Parachute Area Transit System to extend services beyond regular routes |

Parachute Area Transit System to extend services beyond regular routes

Town of Parachute Transit Supervisor Dustin Harrelson demonstrates how the wheel chair lift works on the PATS (Parachute Area Transit System) works. Chelsea Self / Post Independent

To help boost military veteran, disabled and senior ridership, Parachute’s transit system plans to soon extend their services, said a transit official.

Beginning Feb. 1, the Parachute Area Transit System will sometimes deviate up to ¾ of a mile from fixed bus routes and stops. Anyone who calls in prior to departure will now be able to designate a pick-up spot, said PAT supervisor Dustin Harrelson.

“We’re trying to make it so that the bus is accessible to (vets, seniors and disabled riders) as well as everybody else,” Harrelson said.

Ever since the public transportation link from Parachute to Rifle for access to RFTA began in September 2020, transit officials began to notice a trend in its ridership. The major project originally supported by $75,000 in city funds and another $200,000 by the Garfield County budget was missing a few intended passengers.

“What we noticed is, we’re really only picking up the working class and younger folks,” Harrelson said. “We’re not picking up necessarily who we were reaching out to, which would be seniors and veterans that were trying to make it to doctor appointments and grocery trips.”

Discussions began in December over what the area could do to possibly bolster services without hampering schedules and departure times. This prompted the city to first run a pilot service, which ultimately only tacked on an extra 2-3 minutes in ride times, Harrelson said.

A PATS (Parachute Area Transit System) rider gets off the bus at Parachute Town Hall. Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Parachute Town Manager Stuart McArthur said the new service will better serve Parachute and Battlement Mesa, two rural communities whose nearest full-size grocery store is more than 15 miles away.

“As a rural carrier, it gets difficult for people, especially with disabilities, to be able to make it to the few bus stops that we have,” he said. What this enables them to do and others is, if they call ahead 24 hours in advance, they can designate a location.”

“It provides a greater service to a greater number of people,” he added. “That’s what we’re excited about.”

Western Garfield County’s newest transit system has continued to see an increase in ridership every month since its start. Harrelson said the service, which has now dropped down to one bus from two, sees an average 15-20 riders every day.

“We’ve helped people get out of town and start making some more money and hopefully open up opportunities for them as far as buying their own vehicle and improving their means of living,” Harrelson said.

Come February, Harrelson said he anticipates an extra 2-3 riders per day.

“The service seems to be really loved by the community, just from what we see on social media and some of the word of mouth,” he said. “People are really happy it came to such a small town that needed it, where money and the budget is tight.

The fact that we made this happen for people and that we’re seeing people utilize it and getting people to work has really warmed our hearts here.”

To designate a pick-up spot, call Harrelson at town hall, 970-665-1151. Ride prices range from $1-$4 depending on the route. If individuals are not a veteran, senior or disabled person, the new deviated service costs an extra $1.

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