Former Telluride Express owners fight third-party complaint filed after age-discrimination suit

Telluride Express vans sit parked at an on-site location. (Montrose Daily Press file photo) 

Amid CO West Transportation exploring a potential opportunity to headquarter in Montrose, the company’s growth has been front and center so far in 2021.

In the past six months, CO West Transportation has added 17 Chevy Suburbans, 33 mid-size coaches (11-14 passenger) and nine full-size coaches (25+ passenger) to its current fleet. Currently, the company has 2,935 seats across the total fleet and is aiming to expand to 5,000 seats over the next three years.

The company is expecting 10 SUVs, 20 additional mid-size coaches and five coaches (25+ passenger) to be delivered in the next six months, and expects additional enhancements to the fleet in Steamboat Springs.

CO West Transportation services the Denver, Steamboat, Crested Butte and Telluride markets with Alpine Express, Telluride Express, American Spirit Shuttle, CB Limo and GO Alpine. It also offers airport shuttle services to Denver, Montrose, Hayden, Gunnison and Telluride airports.

CO West Transportation operates public transportation for Colorado Department of Transportation’s Bustang Outrider, which, last week, started service between Telluride and Grand Junction, and is expected to have regularly scheduled stops in Placerville, Ridway, Montrose, Olathe and Delta, and four stops in Grand Junction.

Alpine Express is operating the route, according to CDOT, which is currently running five days per week with weekend service an option if demand warrants that addition.

“This new route fills a gap for people along the Western Slope who travel to Grand Junction for their essential needs,” said Pam Cook, director of operations for CO West Transportation LLC. “We’re thrilled to have been selected as the local operator.”

The company’s growth comes as Montrose County Commissioners in August approved plans for an on-site hotel at Montrose County Regional Airport (MTJ), enacting a lease agreement with SunCore Hospitality Montrose Airport Hotel, LLC. Construction is expected to begin before December 2021 on a Homewood Suites by Hilton.

“The new airport hotel will have a positive impact on our operations at Telluride Express. In our observations, most visitors tend to fly into Montrose and head directly to Telluride. However, we are excited to see guests utilize the new hotel for early morning departures and late arrivals, adding a night in Montrose and spreading out the shuttle demand,” Garrett Brafford, president of CO West Transportation LLC, said in a provided statement.

Contract service and governmental work of Telluride Express has boosted significantly — over 148% — in the past year.

Cook said annual numbers for airport transfers at MTJ were down slightly.

Last year, MTJ recorded 910 arrivals combined between April and May 2020 compared to 10,354 during the same period in 2019. Arrivals were below at least 7,000 through November 2020, but reached 13,656 in December. In July 2020, the airport recorded its lowest number of arrivals — 3,527— in that month since at least 2001.

Cook said she expects demand to ramp up with the arrival of ski season.

The expectation coincides with MTJ experiencing pre-pandemic departure levels, including more than 20,000 in July 2021, just shy of the peak during winter 2019. In April 2021, 10,092 passengers flew out of Montrose by plane.

Deplanements have also been robust as arrivals, in June and July 2021, at MTJ were 16,598 and 19,919, respectively, both of which are the highest marks for both months in 20 years.

Brafford last month announced CO West Transportation is exploring a restructuring and opportunity to headquarter operations in Montrose. Such a move could potentially add 50 jobs in the next year, and close to 100 jobs over the next two to three years, all of which would be local, Montrose hires. The total includes a mix of drivers and office jobs.

A restructuring isn’t expected to take drivers out of markets where CO West Transportation has operations, but would leave the majority of the company’s labor force in Montrose, Brafford said, which includes centralized accounting departments and backup reservation and dispatch agents.

The company is exploring an expansion into California before winter, though details are not yet finalized.

“The company’s future plans include continuing to provide excellent service, develop new markets and additional service in our existing locations, and centralize by restructuring and settling into a headquarters that supports streamlined and improved operations,” said Landon Ogilvie, owner and CEO of CO West Transportation.

Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press

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Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press