Drop in Ride Glenwood bus use likely reflects duplicate routes
Although Glenwood Springs’ in-city bus service has seen fewer passengers in recent years, it doesn’t mean fewer people are taking the bus from one side of town to the other.
Still, an 8 percent decline in ridership last year for Ride Glenwood, preceded by a 4 percent drop in 2015, does raise some eyebrows as efforts ramp up to lure more people out of their cars and onto the bus during the Grand Avenue bridge detour period later this year, Tanya Allen, the city’s transportation manager, acknowledged.
There is some speculation involved as to why the numbers have been down for Ride Glenwood. It could relate to a shift in ridership for some passengers from the city bus to the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s Bus Rapid Transit service, which duplicates some of the city bus route, Allen said.
“The fact that there is more redundancy and frequency in BRT along that spine route through town probably has something to do with it,” she said. “It depends on who the riders are, and where they are trying to get to.”
For instance, someone using the West Glenwood park-and-ride or transferring on or off the Grand Hogback bus route is likely more inclined to use the BRT bus unless they have another stop somewhere in town that requires using a Ride Glenwood bus.
The city contracts with RFTA to operate Ride Glenwood. The city bus runs between the Roaring Fork Marketplace and Glenwood Meadows with multiple stops along Grand Avenue, Sixth Street and U.S. 6, the West Glenwood Mall, Meadows and the Glenwood Springs Community Center.
Ridership has fluctuated in recent years after the city implemented a $1 fare for what had been a free bus service up until 2012. Following the recession, the city also eliminated the South Glenwood shuttle that served the Glenwood Park area.
The RFTA system as a whole, including the valleywide BRT and local commuter service, the Grand Hogback route, and the free Aspen-area skier shuttles and Aspen city bus system, saw a record of more than 5.1 million riders last year, a near 5.8 percent increase over 2015.
However, Ride Glenwood use has fallen over the past two years from 210,755 passengers in 2014 to 185,064 last year. That decline has coincided with the start of the more frequent BRT service in September 2013.
The city also previously did more marketing of Ride Glenwood, said Allen, who just joined the city last June after a revolving door of former transportation managers.
“That’s probably also been a factor, and we do need to look at how to raise some more awareness,” she said. “A lot of our buses are also getting older and aren’t exactly the nicest buses in the system, so we do also need to make some system improvements.”
A lot of those questions will be addressed as the city prepares to update its Transportation Operations Plan. Recently, Glenwood contracted with IBI Group transportation planners to work with the city in updating the plan, including ways to improve the Ride Glenwood service, Allen said.
In the coming months, the city will also be working closely with RFTA and the Colorado Department of Transportation to refine a plan to more effectively get people around Glenwood Springs and through town during the 95-day Colorado 82 detour that will be in place starting Aug. 14. That’s when the existing Grand Avenue bridge will be closed to traffic and removed to make way for the final segment of the new bridge. Traffic will be detoured onto Midland Avenue from Interstate 70 Exit 114 to Eighth Street, and back onto Grand Avenue south of the bridge.
Bridge project officials have stated a goal to try to reduce usual traffic through Glenwood Springs by 20 percent during that time in order to ease congestion. To help accomplish that, RFTA will be running more buses through town and will make the Grand Hogback route free to New Castle, Silt and Rifle and extending the service to Parachute/Battlement Mesa.
RFTA and is working with Glenwood Springs and CDOT to run circulator shuttles serving areas both north and south of the Colorado River.
“We are still in the process of formalizing the traffic mitigation plan,” Allen said.
The longer-term city transportation plan will also likely look at keeping some of those circulator routes in place after the detour, as well as revisiting service to the south Glenwood area and the Midland Avenue corridor, she said.
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Citing employee safety and cost effectiveness, the city will soon relocate the five departments currently housed in its Municipal Operations Center (MOC).