By Trevor Hughes
Authorities have given the go-ahead to launch commuter bus service between Fort Collins and Denver, with a stop in Loveland. They are also preparing a similar service between Colorado Springs and Denver, and service running along Interstate 70 from Glenwood Springs into Denver.
“This is a service that has been badly needed. People will have an alternative to driving themselves on I-25,” said Kathy Gilliland, the Colorado State Transportation commissioner for District 5, which covers Larimer County.
The commuter-focused Fort Collins-Denver service will run five times daily on weekdays, and it will stop only once between Harmony Road and Denver’s Union Station. A start date hasn’t been announced, but CDOT officials hope to have it running in about a year.
“We are the Department of Transportation, so we’re responsible for all kinds of transportation, not just highways,” said CDOT’s Mark Imhoff. “What we’re trying to do is put the best transit system out there for the money that we get.”
Frequent riders will be able to buy discounted tickets for the service offered on luxury-style buses equipped with toilets and Wi-Fi Internet access, but the walk-up cost for a one-way ticket will be $10. As part of the service, riders who buy books of tickets and have an unexpected emergency, like an ill family member in the middle of the day, can get a “guaranteed ride home” via another bus or a rental car.
Because Fort Collins isn’t within the RTD tax district, the bus service is being organized by CDOT, which will hire a private contractor to run the service. CDOT plans to expand the Harmony Road Park-n-Ride lot to accommodate an extra 150 cars.
CDOT estimates that about 100 people would use the Fort Collins-Denver service each day in its first year, rising to about 200 daily four years later.
Imhoff said the ticket price was picked to make it attractive to people who currently drive. At today’s allowed IRS mileage reimbursement rates, driving to Union Station in Denver from Fort Collins costs about $40.
Money for the project is coming from increased vehicle registration fees approved in 2009 and known as FASTER. The CDOT bus will tie into the city’s Transfort bus service.
“This is a way to attempt to manage the demand on their facilities, and it’s good for us to have a connection to the Denver metro area that we’ve never had before,” said Kurt Ravenschlag, Transfort’s director.
Gilliland said she looks forward to working on the bus, rather than personally fighting rush-hour traffic.
“As somebody who drives it way too much, I’m looking forward to the option and not having to pay for additional parking and avoiding the headaches you get on the road,” she said. “That’s an awful lot of hours you’re sitting in a car, being unproductive.”