When the announcement came Jan. 5 that Mayor Steve Bach was running a pilot program to decrease the size of city buses and save gas, many applauded.
But just weeks in, it's become apparent that the smaller buses won't work in many cases — even on some lower-volume routes targeted for the study. On Jan. 19, two of the four routes participating in the test were removed.
Those routes are again being served by full-sized buses after riders were left behind due to overcrowding, and had to be picked up by a van used by Mountain Metropolitan Transit to "sweep" the route. A less-advanced wheelchair ramp on the smaller-sized buses, which formerly served downtown on the now-canceled DASH route, also led to delays, explains Transit Services division manager Craig Blewitt.
"We did have some operational problems on [Route] 15 with the type of small bus we were running," Blewitt says. "... We have decided to discontinue the small buses we were running and go back to the full-sized buses."
That's true on Route 15, from Pikes Peak Community College to East Las Vegas Street, and Route 16, from Brookside Street to Uintah Gardens. The test, which concludes in mid-February, is still being conducted on Route 22, from Security to Widefield, and on Route 24, from Galley Road to Peterson Air Force Base.
Blewitt notes that thus far, Routes 22 and 24 appear to have worked well with the smaller buses, as has Route 31, which was not included in the pilot program but has long used a smaller bus. All issues will be looked at more closely before a final report is issued.
According to Transit Services division reports, local buses provided 216,577 one-way rides during September 2011, the most recent month of data available.