Ride Glenwood’s numbers up again | PostIndependent.com

Ride Glenwood’s numbers up again

Pete FowlerGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Several years ago city officials wondered if Ride Glenwood was worth sustaining due to low use. Now they’re wondering where they’ll get the buses to meet increases in ridership.Ride Glenwood’s ridership numbers for May reached a high point, hitting 41,119 for the month. Glenwood Springs contracts with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority to provide the Ride Glenwood bus service through town. Ride Glenwood runs two free buses every half hour on a loop from the Roaring Fork Marketplace to West Glenwood. A main goal is to pull traffic off Grand Avenue. RFTA numbers show that the service’s ridership has increased since 2003.Year-to-date ridership through May is 190,694, up 44.4 percent from 132,052 for the same period in 2006, according to RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship.The latest year-to-date increase over 2006 is “pretty amazing” because 2006 ridership was up about 76 percent over 2005, Blankenship said. Before that, 2005 increased about 42 percent over 2004’s ridership.”That just doesn’t happen in the transit world,” Blankenship said. “It’s a huge success story from a ridership perspective.””It’s just amazing,” Glenwood Springs transportation manager Sabrina Harris said.At this rate, Ride Glenwood is “bound to exceed 500,000 passengers by the end of the year,” Blankenship said. He believes a few major factors contributed to the increases. The city decided to eliminate the fares in 2005. In late 2006, the city purchased three larger vehicles from RFTA – buses that have close to 40 seats plus standing capacity. Blankenship said the new buses are “among the cleanest in the nation” in terms of emissions. Another factor is the fact that the city for at least 1 1/2 years now hasn’t altered the routes or timing of the system. The overall economy also has been picking up since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to Blankenship.Service began in a different form in 1994 as the summer-only Glenwood Trolley. In 1998, service went year-round. Ride Glenwood ridership began dropping in 2000 when the fare was increased from $1 all day to $1 per ride or $2 all day. The city had done a two-month experiment to see what the response would be to free fares. The response was excellent and the public said it wanted service to continue even if there was a fare. But ridership didn’t reflect the stated enthusiasm, according to Blankenship. Ridership numbers hit the lowest point in 2003.In 2002 and through 2003, the city ran a number of different routing experiments and pulled one of the two buses off the Grand Avenue and Highway 6 route, Blankenship said. In turn, riders transferred to RFTA buses to compensate. The total number of riders probably hadn’t dropped, Blankenship said, but merely wasn’t reflected in Ride Glenwood’s ridership numbers because of the changes.Harris said the city hired a consultant to help market Ride Glenwood to the tourist population and “choice riders” who aren’t typically regular users. Survey data from 2004 showed that most riders were work-force commuters living in the area. Many of them used the service to connect with upvalley buses, she said.Blankenship said Glenwood will pay about $812,000 for RFTA to provide service this year. If the service hits the projected 540,000 riders this year, it would work out to be about a $1.50 per passenger subsidy.”That shows that it’s a very efficient service from a cost per passenger basis,” he said. “It’s among the best you’re going to find probably anywhere.”Contact Pete Fowler: 945-8515, ext. 16611pfowler@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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