by Marissa Lorenz
Grand County Commissioners were joined this week by representatives from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) who presented plans for a new Bustang Outrider route, connecting Craig to the Front Range, via Grand County, set to begin service in early 2021.
The route, continuing on to Salt Lake City, has traditionally been served by Greyhound, but has seen
a reduction in ridership that has left it uncertain for decades. Greyhound actually ended service in 2004 for financial and restructuring reasons, but it was restored in 2009 when federal funds were redirected by both Colorado and Utah transportation leaders, subsidizing the company for what was considered to be a rural transportation priority.
However, recent CDOT analysis indicated that “it’s no longer acceptable to subsidize the route to the extent that it’s become meaningless,” according to one CDOT representative. “Come January 1, we will put money towards the Outrider option,” the state-run intercity service founded in 2015.
“We found fragmented bus service across rural Colorado. (…) Outrider connects rural Colorado with cohesive bus service, offering new buses, consistent schedules, fair costs, and beneficial connections. It really benefits seniors, students, disabled persons and those without cars.”
Funding was described as coming from both federal and state sources, including federal funding earmarked for intercity bus travel and the State’s Funding Advancements for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery Act of 2009 (FASTER), which is supported by vehicle registration fees.
“These are stable funding sources that are specific to programs like Outrider. We don’t anticipate either source going away any time soon,” it was explained. “It’s also worth mentioning that Outrider is fully funded through these sources and there’s no cost to local governments.”
The program does partner with local transportation entities, however, often contracting services to local transit providers. A Request-for-Proposal process will be included in part of the planning for the proposed Craig-Denver route.
The route itself will provide a round-trip daily, traveling eastbound from Craig in the morning, with official stops in Hayden, Milner, and Steamboat Springs in Routt County and then Kremmling, Hot Sulphur Springs, Granby, Tabernash, Fraser, and Winter Park in Grand County. There is one stop anticipated in Idaho Springs and three in Denver, including the Denver Federal Center, Denver Union Station, and the Denver Bus Center, connecting travelers to the larger transport system of the metro area. It will return by the same route on the same day.
Flag stops will also be an option, allowing travelers to get off at designated but un-scheduled stops along the way or to “flag” down
the bus at those pre-determined intersections or communities. The route is, however, a fixed route with a fixed schedule, a requirement for the federal funding.
CDOT will work with local communities over the next months to determine where both scheduled and flag stops should be located, but the state agency will be the one to provide bus shelters and flagging signals.
“We’re taking on the financial part to make it a permanent and long-term thing. We’re only asking communities to help by providing place for shelter so that we don’t need to spend money purchasing right-of-way. We would rather collaborate with each community.”
The Craig-Denver route will operate under the same payment model as other Outrider routes, currently charging $0.17 per mile. It would cost riders about $16 to ride from Craig to Kremmling, $9 from Kremmling to Winter Park, and $28 from Kremmling to the Denver Bus Center. Seniors over the age of 65 will pay half-price fares.
Currently payment can only be done by exact-cash on the bus itself, but CDOT is working on a mobile app that would allow digital sales and could be in place before the Craig-Denver route is operational.
Bustang Outrider buses are “modern buses with restrooms, WiFi, power outlets, and USB ports.” In response to COVid19, they have installed internal sanitation systems, air filtration, and security driver doors. Other standard COVID19 precautions are also being observed at this time, including social distanced seating and a face mask requirement.
“I am thrilled to have a Bustang route running from Craig to Denver through Grand County. With Greyhound bus service discontinuing, this will replace and also provide better service for our residents and visitors when they need to travel to Denver,” stated Commissioner Kris Manguso who serves as Grand County representative to the Northwest Transportation Planning Region (TPR) and is that organization’s alternate to the Statewide Transportation Advisory Committee (STAC).
For more information on Bustang Outrider, go to RideBustang.com. For questions or input on the proposed route, contact BustangOutrider@codot.us.
by Marissa Lorenz