Small City Transit Spotlight - Transit In Colorado Springs, CO

Two buses layover inside the facility in downtown Colorado Springs. Mountain Metro has suffered tremendously due to the recession; they've eliminated all evening, Sunday, and express service. Christopher MacKechnie

Small City Transit Spotlight - Transit In Colorado Springs, CO

Colorado Springs is a growing metropolitan area of about 678,000 that is located about seventy miles south of Denver along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.  Transit is provided by Mountain Metropolitan Transit, which serves 496,755 of the total population.  According to the National Transit Database, in FY13 Mountain Metro carried about 3 million passengers for a per capita ridership of only six.

Network

A fleet of thirty peak buses (out of forty-three total) provide contracted out service on twenty-two routes (as of June 2014).  The recession in the late 2000s severely affected bus service in Colorado, with headways and service span (including the removal of all Sunday service) drastically cut on all routes.  Since then I am happy to report that Sunday service and evening service have been restored on some routes.  Headways on weekdays are generally thirty minutes, with a handful of routes operating every fifteen minutes, with weekday evening and weekend service almost invariably being hourly.  As the economy has recovered the service span has been restored with service now generally operating on busy routes from the Downtown Terminal from 6:15 AM – 9:15 PM on weekdays, 7:15 AM – 6:15 PM on Saturdays, and 8:15 AM – 5:15 PM on Sundays.

As indicated by route productivity, there is latent demand for better bus service in Colorado Springs.

  For example, according to agency provided data Route 5 on Saturday averages 43.5 passengers per revenue hour despite only operating hourly.  While Mountain Metro will improve the headway to every 30 minutes in the fall of 2015, it is important to note that if this route were operating in Denver then, according to the  Denver RTD service standards, the headway should be ten minutes!

Fares and Funding

As of July 2015, it costs $1.75 to take a ride on Mountain Metro, with transfers good for two hours on any bus route, allowing for round trips to be made.  A Day Pass is $4 and a 31-Day Pass is $63.  Reduced fares for seniors, disabled, and youth are generally half the adult amount.  Mountain Metro also offers a “Summer Haul Pass” allowing for kids eighteen and under to ride from June 1 to August 31 for $25.

Mountain Metro derives 20% of its operating funds from the farebox.  Local funds contribute a further 53% (from a sales tax) and federal funds 24%, with the remainder coming from other sources.  Most capital funding is provided by federal assistance (81%), with the remainder coming from local jurisdictions (15%) and state funds (4%).  The lack of state funding is typical of many states in the Mountain West region of the United States, which tend to have legislatures dominated by rural and Republican interests who do not see why they should support something that only benefits folks in the “big city”.

Projects

In conjunction with the city of Colorado Springs’ planning department, Academy Boulevard, an important north-south crosstown arterial on the east side of the city, is slated to become a “great street”.

  Unfortunately, funding does not seem available at this time to make any significant improvements.

Overall

Mountain Metropolitan Transit operates very efficient service, with a cost per hour of between $75 and $90 that compares favorably with other transit providers.  Latent demand suggests that an investment in improving local bus service would have a very beneficial impact on ridership and in fact on life in Colorado Springs in general.  The existing poor headways, limited service span, and route coverage that have not kept up with the geographical expansion of the metropolitan area mean that only the truly transit dependent currently take transit in Colorado Springs.  I hope that in the future more enlightened politicians will take notice of the desire for Coloradans to live healthy and environmentally sustainable lives and give Mountain Metropolitan Transit the financial resources needed for it to live up to its potential.

  The current ease of getting around Colorado Springs without a car is 3 out of 10.