Parachute debuts bus system |

Parachute debuts bus system

Parachute officials and the public celebrated the debut of the new PATS bus system on Tuesday evening.
Lynn Shore / Special to the Post Independent

Parachute rolled out its new bus service on Wednesday.

The Parachute Area Transit System provides a public transportation link to Rifle for access to RFTA, county services and health care for some of the county’s lowest-income residents, Mayor Roy McClung said.

“This is a big deal,” McClung said. “It’s one of the most significant things we’ve done in regards to connecting to the upper valley. Anyone who works up-valley has to drive to at least Rifle. This will be helpful, particularly to lower-income families with one car,” McClung said.

Starting a transit system involves many challenges — which are not made any easier by the pandemic, McClung said.

“In our schedules, we have to allow extra time for sanitizing and disinfecting. As public transportation, we do not have to limit passengers, but do have to require face masks. We also ask for patrons to practice safe distancing on their own,” said Dawn Somerlot, transit supervisor for the town of Parachute.

PATS comprises two buses, one for 12 passengers and the other for 20. Somerlot said three drivers have been hired.

Express routes will run twice in the morning — leaving Battlement Mesa at 5:30 a.m. and 7:15 a.m. —  and twice in the afternoon to connect with RFTA’s Grand Hogback, Somerlot said. 

Regular routes run every two hours from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. with several stops along the way: Kum & Go and Saddleback Village in Battlement Mesa; Cottonwood View Apartments and Parachute Rest Area in Parachute; and Metro Park, Rifle park-n-ride, Grand River Hospital, Walmart and CMC in Rifle, Somerlot said.

The schedules will be available on the town of Parachute website by clicking on the PATS tab.

Regular fares are $5 from Battlement Mesa to Rifle and $4 from Parachute to Rifle, with monthly passes $90 from Battlement and $70 from Parachute. Somerlot said.

Express fares are a little less, Somerlot said, at $4 from Battlement Mesa to Rifle ($75 for a pass) and $3 from Parachute to Rifle ($55 for a pass).

Somerlot said fees won’t cover expenses, at least not this year.

“Because it’s so late in the year we’re not looking at making any kind of profit for this year, and next year we might break even, maybe, barely. The fares do not even cover the expenses of our drivers, or the buses, or keeping them fueled,” she said.

The system is being paid for by a combination of town funds and grants, McClung said.

“We got some grant money from Garfield County. They put money into our transit system. They saw the need,” McClung said. 

The town contributed $75,000 this year toward the project, and the county contributed $200,000, town manager Stuart McArthur said.

McClung said the system has taken quite a while to get operational. Parachute had been in negotiations with RFTA to get its buses running to Parachute but it was too expensive. Still, RFTA helped with figuring out what was needed, McClung said.

While Parachute is taking advantage of RFTA bus stops in Rifle, the town is hoping to have shelters built at the Battlement and Parachute stops.

“We’re looking at getting those up at probably the beginning of the year,” Somerlot said.

Riders may be exposed to the elements this winter, but the transit system is a big step for Parachute.

“I’m really proud of it,” McClung said.

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