Joao Cardeal and Rafael Bianchi. (Kelley Cox/Post Independent)

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” The wheels on the bus keep going round and round while Ride Glenwood’s ridership numbers keep surging higher and higher.

Numbers from the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority show ridership coming in at another record year. Ridership for 2007 through November was 444,420.

“When we’re taking almost a half-million vehicle rides off of Grand Avenue because of Ride Glenwood, that’s pretty significant,” said Chris McGovern.

McGovern is on the city’s Transportation Commission and until recently served as a City Council member.

Glenwood’s bus service has seen huge increases in ridership since 2005, when the City Council made changes including dropping bus fares and focusing the coverage area on core parts of town.

The 2007 ridership – already 444,420 through November – will be up almost 30 percent from 2006, which was up 70 percent from 2005, which was up 48 percent from the 2004 total of 150,878 riders. Those numbers don’t include ridership for the southern feeder route created in May.

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McGovern said the “phenomenal” ridership numbers are definitely helping to limit increases in traffic on Grand Avenue. Pulling traffic off Grand Avenue is a major goal of the bus service.

“It’s terrible to have your town bisected by a major thoroughfare,” she said.

The city, Garfield County, and the Colorado Department of Transportation are working to complete studies and work necessary to consider building an alternative to Highway 82, she said, adding, “The City of Glenwood Springs itself has more than held up its end of the bargain by putting up such a successful transit system.”

In addition to the increases, the efficiency of the service demonstrates its success, McGovern said. She estimated that the city was paying to carry people for about $1.75 per ride on the main route. RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship previously said it would cost the city about $812,000 for Ride Glenwood service in 2007.

“This is one of the real success stories in the state,” McGovern said. “I think what we’re proving is that a bus route that is well planned, well thought out and that picks up people where the demand is can be successful.”

Glenwood Springs contracts with RFTA to provide the Ride Glenwood bus service through town. Ride Glenwood runs two free buses every half hour on a loop from the Roaring Fork Marketplace to West Glenwood.

McGovern believes if the buses ran every 15 minutes rather than every 30 minutes, ridership would increase even more.

In May, a southern route was added. It loops from the Roaring Fork Marketplace to the Cardiff Glen subdivision. It connects with the rest of the Ride Glenwood Route, plus upvalley and downvalley busses, at the stop near Wal-Mart.

McGovern said the southern route was dropped from the main Ride Glenwood service in 2005 to increase efficiency. The southern area provided the fewest riders. But people who used those stops were vocal, she said, and were promised the service would resume.

A feeder route separate from the main route seemed to be the best option. The idea was to provide service to the south while maintaining the efficiency of the main route by not lengthening the time busses spend driving it, according to McGovern.

She said ridership for the southern route is at 83 passengers per day, which is less than could be expected judging by population along the route compared to the main route. The city will probably want to review the service to the southern route, she added, estimating that route is costing the city about $5 per ride.

“It’s coming along,” she said. “It may take a little while to establish.”

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