Shuttle missing ‘fun factor?’
The new Galena Street shuttle, which matches the rest of Aspen’s bus fleet, isn’t nearly the hit that the old shuttle vehicle, with open-air seating and distinctive red-and-white paint job, was with riders.Ridership on all of Aspen’s free, in-town bus routes is down 1.8 percent for the first half of 2004, but ridership on the Galena Street shuttle has plunged 31.6 percent, according to the city’s transportation department. The Cross Town Shuttle, which links the West End to the Aspen Club & Spa on the east side during the summer and winter months, has also seen a big drop in riders – 33.2 percent this year. Transportation officials suspect the new, free van service operated by the Aspen Club for its clients has taken a bite out of the Cross Town ridership.The Galena Street Shuttle, on the other hand, seems to have suffered from the switch to the standard small bus the city runs on some of its other routes, as well.
“To see the ridership on that decline by 31 percent is huge,” said City Councilwoman Rachel Richards during a council discussion on transportation issues last week.”It’s been a mystery to us, somewhat,” admitted John Krueger, transportation programs manager. “Somehow, we lost the identification on that, or the brand. Boy, it’s really taken a hit.”The old open-air Galena Street Shuttle was popular with tourists; now the bus appears to serve primarily Hunter Creek-area residents as it makes its loop through downtown and the Hunter Creek neighborhood, according to transportation officials.”We know anecdotally there were people, especially kids, who would see that vehicle and want to take a ride on it,” said Randy Ready, assistant city manager. “It was a fun factor then, with the old open-air vehicles.”The old shuttles needed replacing, but the plummeting ridership had Richards mulling the need to again buy new shuttle vehicles for the route that resemble the old Galena Street Shuttle buses.
Among Aspen’s other bus routes, Castle/Maroon ridership is up 7.5 percent through June, as is the Maroon Creek direct bus serving Aspen Highlands. Ridership is down 2.2 percent on the Hunter Creek bus and down 10.4 percent on the Cemetery Lane route. Ridership on the East End Dial-A-Ride is down 3.1 percent.This year, city bus routes provided a total of 533,474 rides through June, down from 543,062 during the first six months of 2003, even though it reinstated the extended hours of its bus service during the spring offseason. Buses ran earlier and later from April 12 to June 12, picking up 4,043 riders as a result. That experiment will continue this fall, though the spring numbers hardly make it appear worth doing, noted Mayor Helen Klanderud.”How do you entice a population to start using mass transit if they’re not using it?” she mused.
Aspen resident David Guthrie suggested the plethora of hotel and lodge shuttles that cart guests around may be taking a dent out of city ridership. The shuttles are something the city encourages when new hotels are developed.”You should really consider whether those are good things or not,” Guthrie told the council. Often, he noted, the vans are nearly empty, driving one or two people around. “It’s like a great big, private limo,” he said.”You see those things all over town,” Klanderud agreed.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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