Regional bus service set to add weekends
Where can I saddle up?
Here’s a look at Vail Valley Bustang stops, fares, and departure/arrival times.
• Eagle: Chambers park and ride. Fare: $22, one way. Leaves: 8:15 a.m. Arrives: 8:30 p.m.
• Vail: Village Transportation Center: Fare: $17 one way. Leaves: 8:50 a.m. Arrives: 7:55 p.m.
For more information, go to http://www.ridebustang.com.
EAGLE COUNTY — A bit like a new colt, the Colorado Department of Transportation’s regional bus service, Bustang, started haltingly. But the service now seems ready to run.
State officials this week announced weekend service would be added to the current Interstate 70 route starting Saturday. That service features 50-passenger buses outfitted with conveniences ranging from restrooms to Wi-Fi service and device-charging stations.
The service was first announced in late 2014, with an eye toward service starting in the spring of this year. Various delays slowed the service’s start until July. Since then, though, ridership has been growing, and state officials have already started to add more service.
The northern route, which covers Interstate 25 from Fort Collins to Denver, added weekend service shortly after fall classes started at Colorado State University.
Colorado Department of Transportation Communications Manager Bob Wilson said that service has been so popular — primarily used by students headed home on weekends — that a second bus has been added for Thanksgiving weekend. All those seats are sold out for the holiday, Wilson said.
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In the high country, the Bustang starts in Glenwood Springs, with stops in Eagle, Vail and Frisco on the way to two stops in Denver — the Federal Center on the west end of the metro Denver area, and Union Station downtown.
The idea was to provide service for people headed to the metro area on some sort of weekday business.
The mountain buses aren’t full, but are popular.
Mark Christie manages the Vail Welcome Center at the Vail Village Transit Center. Christie said he usually gets to work just as the bus is arriving or leaving.
“There are always people there waiting for it,” Christie said, adding that the weekday crowd usually ranges from six to 10 people.
The bus usually arrives at about the same time every day, and leaves near its scheduled 8:50 a.m. departure time.
Christie added that people have already been at the transit center looking for weekend rides.
Those rides are very reasonably priced, too — $17 for a one-way fare to Denver from Vail, and $22 from Eagle. A car that gets 20 miles per gallon will use about $11.25 worth of fuel — if it costs $2.25 per gallon — to make the roughly 100-mile Vail-to-Union Station run, and that doesn’t count any other operating costs for the vehicle.
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Riders also don’t have to drive, leaving the complications of weather and traffic to someone else.
“I’d certainly consider it (for a trip),” Christie said. “I think it’s been a great contribution to our transportation system.”
The weekend service on the I-70 route is a natural evolution from the system’s initial success, Wilson said. In fact, he said, the idea for weekend service has been pondered since the service’s first days. But, Wilson said, the Colorado Transportation Commission, which sets the budgets for the department of transportation, wanted to see early results before committing to seven-day service.
“We were told, basically, that we need to walk before we can run,” Wilson said.
Further evolution and refinement of the bus service, including, perhaps, a second daily run on I-70, is possible over the coming months and years. And, for now, the service remains primarily a feeder into the Denver area.
On the other hand, Wilson said, bus drivers and others often hear about people headed from the Denver area into the mountains — an evening trip that probably requires a two-night stay.
“I had one person say he’d take the train to Glenwood, then ride the Bustang back,” Wilson said.
Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll has for years been a member of Eagle County’s ECO Transit board of directors. While most of his transit attention is focused on local needs, Shroll said he’s a fan of the Bustang idea.
“I think anything that puts mass transit over cars, especially on that stretch of highway, is a good thing,” Shroll said. “I think if you do that trip a lot, it would be great.”
Kevin Brubeck, a financial adviser in Eagle, said he has clients in Denver, and that the Bustang would be a useful way to see those people, and then head home without dealing with traffic or weather.
“I’d love the opportunity not to drive that road,” he said.