Free bus rides offered |

Free bus rides offered

Daily Staff Report

ECO Transit is mobilizing drivers and passengers for a week-long campaign to attract new riders. The enterprising event, scheduled Nov. 17 through 21, is dubbed “Try Transit Week 2003.”

“Last year, we discovered how effective a promotional effort like Try Transit Week can be,” said ECO Transit Director Harry Taylor.

KTUN disc jockey Kerry Gray, a devoted ECO rider, ran his radio program on-board several ECO buses, entertaining passengers and radio listeners.

This year, ECO Transit is offering five days of free rides, from Nov. 17 to Nov. 21, an ambitious move, Taylor says, for an agency that draws nearly 20 percent of its operating budget from passenger fares.-

The decision is strategic, as commuters working all or part of those days represent the vast majority of ECO passengers, and commuters are a cohort that ECO continues to attract, Taylor says.-

“We are especially interested in the influx of seasonal workers,” Taylor says. “We want to create the travel habits for them right now, while they are learning their routine. Let’s get them to enjoy and depend upon ECO rather than having to buy a car.”

Surveys show that ECO passengers think highly of the service, Taylor says.

Passengers surveyed in March and April 2003 gave ECO the highest-ever ratings for safe driving and bus cleanliness and comfort.

“Based on these findings,” says Taylor, “ECO has a strong likelihood of retaining these new passengers as dependable customers.”

But Try Transit Week is not just a marketing tool aimed at newly arrived residents – it’s also an opportunity to recognize loyal, long-time passengers, Taylor says.

This year, ECO honor a Passenger of the Day on each day of Try Transit Week and a Passenger of the Year. Nominations and awards are derived from ECO drivers.

Passenger of the Year will win a four-day trip to Las Vegas, courtesy of KTUN-the Eagle.-

Veteran ECO driver Robert Bean, branded as the jovial “Driver Bob” in most of ECO’s public outreach, says he considers it one of the greatest passenger-loyalty rewards ever offered.

“The majority of our passengers are the worker bees, the economic engines of this valley,” Bean says. “This is a great way to thank them for riding ECO, for making this local economy thrive, and for just being courteous to us and our passengers.”

In addition to fare-free service, Passenger of the Day and Passenger of the Year, ECO Transit has a variety of other activities planned. Taylor and Bean will be serving coffee and donuts to passengers at Avon Center and Vail Transportation Center for the first few days.-

ECO also plans to hand out over 1,000 keychain flashlights as passengers board November 17. ECO road supervisors hope that passengers will use the lights to signal ECO drivers at night.

ECO Transit is part of the Eagle County Regional Transportation Authority, an inter-governmental consortium operating regional transit and constructing a continuous trail system from Vail to Dotsero.-

ECO carries about 800,000 passengers annually, between Leadville and Vail, and Vail to Dotsero. Operating nearly round-the clock, the agency boasts that ECO buses travel the circumference of the earth about every seven days.

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