CDOT’s Bustang Outrider recently introduced a new route from Grand Junction to Telluride with stops in Delta, Olathe, Montrose, Ridgway and Placerville.
Julie Skeen, a consultant to CDOT, made a brief presentation to Delta County Commissioners during the Feb. 2 meeting. CDOT which began in 2015 primarily as an intercity service expanded in 2018 introducing the Bustang Outrider program which focuses on connecting rural areas of the state.
“The whole vision of this project is to make natural connections throughout the state so that there is a consistent reliable reliable option for transit services across the state. It’s really about a network that makes sense,” Skeen told commissioners.
She said the bus service can be used for transportation between neighboring towns or a doctor’s visit to Grand Junction or even a trip to Denver. Skeen shared a map showing both existing routes and the proposed route from Grand Junction to Telluride.
She said there is some overlap with the Durango to Grand Junction route but the intent of the new route “is very different.” The route will run five days a week to start with the possibility of more days or additional buses depending on ridership.
“The intent of this route is really providing opportunities for folks in this region to get to Grand Junction for a long day, perhaps for a doctor’s appointment, a show or shopping and then be able to do a return trip in that same day,” Skeen said.
The route would start early in the morning in Telluride travel to Grand Junction and return the same day. Skeen said the route is meant to give riders more opportunity to spend time in Grand Junction.
New to the route is a proposed stop in Olathe and the possibility for “flagdown” stops on an as-needed basis. Skeen said the concept is new and CDOT is looking for more feedback from local communities.
Commissioner Don Suppes said there have been prior discussions on the location for the Delta stop with a preference for a place with adequate parking.
“We could have people coming throughout the county that drop a vehicle and hop on the bus and ride it. We are currently looking to find a good location. The best locations that we’ve found haven’t been directly on the paths,” Suppes said.
He mentioned the possibility of using the City of Delta by-pass versus going through town on main street. CDOT representatives said they would take a look at any proposal by the community.
Bustang recently announced a new way to purchase tickets via a mobile ticket app using a cell phone. Riders will be able to purchase tickets and store them on their phone. Customers without internet access or cell phones can also purchase tickets with cash prior to riding the bus.
“We operate at 17 cents per mile. So, to go from Telluride to Grand Junction would be $22 one way. Telluride to Placerville is about $3, so that gives you some sense of the fares,” Skeen told commissioners.
All Bustang buses and bus stops will be ADA compliant. The bus on the Grand Junction to Telluride route is scheduled to be a 38-passenger bus with restrooms and bike racks. Due to COVID, the number of passengers may be limited to half.
Skeen said Bustang is currently under the purview of the Colorado Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and are mandated for bus drivers and riders to wear masks along with spacing.
Along with the Grand Junction to Telluride route, CDOT has three additional new routes, Sterling to Greeley, Trinidad to Pueblo and Craig to Denver. The Craig to Denver route has been in operation since January. The three other routes are expected to be operational late summer around July.
Money to fund Bustang comes from the Federal Transit Administration Intercity Bus Program and the Advancements for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery Act of 2009 (FASTER) which provides funds from Colorado vehicle registration fees to improve roadway safety, repair deteriorating bridges, and support and expand transit.
Skeen said CDOT recognizes that in order to be successful in the rural areas, they need to work in partnership with the local community. She said CDOT will be putting out a Request of Proposal (RFP) for the Grand Junction to Telluride route which will allow them to choose an operator “that may already be familiar with the communities.” CDOT purchases the buses and then leases them back to the operator for $1 a year with the operator being responsible for maintenance.
Following the presentation, Skeen told commissioners that CDOT would “circle back around at a later time” for more discussion on the new route.
The public is invited to participate in a CDOT survey concerning the new bus route at surveymonkey.com/r/Telluride-GJ
For more information about Bustang and Bustang Outrider, visit ridebustang.com.
Lisa Young is a staff writer for the Delta County Independent.