We’ve always done it bigger in the West, but urban sprawl and demand for more roads, wider lanes and multiple family vehicles has its downfalls, especially for Colorado Springs seniors.
“We’ve been building our cities for cars for 60 years, and it’s left many of our seniors isolated in their neighborhoods and suburbs,” said Angel Bond, mobility manager for the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments Area Agency on Aging.
Bond works with Mountain Metropolitan Transit (MMT) to ensure there are viable transportation options for our community’s seniors, including a Senior Ambassador Program that pairs volunteers with seniors new to public transit, allowing them time to learn the system alongside a trained assistant.
“It’s important to learn how to ride the bus before you need to ride the bus,” said Vicki McCann, public relations and marketing supervisor for the Mountain Metro Transit Services Division of the City of Colorado Springs. McCann said she encourages everyone to try out MMT’s bus system so they are familiar with it before finances, age, or a disability leaves them unable to drive.
“If it’s about $8,000 a year to own and operate a car, that’s quite a bit when you’re on a fixed income,” McCann said. “Our transit options are much more affordable for individuals and economical for the community as a whole.” A single ride on an MMT bus is just 85 cents for seniors. Tickets can be purchased with exact change on the bus, via a ticket vending machine located in the downtown terminal, 127 E. Kiowa St.; at the Citizens Service Center, 1675 W. Garden of the Gods Road; at Pikes Peak Community College Centennial Campus, 5675 S. Academy Blvd.; at the Citadel Transfer Center, 750 Citadel Drive W; or at transit.coloradosprings.gov, and they will be mailed to your home.
The benefits of utilizing public transit extends far beyond saving seniors money. “Studies show seniors who use the bus are more fit and maintain their physical mobility longer,” McCann said. “You can’t use public transportation without doing a little bit of walking.”
As for mental health, MMT is the perfect prescription. “Often, we hear from seniors that they don’t want to be a burden,” Bond said. “Public transportation helps people maintain independence and live vibrant social lives,” McCann said. With 22 routes and almost 1,000 stops throughout the city, MMT runs about 11,000 one-way trips a day for its riders. “People don’t realize all the places they can go,” McCann said. “Our routes stop at so many places that offer senior services.”
Bond recommended new riders start by familiarizing themselves with one useful route. “After learning one, it’s easier to branch out and learn more lines and how to transfer. Pretty soon, you’ll find you’re comfortable riding all over the city.”
Routes 12 and 25 are some of MMT’s most popular routes for seniors. “They go by the senior center, grocery stores and Memorial Hospital – many of the places we take for granted, but our seniors don’t.” Case in point: Mary, a senior who recently moved to Colorado Springs from another state and lived near Tutt Boulevard. “Mary wasn’t able to drive, but she wanted to take computer classes at the senior center and the library. She was so thankful for the opportunity to get out and participate in her new community.”
Bond and McCann are on a mission to not only educate Springs seniors on the benefits of using public transportation, but to correct misconceptions. “There’s a stigma that it’s unsafe or unclean, but it’s simply untrue,” McCann said. Each bus is equipped with 9 real-time cameras that are monitored at a central dispatch office. “And all the buses are always accounted for via our Automatice Vehicle Location system. It’s extremely safe statistically, often much safer than driving an individual vehicle.”
“It’s a highly sophisticated system,” McCann added. “We plan stops exactly and adjust times and routes accordingly, and all the buses are kept extremely neat and clean.” MMT also hosts travel training upon request. “If someone is afraid of being stranded, we can help them plan and understand the system so they never have to be stuck somewhere.”
For more information on how Mountain Metropolitan Transit can help seniors get around town, visit transit.coloradosprings.gov.