A taste of the future?
The Colorado Department of Transportation earlier this year unveiled bus service along the state’s two interstate highway corridors — Interstate 25 to Denver from Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, and Interstate 70 to Denver from Glenwood Springs.
The service features new, modern, 50-passenger buses equipped with comfy seats, rest rooms and wi-fi service. The rides are also very reasonably priced — $22 one-way from Eagle to Denver.
With the service running for just several weeks now, ridership seems, well, OK. Department spokeswoman Amy Ford recently told The Denver Post that about 60 people each day ride the western route either coming from or going to Denver. Ridership along Interstate 25 is better, as you’d expect along the far-more-populous corridor.
For now, the Bustang is weekday only, but weekend trips will soon start between Denver and Fort Collins, a route aimed primarily at Colorado State University students headed back to school after a trip to the Denver area.
The idea behind the bus service is to provide options to travelers who either don’t have cars or don’t want to drive them. Fewer cars on the roads means an ever-so-slight drop in traffic, something the Denver area could really use on weekdays.
Weekday service into the mountains is a different animal, of course, since our biggest traffic days on I-70 come on weekends. Bustang isn’t yet equipped for that work.
On the other hand, it’s possible that reliable, reasonably-priced weekday bus service along I-70 could help set the stage for weekend service in the future. That development would be most welcome. It may also be part of a partial solution to weekend congestion along the state’s main east-west highway.
While planners plan and local officials dream, the fact of the matter is that most of us won’t see high-speed rail service from Denver to Vail in our lifetimes. It’s simply too expensive, and the clear-headed can see such service creating a host of unintended consequences — such as turning Summit County into an even more attractive spot for well-heeled commuters.
Expanding I-70 is somewhat less expensive, but given state funding, we’re unlikely to see more than about one smallish project at a time in the main interstate corridor.
Given those realities, putting comfortable, well-appointed buses on the highway may be one of only a few affordable ways to get at least a few cars off I-70 during peak periods. If the Bustang can lead to more weekend buses in the future, it will be a roaring success.