Downtown shuttle bus finally catching on |

Downtown shuttle bus finally catching on

Roger and Misty Crutchfield from Claremore, OK catching the North-South Connector bus at 9th and Grand Avenue.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent |

The number of riders taking the downtown Glenwood Springs shuttle bus has picked up over the last two weeks, as operators have worked to increase awareness about the service and its targeted audience: tourists.

For the week ending July 17, the free north-south shuttle saw 687 riders, according to numbers provided by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, which operates the shuttle for the city. That’s compared to 421 riders for all of the prior week, and a previous weekly high of 307 riders recorded in mid-June, according to the ridership report.

RFTA also plans to alter the shuttle route soon in an effort to make it more convenient and draw more riders, RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship said.

That change could come as soon as this weekend, pending final approvals, he said.

Blankenship said one reason for the recent increase is that the shuttle drivers are asking people where they’re headed and actively encouraging people to hop on.

Instead of looping clockwise from Grand Avenue onto Eighth to Cooper and back to Grand after a bus stop on Ninth Street, the shuttle will loop the other direction onto Blake and Seventh Street, picking up passengers by the Amtrak station.

“A lot more tourists are hanging out in that area, because of the river and the restaurants and it’s close to a lot of the downtown businesses,” Blankenship said.

The Ninth Street route has not been as effective, he said. That option is also not available during most of the day on Tuesdays when Ninth is blocked off for the downtown market.

From the train station, the shuttle would head back to Grand via Cooper and Eighth, and over the Colorado River to Sixth Street.

Instead of looping clockwise around the Hotel Colorado as it has been doing, RFTA is looking at a route turning left on Sixth to Laurel, and looping back to Pine via the alley between Fifth and Sixth. A passenger pick-up would be situated on the west side of the Hotel Colorado, Blankenship said.

“We’re still in the process of getting approvals and signs for the new stops, but we are hoping that it’s something we can make happen this weekend while we still have a lot of the summer season left,” he said.

The new shuttle was launched on May 15 as an alternative means for tourists and others to get from one side of the Grand Avenue bridge to the other during the ongoing bridge construction.

But the service was slow to catch on, drawing just 34 riders in its first week.

Since the shuttle began, the number of riders has ranged from just 34 its first week to 307 the week of June 19. The vast majority of the riders are taking the shuttle between 4 and 11 p.m., according to the report.

Blankenship said one reason for the recent increase is that the shuttle drivers, instead of sitting and waiting for people to climb aboard at the different stops, are asking people where they’re headed and actively encouraging people to hop on.

“Especially for tourists who might be unfamiliar with what’s going on, they weren’t sure what the shuttle was or where it was going, and that it’s a service for them,” Blankenship said.

The shuttles also now have signs letting people know it services the hotel district north of the river and that it’s free to ride, he said.

The city decided this spring to partner with RFTA to run the shuttle between the main part of downtown south of the river and the vicinity of the Hotel Colorado and Hot Springs Lodge and Pool.

The transit agency, which is already contracted to operate Ride Glenwood city bus system, offered to run the new service for a discounted cost of $107,000 in an effort to help ease traffic congestion during the initial phases of the bridge construction.

The shuttle also give tourists an alternative to walking over the temporary bridge walkway over the river that’s being used until the new pedestrian bridge is completed next spring.

It will run in 20-minute intervals from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. each day through the summer.

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