Ride Glenwood to be free during bridge detour
Ride Glenwood city buses will be fare-free during the scheduled 95-day Grand Avenue bridge closure and detour next year.
Glenwood Springs City Council unanimously agreed Thursday night to provide the in-city bus service for free from late August to early December 2017 when the final segment of the new Grand Avenue/Colorado 82 bridge is being built.
The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority also plans to provide a variety of free shuttle services during that time in an effort to help the Colorado Department of Transportation achieve its goal of reducing peak-time traffic by 20 percent.
That level of traffic reduction is necessary to ensure the detour operates efficiently without major backups, CDOT determined in its 2015 environmental assessment for the bridge replacement project.
In addition, RFTA will operate its extended Grand Hogback commuter route between Glenwood Springs and Parachute at no cost to riders while the detour is in place.
“The way to get people out of their cars is to eliminate fares for buses,” city Transportation Manager Tanya Allen said.
Though the city stands to lose about $30,000 in revenue by not collecting the normal $1 daily fare during that three-month period, “the advantage is it sends a strong signal that transit is the preferred mode of travel around town, and to encourage more people to use it,” she said.
In the meantime, the city may seek to recoup the lost bus revenue through possible grant options or by piggy-backing on a planned followup request by RFTA for extra assistance from up-valley governments in Pitkin County.
That county’s Elected Officials Transportation Commission has already agreed to funding that will allow RFTA to extend the Grand Hogback service to Parachute and to offer it for free during the detour.
However, Glenwood Springs Mayor Mike Gamba, who sits as the city’s representative on the RFTA board, said the cost is projected to be “a little more” than the $350,000 provided by the EOTC.
The city may also look at increasing the frequency of Ride Glenwood during the detour period.
The city bus system, which will operate north of the Colorado River during the detour, currently operates on a 30-minute cycle. But RFTA, which will cover routes south of the river, plans to operate on a 15-minute cycle.
Council agreed it would be best if both systems operate with the same frequency.
Meanwhile, the city is also re-evaluating the free north-south “connector” shuttle that has been operating since May as a way to get people over the Grand Avenue bridge during the construction.
Allen said the number of riders increased in July after the city made some route changes and included the Amtrak train station as one of its stops. Still, weekly ridership peaked at just 506 riders the second week of August, she ais.
“I don’t think we will see those numbers again,” she said of the decrease in the number of tourists after Labor Day.
At a cost of $13 per rider, it’s hard to justify the shuttle service without making some more adjustments, Allen and members of City Council agreed.
“The problem is it doesn’t go where it needs to go,” Councilor Steve Davis said, adding the bus should extend beyond the Sixth and Laurel intersection to include the hotel district between there and the tram that runs to the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.
The city plans to keep the north-south connector in place until the new pedestrian bridge is completed next March, unless ridership falls off completely over the winter.
Council agreed to have a separate discussion at a future meeting about the fate of the downtown shuttle.
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