South Route bus service extended through April 15
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – City Council on Thursday formally agreed to continue the city’s free South Route shuttle bus through April 15. But some council members would still like to explore options in the meantime to keep the route going for the long term.
“I understand that it’s not financially feasible right now, but all of the development that has been approved out there was based on some sort of transit serving the area,” said council member Leo McKinney, whose Ward 5 includes the Glenwood Park, Park West, Park East and Cardiff Glen neighborhoods that are served by the bus route.
McKinney said he doesn’t think all of the options, including a possible fare-based system, have been fully explored.
“I think we’re doing a disservice to the people who live out there, some of whom have based their decision to live there on the fact that there is transit,” he said. “It does get used, and it does have its place.”
The problem is the route doesn’t get used enough to justify its cost, council member Russ Arensman and other members of the council said.
“I would like to see us revisit this,” Arensman said. “But I’m not optimistic that things will turn around by April.”
Added Council Dave Sturges, “This is not a happy moment for me. It’s important to note that this decision does not speak to the long term, but to the short-term shortcomings of funding the system.”
Elimination of the South Route was among the recommendations included in a 2011-2015 Transit Operation Plan. The plan was unanimously adopted by City Council at its Thursday meeting.
The recently revised plan also included a recommendation to cut three hours of service per day on the Ride Glenwood main route that runs along the Grand Avenue/Highway 82 corridor and out to Glenwood Meadows and West Glenwood.
The plan gives the city the option to cut the first hour in the morning and the last two hours of the day, on both weekdays and weekends, or an equivalent cut in bus frequency. The main route cuts also would not go into effect until mid-April.
The cuts are in response to a 10 percent decline in city sales tax revenues over the past two years, including revenues coming into the dedicated bus tax fund.
In particular, the South Route is a drain on the system due to its high cost and low ridership, consultants who developed the transit plan said.
While the South Glenwood area accounts for about 20 percent of the city’s population, the bus route only makes up about 7 percent of the overall Ride Glenwood system ridership.
Even imposing a fare system-wide would not make up the estimated $200,000 per year deficit, according to the transit plan recommendations.
“Charging a reasonable fare – large enough to generate net revenue after administrative and operational costs – would exacerbate declining ridership and would not generate enough revenue to preserve the South Route,” the plan states.
Glenwood Park resident and former city council member Dave Merritt said the city should consider a fare, even if only on the South Route, as a way to maintain it.
“This bus service is very important to the people who live out there,” he said.
But city transit officials said it would take a fare of between $12 and $15 per rider to make any difference.
“We could never charge a fare that would pay for it,” Council member Shelley Kaup said. “It comes down to budget priorities, and the responsibility of this council to look at costs and where we can cut.”
Longer term, the new five-year city transit plan also calls for working toward 15-minute weekday frequency on the main Ride Glenwood route. Service is now every 30 minutes.
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