More people riding county buses these days |

More people riding county buses these days

Scott N. Miller
NWS Bus2 SM 2-15

EAGLE COUNTY Ian Bauer has a lot more company these days.Bauer doesn’t own a car, and relies on Eagle County’s ECO Transit buses for transportation. “I like it,” he said. “It’s a good way to get around.”These days, Bauer, an Avon resident, has a lot more company on the bus. The last two months, ridership has gone up by about one-third. That works out to about another 1,000 people per day.The increase is especially noticeable on the buses that link Vail and Avon. Those routes carried 64 percent more riders in December and January than they did the year before.

Bauer said he’s noticed the jump. So has fellow Avon resident Al DeJardines, who also gets by without a car.”On the 6:12 (a.m.) bus there’s no room after Avon Center,” DeJardines said. The buses that link Edwards, Avon and Vail along U.S. Highway 6 are often full. Every seat was full on a recent mid-afternoon trip from Eagle-Vail to Vail. The trip back was nearly as full.The increase in riders has made it tougher to hold to the bus route’s tight schedule, driver Anita Percifield said. Her guess about the increase in riders is a combination of things, from gas prices to weather.”We haven’t had weather like this in eight years,” said Percifield, who has driven buses in the valley since the 1980s. “In the late ’80s and early ’90s it was like this all the time.”Besides weather, there’s the matter of gas prices. Although the price has come down since its peak late this summer, more people seem to be willing to leave their cars at home.When the transit system opened a park and ride lot in Eagle a few years ago, there would be a handful of cars in the lot during the day. These days, the lot is full most weekdays. Add in the cost of gas and parking in Vail, and Mark Rushon is happy to ride the bus.

“I don’t have to worry about traffic, either,” he said. “This is much easier.”Riding the bus might get a bit easier – if not cheaper – in the coming months.Transit agency director Harry Taylor said a couple of new buses will soon be in service on the Highway 6 routes. Those vehicles, called “low floor” buses, require riders to take just one step up.”It’s good for skiers,” Taylor said. “It’s easier to carry equipment.”The transit agency is also going to change the way it collects fares this year. By the end of the year, all the agency’s buses will have electronic fare boxes that will be able to read passes and can give passes as a kind of change for riders who only have, say, a $20 bill for a one-way ride.Even with the service the way it is now, DeJardines is a walking advertisement for transit.”When I have friends come in, I encourage them to take the bus,” he said. “They’re impressed.”

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624, or Daily, Vail Colorado

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