Free Ride catching on in Glenwood
Free fares continue to appear to be just the ticket for significantly boosting use of Ride Glenwood Springs.Monthly ridership numbers for the in-town bus service for 2006 keeps running well above the same months in previous years, and May’s total topped 30,000, the first month ever that the system has surpassed that mark.The increase follows the city’s decision early in 2005 to eliminate a $1 fare.May’s ridership reached 30,324, with passenger totals in previous months this year ranging from 23,348 in February to 27,578 in March.Total ridership for the year so far is about 132,000, which puts the program on pace to easily exceed the 226,000 or so riders recorded in 1999, when service also had been free.”I think we’re all very happy about that, everybody that’s worked so hard to get the system up and running,” said Marianne Virgili, chief executive officer of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.Virgili was among those who asked City Council to implement free use of the system.”It really puts us at the same level with a lot of other resort communities to be able to say that we have that,” Virgili said.It also benefits locals, including teens who use the system heavily in the summer, she said.Besides ending the $1 fare, council decided to concentrate the system’s service in the core parts of town. Facing a budget shortfall, it cut service to south Glenwood Springs, where ridership was low.Dave Merritt, who represents south Glenwood on City Council, had opposed that cut and plans to press for restored service when council revisits the future of Ride Glenwood Springs later this year.Buoyed by the opening of the Glenwood Meadows retail complex, the city is seeing a sales tax rebound after years of budget troubles. Council members hope revenues will rise enough to allow for south Glenwood to be served again by bus.Merritt said one alternative might involve a mix of free service in the tourist core and fares in residential areas.”Frankly, a buck a head for someone who lives in Glenwood Park (in south Glenwood) is not an issue. They weren’t looking for a free ride. Folks are willing to pay,” he said.By contrast, free service makes sense for a group of tourists in a West Glenwood motel who might find it cheaper to take a car to downtown attractions than to pay $1 apiece for the bus, he said.Virgili said tourism interests are looking into pursuing a full-fledged tourism shuttle to serve core areas on a more frequent basis. The city had tried to increase service frequency so buses visited each stop every 20 minutes, but had to cut that back to half-hour service due to the inability of available buses to travel heavily trafficked routes any faster.Meanwhile, Merritt said Ride Glenwood Springs ridership also is being boosted because residents living along the Highway 6 corridor in West Glenwood now need to take the city bus to connect to Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses headed upvalley. That was made necessary when RFTA began routing its buses past Glenwood Meadows rather than on Highway 6, a change which prompted some complaints from West Glenwood residents.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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