City Council plans to restore bus service to South Glenwood |

City Council plans to restore bus service to South Glenwood

After 18 months of agitating by their City Council member, residents of south Glenwood Springs soon should have bus service restored.For Dave Merritt’s persistence, fellow council member Chris McGovern jokingly suggests the new south Glenwood route should be called the “Merritt Express.”The new Ride Glenwood Springs service would be a little more intimate than the one south Glenwood residents remember. In a work session recently, council members voiced support for a revised Ride Glenwood Springs plan that includes running a small, 12- to 15-passenger van to south Glenwood until demand grows enough to justify a larger vehicle. The vehicle would run a feeder route into one of the regular city routes.Council is expected to adopt the new plan at an upcoming meeting.Council cut the south Glenwood service a year and a half ago for financial reasons. The council majority decided the city could get the most from its mass transit investment by eliminating fares and running buses more frequently, but only on main corridors.They hoped then that as ridership grew and the city’s financial situation improved, the city later could add service to other parts of town.Since then, ridership has soared. Officials believe as many as 350,000 riders may use the service this year, compared to a previous record of about 226,000 in 1999. City engineer Mike McDill estimates that the service is keeping about 1,000 cars a day off the road.The city’s financial picture looks far better these days, allowing it to consider expanding the service area or again increasing service frequency. The city had tried to run routes as often as every 20 minutes but found that traffic slowdowns and resource limitations allowed it to make only half-hour runs.Mayor Bruce Christensen said restoring service to south Glenwood is a bigger priority now than trying to boost frequency. One reservation he has had about doing that, however, is that other neighborhoods besides south Glenwood aren’t being served. But he said it makes the most sense now to bring Ride Glenwood Springs back to an area it once served before looking to expand it elsewhere.McGovern suggested that the political pressure to bring Ride Glenwood Springs back to south Glenwood – led by Merritt – leaves little choice as to which unserved neighborhood should get service first.”I mean, you’re talking about the Merritt Express,” she said with a laugh.Merritt’s council ward is south Glenwood, and he contends there is a strong need for service there.The question now is how exactly the service will be provided. The city contracts with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority to run the city bus system, but council member Larry Beckwith called the contract “just terrible” and would like to see the city do some of its own bus maintenance.The city is better-equipped to maintain small vehicles such as the one planned for the south Glenwood route, rather than bigger buses. But city manager Jeff Hecksel worries about finding the personnel to do the job. The city already is having trouble filling open fleet operations positions and keeping up with maintenance of its current vehicles, he said. Christensen said that whatever one thinks of the terms of RFTA’s contract, “they have kept our service running when our equipment has been failing.”RFTA has stepped in with additional buses when the city’s own vehicles have been broken down.The city needs to buy new buses for its system, and council is debating whether it should go with smaller or bigger ones. McGovern likes the idea of four smaller ones, which are seen as a better fit in a tourism community and could run more often to improve service frequency. But they would require more drivers.Another option is to buy two big buses. But Beckwith thinks a third alternative would be to have two small buses run loop routes from downtown, one to West Glenwood and the other to the south. The loops could cover much of town by traveling Grand Avenue, Highway 6 and the south and west portions of Midland Avenue. A third bus could fill in during rush hour.The drawback would be that many riders would have to transfer between buses to reach their destinations.”It’s too short of a ride to make people transfer,” McGovern said.Contact Dennis Webb:

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