Bustang Works and CDOT Should Expand the Service Throughout the Region

Behold the beauty of the bus. Photo: CDOT
Behold the beauty of the bus. Photo: CDOT

When the Colorado Department of Transportation stops planning for cars and focuses on moving people via bus, it actually does a pretty good job.

Bustang, CDOT’s interregional bus service, turned two in July. In its second year, the system provided about 156,000 trips, a 52 percent increase. That’s still not a huge number of people, but Bustang is not an extensive service. Advocates want to build on the momentum and bring the service to more of the region.

“We’ve seen that if you build it, they will come,” said Colorado Public Interest Research Group Director Danny Katz. “People are riding them in greater and greater numbers, and I think that highlights that there’s a real need, not surprisingly, to have options to get around our state.”

Right now Bustang operates three lines with a fleet of just 16 buses: the North Line between Denver and Fort Collins, the South Line between Denver and Colorado Springs, and the West Line between Denver and Glenwood Springs. CDOT did not offer weekend service until August.

CDOT should be running more buses on more routes, with greater frequency and more space on the roads dedicated for Bustang, said Katz, especially where CDOT is widening highways. A lot of public officials in the region agree. On Thursday, Katz delivered a letter to CDOT transportation commissioners signed by 41 local government officials from Vail to Colorado Springs asking for a general expansion of the service.

“It’s crazy it took us until 2015 for the state of Colorado to have an actual statewide bus system,” he said. “But now that we have it, people are using it, and so we should be investing more, we should be expanding it.”

The Bustang West Line route. Image: CDOT
The Bustang West Line route. Image: CDOT

Pueblo, Steamboat Springs, Durango, Grand Junction, and towns in the Eastern Plains all deserve a look for more service, Katz said. And an increasingly clogged I-70 corridor between the Front Range and the recreation destinations of the western mountains can’t be fixed with more asphalt. Same goes for I-25 traffic jams along the main road connecting Denver, Fort Collins, and Colorado Springs.

A high-speed train to the western mountains would be nice, but doesn’t seem likely any time soon. While a train along the Front Range seems more likely, the best option right now is to move a lot more people in a lot less space with rubber-tire transit.

“This is really the only way we’re going to be able to grow as a state — if we have these kinds of options,” Katz said. “So it’s definitely critical and now is the time to continue to grow and move beyond an initial launch, and get into having a real robust statewide system.”

  • iBikeCommute

    Subsidized bus tickets for $10 would be cheaper and more effective than putting another bore through the Eisenhower tunnel.

  • Bjorn

    Bustang will be selling interlined tickets with Greyhound (and presumably other bus companies that participate in the National Bus Traffic Association, like Burlington Trailways). This should alleviate some concerns about Pueblo and Grand Junction not being presently accessible on Bustang-owned buses

  • TakeFive

    “It’s crazy it took us until 2015 for the state of Colorado to have an actual statewide bus system,” he said. “But now that we have it, people are using it, and so we should be investing more, we should be expanding it.”

    That’s more than a little bit misleading and simplistic. Previous service between Co Springs and Denver was too much of a money pit to continue. As Bjorn points out the private sector has provided bus service and oftentimes the private sector is much the better choice.

    More interesting is the experience of the Rail Runner service created between Albuquerque and Sante Fe NM. Think Denver to Boulder in that like Boulder, Sante Fe is a more expensive place to live than Alburquerque. Quite successful in its early years much like the rest of the country the transit ridership decline combined with a challenged budget presents its potential demise.

    Be cautious; go slow.

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