For the bus riders who participated in a telephone town hall meeting about transportation this week, Craig Blewitt had some good news: Mountain Metropolitan Transit plans to restore limited Saturday bus service next year.
Blewitt is interim transit services division manager for the city of Colorado Springs, which runs the bus system and this year eliminated weekend and evening bus service because of budget shortfalls.
About 400 people participated in the one-hour telephone town hall Wednesday, including some who talked about the inconvenience of diminished bus service.
Mountain Metro is requesting an additional $1 million from the Colorado Springs City Council to operate buses on Saturdays again, 7:15 a.m. to 6:15 p.m., Blewitt said. City Council is scheduled to approve the 2011 budget Tuesday.
Blewitt projects that 2,800 rides will be taken each Saturday, for a total of 144,000 trips for the year. That’s less than the current weekday average of 10,000 rides, but Blewitt said his staff identified Saturday service as a priority for people to do shopping and other weekend activities.
The public call-in session was part of a nine-month study called The Future of Regional Transit. A steering committee of nearly 30 members, representing private, nonprofit and government entities, is studying whether the current governance and funding for regional public transit should be changed.
The committee plans to make recommendations to City Council in the spring.
Public transit not only provides a means of getting around for residents who rely on mass transportation, but also reduces traffic congestion and air pollution, and offers such alternatives as car pools and commuter buses, said Ray Krueger CQ, vice chair of the study steering committee.
Other methods also are being examined for local travelers, Blewitt said. A recent study concluded that passenger rail service along the Front Range, to include Colorado Springs, is feasible, he said.
“The next step is to develop the plan and find funding,” he said. “The expense is the track, and whether we could use existing railroad tracks is the question.”
Reintroducing street cars also could be an option, Blewitt said, again if the funding can be established.
While about 84 percent of town hall callers agreed that regional public transit needs to be improved, only one-quarter favored a sales tax increase to fund a better system, 13 percent thought property taxes should be raised and 55 percent indicated another means should be sought, in addition to raising bus fares and seeking advertising dollars.
Bus fares now generate about $3.2 million annually. A combination of city, Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority funding and grants cover the remainder of this year’s $16 million budget.