CDOT tests new SnowStang bus routes to take Front Rangers to ski resorts
SUMMIT COUNTY — With a new bus program, the Colorado Department of Transportation aims to take a bite out of congestion on the Interstate 70 corridor.
On Feb. 11 and 24, the department will introduce a pilot bus program called SnowStang. Bob Wilson, the communication manager at CDOT, said the state agency was inspired to start the routes after the success of the Bustang to the Broncos service, which took riders to games starting last October. Wilson said that many of the buses sold out. The transportation commission then inquired about having a similar program busing people to the resort communities in western Colorado.
“This is going to be a new program,” Wilson said. “The more cars we can take off the I-70 corridor, the better. If we’re able to accomplish that, we’ll consider that a success.”
SnowStang will offer routes to six different resorts: Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, Beaver Creek Resort, Breckenridge Ski Resort, Keystone Resort, Vail Ski Resort and Winter Park Resort. Each bus can hold 51 people, 46 if a passenger using a wheelchair is onboard. Trips depart from the RTD Park-n-Ride at the Federal Center in Lakewood. Wilson said the SnowStang program costs $10,000 per day to run.
Tickets to Breckenridge are $50. Tickets to Vail and Beaver Creek are $60. For the other resorts, the tickets are $45. Schedules and ticket information can be found at RideBustang.com.
“This is just a tremendous opportunity to reduce congestion on I-70, and have a nice stress-free ride to the mountain,” said Adrienne Saia Isaac, a spokesperson for A-Basin.
She added that if the SnowStang has strong ridership, it could also help to lessen traffic on Highway 6, and other Summit County roadways. Working on weekends, Saia Isaac has also noticed more local ridership of the Summit Stage Swan Mountain Flyer route. Less people driving will take some of the strain off of local resort parking lots.
“If it works out with your schedule, it ends up kind of being a no-brainer,” she said.
Ashley Smith, a senior communications specialist at Breckenridge Ski Resort, wrote in an email to the Summit Daily that reducing congestion on I-70, and freeing up parking spaces, is one of the benefits of the new bus route, but that it could also make travel along the highway safer.
If the program is successful, Wilson said, then the department may look at putting a schedule into place for the remainder of this season or for next winter. The program is the first in Colorado to look into using public transit to take people from the Front Range directly to the resorts.
Danny Katz, the founder of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group, said that part of this is because of a lack of money.
“We as a state have invested very little in transit, in particular statewide transit,” he said.
Expanding Bustang service
In August 2016, the research group released a study showing that in order to improve transit, walking and biking along the I-70 corridor, the state needs to spend $50 million annually. One of the recommendations in the report was to expand Bustang service, which also offers a daily route from Denver to Glenwood Springs.
Katz said that at this point, there are so many people traveling within Colorado on I-70, that it’s more about figuring out how to move those drivers through traffic efficiently.
“I think we are at a population point where we are always going to have a lot of cars on I-70,” he said. “It’s impressive CDOT has moved so quickly to try and start something.”
The department was able to start looking into expanding transit options when Senate Bill 09-108 was passed in 2009. The bill, the Funding Advancements for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery Act, provided funds for transportation projects in the state, as well as roadway safety and repairs. According to CDOT’s website, recent budget cuts have forced the department to operate as a “maintenance only” organization. The funds from the bill have enabled CDOT to expand their projects and programming.
Katz said that adding a public transit route to the resorts will help people to realize that there are alternative ways of traveling along I-70. Without public interest, it’s harder to fund projects like this.
“If we want to see more of these things in the future … we’ve got to figure out a way to get more funding,” he said.
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