Ridership up, buses mostly on schedule
Roaring Fork Transportation Authority officials saw most routes running smoothly during the first morning of the Grand Avenue Bridge detour.
Ridership numbers weren’t immediately available, but John Hocker, co-director of operations, reported a significant increase on the Interstate 70 corridor. Hogback Route buses were full, and RFTA sent backup buses, he said.
“That’s a good problem to have,” Hocker said. “That means people are riding the bus.”
The organization will tweak its backup plans Tuesday and continue to do so as passengers establish their patterns.
The Hogback route, which is free during the three-month detour period and runs from Parachute to Glenwood Springs, was the only one with delays. Most traffic is routed off the interstate at Exit 114, but buses remain in the left lane and continue to Exit 116. Cars that waited until the last minute to merge at 114 delayed buses as much as 20 minutes.
“We’re probably all guilty of this,” Hocker said.
But keeping the left lane clear is crucial to keep traffic moving freely. Colorado State Patrol officers were out on motorcycles, working to prevent such delays, he said.
Even so, riders seemed pleased, said Hocker, who spent the morning on and around the bus routes.
“Everybody seemed to have a smile on their face,” he said.
Among them were Elizabeth Navarro and Katie Williams, who were waiting for the Hogback bus to take them home to Silt at around 5:30 p.m. Monday. Both work for Valley View Hospital’s Pediatric Partners
“It seemed like it was faster coming in this morning, we passed the traffic at Canyon Creek that was standing still,” Navarro said.
Valley View encouraged its employees to take the bus or use alternative means to get to and from work besides driving, in part to make it easier for emergency vehicles to get through the detour.
“Once everyone gets in the groove, it will be so much better,” Williams said.
Bill Perry took the bus from Parachute to his job with the Roaring Fork School District in Glenwood.
“Weighing the options, cost and time, sure, it’s something I’d consider doing all the time,” he said.
Stephanie Sarabia took the Hogback bus from Silt to her job in the District Attorney’s Office at the Garfield County Courthouse.
“It went pretty fast,” she said. “I opened up my book, and it seemed like I’d just turned the first page and I was there.”
Riders seemed to take advantage of the Glenwood Springs Mall and other shuttle routes. There were 55 or 60 cars in the designated parking lot, but Hocker said that route is likely to attract many people who walk from nearby neighborhoods. Therefore, the number of cars in the lot isn’t a fair representation of bus use.
Tanya Allen, transportation manager for the city, said that, anecdotally, the north Glenwood shuttle was averaging about a dozen people per run between the Mall and the drop-off at the pedestrian bridge on Sixth Street.
By late morning, Glenwood Springs traffic patterns resembled an average day. RFTA and others were waiting to see how the afternoon rush would play out. Grand Avenue traffic often backs up from downtown to Walmart in South Glenwood.
“Now, this is only day one,” Hocker said with a laugh. “I think people are still setting their patterns up.”
Buses are free along the Hogback route and within Glenwood Springs during the detour, but buses heading farther up the Roaring Fork Valley from the 27th Street station remain fare-based.